Men and Manners in America
THE mail sleigh in which I found myself a passenger, was one of the most wretched vehicles imaginable. The wind — a north-wester — penetrated the curtains of the machine, at a thousand crevices, and, charged with particles of snow so fine as to be almost impalpable, communicated to the faces of the passengers the sensation of suffering under a hurricane of needles. Our route lay through a country flat and uninteresting, which presented no object to
2arrest the attention of a traveller. We breakfasted at a wretched cabaret; and the pretensions of the dinner house were not much greater. The fare, however, though coarse, was abundant; and proceeding on our journey about six o'clock, we reached Lancaster, a town of some note, and famous for its manufacture of rifles. After an hour's halt, we again started in a sort of covered sledge-waggon, and the number of passengers being reduced to myself, my servant, and a Hungarian pedlar, we without ceremony ensconced ourselves among the straw in the bottom of the cart.
This part of the journey was comparatively comfortable. I had passed the night before leaving Philadelphia in writing, and "tired nature's kind restorer" now visited my eyelids very pleasantly. The rumbling of the waggon on the vast wooden bridge which crosses the Susquehanna at length broke my slumber. I rose to gaze on the scenery, which showed finely in the moonlight. There were rocks, and giant trees, and a frozen river, and the thought of Wyoming lent a charm to them all. In a few minutes, however, the Susquehanua was no longer
3visible, and resuming my former position, I again became as happy as an oblivion of all earthly cares could make me.
How long I enjoyed this happiness I know not, but it was at length effectually dissipated by a most unpleasant disturbance. The waggon had stopped, and the rascal of a pedlar, in scrambling out of the machine, chose to plant his great hobnailed foot on the pit of my stomach. My first confused impression was that I had been crushed to death by the wheel of the Newcastle waggon, or the great elephant in Exeter Change. But by degrees the truth dawned on my bewildered intellect, and though not, I trust, much given to swearing, I confess I did indulge in a profane objurgation at finding myself thus unceremoniously converted into the footstool of a Magyar pedlar.
Even to my own perceptions at the moment, however, there was something laughable in the whole affair. To be stretched alongside of my servant in straw on the bottom of a cart, and in such pickle to be trampled on by a common hawker of thimbles and pockethandkerchiefs! But travelling in America
4is like misery, for it occasionally brings a man acquainted with strange bedfellows.
I had already found, that in travelling, it was impossible to adhere to those conventional regulations in regard to servants which in England are held to be inviolable. It is the invariable custom in this country for all the passengers of a stage-coach to eat at the same table, and the time allowed for meals is so short, that unless John dines with his master, the chances are that he goes without dinner altogether. I had already learned that in the United States no man can put forward pretensions to superiority of any kind, without exciting unpleasant observation. A traveller, to get on comfortably, must take things as he finds them, assume nothing, and get rid as soon as possible of all superfluous refinement. He must often associate with men, whose companionship he cannot but feel carries with it something of degradation. Yet a person of true breeding will rarely be treated with disrespect. He will receive tribute without exacting it, and even in this democratic country, may safely leave it "to men's opinion, to tell the world he is a gentleman."
The day's journey terminated at York, where, after all its annoyances and fatigues, I found efficacious restoratives in an excellent supper and comfortable bed. In America, a traveller's sufferings are rarely connected with the table. Go where he may, he always finds abundance of good and wholesome food. To be sure, if the devil send cooks to any part of the world, it is to the United States, for in that country it is a rare thing to meet any dish dressed just as it ought to be. No attention is paid to the preserving of meat, which is generally transferred direct from the shambles to the spit. Then the national propensity for grease is inordinate. It enters largely into the composition of every dish, and constitutes the sole ingredient of many. The very bread is, generally, not only impregnated with some unctuous substance, but when sent up to the breakfast table, is seen to float in a menstruum of oleaginous matter. But with all this, a traveller — not a "very particular gentleman" — will have very little cause of complaint. At dinner he will always find ham, turkey, and a joint of some kind; and if with such materials he cannot contrive to make a tolerable meal, it is pretty
6evident that he has mistaken his vocation, and should limit his journeys to an annual migration between Pall-Mali and the Palais Royal.
In the morning we left York. Inured, as I had been, on the present journey, to what appeared the most wretched vehicles on earth, I soon discovered in the one in which I now embarked, an illustration of the adage, that in every depth there is a deeper still. Our sleigh was a machine apparently got-up for the nonce, and consisted merely of rough boards nailed together in the form of an oblong box, with a drapery and roof of common calico. There were narrow cross boards for seats, on which the passengers — six in number — were compelled to sit bolt upright without support of any kind. This was not comfortable, but the snow was smooth and firm, and we rattled on very fast and very smoothly, and soon after nightfall, I found myself in Baltimore.
Before leaving Philadelphia, I had written to a fellow-passenger to secure apartments for me in the Indian Queen, and on my arrival found every thing prepared. On the whole, I was, perhaps, more
7comfortable in this hotel than in any other during the whole course of my tour. The culinary arrangements of the establishment were excellent, and the assiduity of an old negro waiter in even anticipating my wants, left me only the apprehension, that, by excess of present comfort, I might become less patient under future privations.
I was now in a slave state, and the knowledge of being so, brought with it something of excitation. I had never even seen a slave, and my fancy had framed a sort of abstract impersonation of the whole class, — a being of strong passions and melancholy aspect, crushed by labour, degraded by ignorance, brutalized by the lash; in short, a monster like that of Frankenstein, human in form, but subject only to the influences which affect the animal part of our nature. I found the domestics in the hotel were all slaves, and there was a certain novelty of sensation, half pleasant and half painful, connected with their services. For the first time in my life, did I bless God for the whiteness of my skin.
It was not in the class of domestic servants, however, that I could reasonably expect to discover the
8marked peculiarities which my imagination had pictured as the hadge of all the tribe. My idea of a slave had always been associated with field labour, a burning sun, and the splendid peculiarities of tropical scenery. In the hotel, I saw only decent-looking waiters and housemaids, observant of all external proprieties of demeanour, discharging their several duties with exactitude, and distinguishable from European servants by nothing but colour.
Of the secrets of the prison-house, — of the modes adopted to enforce obedience in those unhappy creatures, I know nothing from personal observation, and certainly those with whom I conversed made no complaints of their condition. My servant, however, was admitted rather more behind the scenes, and made some rather shocking reports of inflictions by broomsticks and cow-hides, which it had been his fortune to witness. In regard to one atrocity, I remember he was particularly eloquent. The master or mistress of the establishment, for reasons no doubt deemed satisfactory, judged it expedient to lay open the skull of poor Boots with the spit or poker, and in corroboration of the charge,
9I can certainly testify having observed that functionary with his dexter organ of secretiveness covered by a plaster. But in gentlemen's families, of course, such disgraceful scenes do not occur, being utterly irreconcilable with that benevolent intelligence, by which the citizens of Baltimore are eminently distinguished.
It is indeed highly probable that Maryland will not long continue to be disgraced by the existence of slavery within its boundaries. The agricultural staples of the State are corn and tobacco, the climate is healthy and temperate, nor is there any possible reason why the system of slave labour might not be instantly abolished. The continuance of the curse — and a curse deeper and more deadly never was inflicted on any community — is entirely gratuitous, the consequence of long habit and deep-rooted prejudice, rather than any beneficial result which it can even be imagined to produce. In the more southern states it is different. The climate is less salubrious, and the cultivation of rice or sugar certainly could not be carried on without slave labour. The immediate interests of the proprietors, therefore, are decidedly
10opposed to emancipation. Whenever it shall take place, it is certain that vast tracts of country, at present highly productive, will be thrown out of cultivation. But in Maryland, and even in Virginia, such difficulties do not occur. There slave labour would instantly be replaced by that of freemen, to the infinite benefit of the landed proprietors, and the general advancement of morals in the whole community. In the adjoining state of Pennsylvania, the experiment has been already tried, with the most complete success. The introduction of free labour seemed to operate like a charm. A load was instantly removed which had impeded the natural energies of the population, and Pennsylvania has since continued to advance in intelligence and prosperity, with a vigour and rapidity, to which no parallel can be found among her slave-holding competitors.
Baltimore stands on the Patapsco, a small river which discharges its waters into the Chesapeake. Its general aspect very much resembles that of Boston, though the streets display somewhat more of regularity in their architecture. The trade of Baltimore is very considerable, yet there is less appearance
11of bustle and business than either in New York or Boston. It is, I believe, the greatest mart of flour in the world, and the amount of its exports of this article considerably exceed those of any other city of the Union. The prevalent religion is the Roman Catholic, and the Archiepiscopal Cathedral is perhaps the chief lion of the place. It is built in form of a cross, with a dome in the centre, by no means happily proportioned to the dimensions of the building. It contains a few inferior pictures, some of which were presented by the late King of France. The effect of the building is poor, though the interior might be greatly improved by the distribution of statues and altars along the walls, to get rid of the bareness, which at present is scarcely diminished by a few pilasters.
Baltimore has the honour, I believe, of being the first city which has raised an architectural memorial of its gratitude to Washington. It consists of a column of white marble rising from a quadrangular base. The shaft of the column is about a hundred and twenty feet high, and is surmounted by a colossal statue, which, from its throne, seems proudly to overlook the city. The design of this monument,
12which is yet unfinished, is simple and grand, and does honour to the taste of the city. Its gross height, including the statue and pedestal, is about a hundred and sixty feet.
In one of the squares of the city, there is what is called the Battle Monument, a sort of trophy column, erected to commemorate the repulse of the attack on the city during the late war, and the names of those who fell in its defence. This structure, which is about fifty feet in height, consists of a column representing the Roman fasces, symbolical of the Union, rising from a square pedestal, which tapers in the Egyptian style, with a griffin at each corner. Above, is the statue of Victory, with an eagle at her side. The effect of the whole is sadly injured by a most anomalous complexity of petty details. Indeed, so vicious is this monument in point of taste, that it is difficult to believe it the production of the same period which has adorned the city with the noble structure to Washington.
I remember being asked by a lady, in one of the first visits I paid in Baltimore, whether I had seen this monument. Having answered in the negative,
13she proceeded to inform me that it was very beautiful, but, as if struck by a sudden recollection, somewhat eagerly apologized for the introduction of the subject, on account of the painful feelings which this memorial of failure in his country's arms, could not fail to excite in an English spectator. In reply, I took the liberty to assure her that her regrets on this matter were entirely gratuitous; that I should have great pleasure in examining the monument, and really entertained no apprehension of suffering from any pungency of feeling on the occasion. It was easy to observe, however, that my disclaimers, like the inaugural nolo episcopari of the Bishops, went for nothing with my fair auditor. Her apologies for having wounded my feelings, became even more strenuous than before; and as it was evidently agreeable that I should appear in the light of a mortified man, I at length judged it better to desist from further disclamation. If I know any thing of John Bull, he is not quite so sensitive a person, as it pleases the good people on this side of the water to believe him; and the idea of an Englishman at the present day, being distressed by regret at the failure
14of the attack on Baltimore, is perhaps somewhat closely connected with the ludicrous.
Baltimore is celebrated for hospitality, and the beauty of its women, and I can bear testimony to the justice of its reputation for both. In no other city of the United States is the former so frequent and habitual, and in none are there so few of the sordid characteristics of traffic apparent to a stranger. There struck me as being at Baltimore, more effort than elsewhere, to combine the pleasures of social life with professional labour. The effect of this is generally felt in society. The tone of conversation is lighter and more agreeable, and topics of mere commercial interest are rarely obtruded at the dinner table.
In Baltimore there is not much pretension of any sort, and the average of literary accomplishment is perhaps lower than in Philadelphia or Boston. In such matters, however, a transient visitor can form at best but an uncertain and very fallible judgment; but I can with truth assert, that my recollections of Baltimore are of the most agreeable kind, and that I quitted it with a strong sentiment of regard for
15several of its inhabitants, which time has yet done nothing to diminish.
The ladies of Baltimore, I have already intimated, are remarkable for personal attraction; indeed, I am not aware that, in proportion to the numbers assembled, I have ever seen so much beauty as in the parties of Baltimore. The figure is perhaps deficient in height, but sylphlike and graceful; the features are generally regular and delicately modelled, and the fair Baltimoreans are less remarkable than American ladies usually are for the absence of a certain fulness and grace of proportion, to which, from its rarity, one is led perhaps to attach somewhat too much value as an ingredient of beauty.
The figure of an American lady, when past the first bloom of youth, presents an aggregate of straight lines and corners altogether ungraceful and inharmonious. There is an overweening proportion of bone, which occasionally protrudes in quarters where it certainly adds nothing to the general charms of the person. The result is, perhaps, a certain tendency to scragginess, which I have no doubt to the eye of a young poet would be
16exceedingly annoying. A middle-aged gentleman, however, looks on such objects through a medium more philosophical; and I imagine, that, were it possible to combine the scattered and impalpable elements of female attraction, and to form a fair estimate of their amount, the ladies of the United States would have no deficiency to lament in comparison with other nations.
The trade of Baltimore, I have been assured, has, within the last twenty years, been greatly on the decline. During the long war which agitated Europe, America enjoyed nearly the whole carrying trade of the world. While her flag had only to brave the breeze, and not the battle, it was to be seen waving in every sea and in every harbour of the world. Wealth flowed in on her from all quarters, and, like the lawyer in the fable, while each of the belligerents received a shell in the shape of victories and Extraordinary Gazettes, this prudent and sagacious people contrived to keep possession of the oyster. But the United States at length resigned the innumerable benefits of neutrality. Mr Madison's proclamation of war was the signal for the
17decay of Baltimore; and the termination of hostilities in Europe having left other nations at liberty to exert their natural advantages in the pursuits of commerce, the harbour is now comparatively deserted, and the quays are no longer thronged with a busy and bustling crowd, as in the good old times, when people in Europe cut each other's throats because they happened to live on different sides of the Pyrenees, or were divided by the Rhine.
The worthy citizens of Baltimore no doubt deplore with great sincerity the decrease of pugnacity among their European brethren. Indeed I have heard since my arrival in America the toast of "A bloody war in Europe" drank with enthusiasm. The general progress of intelligence is unquestionably adverse to the gratification of the humane aspirations of these republican philanthropists; but a still greater obstacle consists in a prevailing deficiency in what is emphatically called the sinews of war. If the people of the United States, for the sake of getting up a good desolating war, which may tend eventually to their advantage, will only pay the piper to Bet the thing fairly agoing, they may, no doubt, as
18matters at present stand in Europe, be indulged with hostilities to any profitable amount. A note, a word, from Metternich or Talleyrand, will do the business; and the Continent, from Moscow to Madrid, will witness a repetition of the same scenes with which it must already be tolerably familiar. Indeed, without any such exercise of liberality on Jonathan's part, it is only too probable that his wish may erelong be gratified; and certainly, if wealth is to flow from such a source, it could not have a better destination than the pockets of the good citizens of Baltimore, who would not fail to employ it liberally in acts of benevolence and hospitality.
Being anxious to witness some of the proceedings of the State Legislatures, it was my intention to proceed to Annapolis, the seat of government, where both houses were in session. To this project, however, I found my Baltimore friends exceedingly adverse. They assured me that I would meet with nothing at Annapolis to repay the trouble of the journey; that the inns were bad, the roads still worse, and their representatives very far from incarnations either of good breeding or absolute
19wisdom. I own that all this had rather the effect of stimulating my curiosity than repressing it; and, in spite of all obstacles, I should probably have visited Annapolis, had I not received a letter from a friend in Washington, informing me, that, unless I repaired immediately to the seat of the General Government, the opportunity of observing the proceedings of Congress in the discharge of their more interesting duties would be lost. I therefore determined on setting out for Washington without farther delay, and bade a temporary farewell to my friends in Baltimore, whom I rejoiced in the prospect of revisiting before proceeding in my route to the southward.
While at Baltimore, I enjoyed the honour of introduction to Mr Carrol, the last survivor of that band of brave men, who signed the declaration of their country's independence. Mr Carrol is in his ninety-fifth year, yet enjoys the full use of all his faculties, and takes pleasure in social intercourse, which he enlivens by a fund of valuable anecdote. It was with great interest that I heard this aged patriot speak of the companions of his youth, Jay, Adams, Jefferson,
20and Hamilton, and describe those scenes of stormy struggle, in which, he had himself partaken with honorable distinction. Baltimore, which now contains nearly eighty thousand inhabitants, he remembers a pretty fishing hamlet of some half dozen houses. But the progress of change throughout the whole Union has been equally rapid. Little more than half a century ago, the Americans were a handful of poor colonists, drivers of slaves and small traffic in lumber and tobacco, from whom it was the policy of the mother country to squeeze all she could, and give nothing in return which it might he at all profitable to keep. With a judicious economy of gibbets and jail room at home, she was so obliging as to accelerate the natural increase of population by the transmission of certain gentlemen and ladies, who, being found somewhat awkwardly deficient in the ethics of property in their own country, were despatched to improve their manners on the plantations of Maryland and Virginia. Then, in her motherly care, she fenced in their trade with all manner of restrictions, which could in any way contribute to the replenishing of her own parental exchequer,
21and, to crown her benefits, condescended to export a copious supply of Lord Johns and Lord Charleses, to fill their empty pockets, and keep the people in good humour, with fine speeches, strong prisons, and a round military force.
All this Mr Carrol remembers, but he has lived to see a state of matters somewhat different. The colonies have disappeared, and in their place has risen a powerful confederation of free states, spreading a population of twelve millions over a vast extent of fertile territory, and possessing a commerce and marine second only to those of that nation from whom they boast their descent. He beholds his countrymen as happy as the unfettered enjoyment of their great natural advantages, and institutions of the broadest democracy, can make them. He sees whole regions, formerly the savage haunts of the panther and the wild Indian, covered with the dwellings of civilized and Christian man. The mighty rivers, on which a few wretched flats used to make with difficulty an annual voyage, he now sees covered with steam-vessels of gigantic size, and loaded with valuable merchandize. He has seen lakes in the very
22heart of a great continent, formerly approachable only by some adventurous traveller, connected with the ocean by means of canals. In short, the lot of Mr Carrol has been cast in what must ever he the most eventful period of his country's history; and having witnessed changes so vast and extraordinary, and beheld the whole of his early companions, one by one, drop into the grave, this venerable patriot may well be content to follow them, happy till the last in the enjoyment of the attachment of his family, and the esteem and reverence of his fellow-citizens.
For the last fortnight the weather had been very bad. Heavy falls of snow had been alternated with thaws, and considerable difficulty was anticipated in accomplishing the journey to Washington. The perils of travelling, however, are generally greater in expectation than experience, and we got over the distance, forty miles, with greater facility, and fewer moving accidents, than I should have been glad to
23have compounded for, before leaving Baltimore. I was looking from the window of the coach, in a sort of brown study, at fields covered with snow, when one of my fellow-passengers enquired how I liked Washington. "I will tell you when I see it," was my reply. "Why, you have been in Washington for the last quarter-of-an-hour," rejoined my fellow-traveller. And so it was; yet nothing could I discern, but a miserable cottage or two occasionally skirting the road at wide intervals. Presently, however, we came on the Capitol, and winding round the eminence on which it stands, rattled gaily down Pennsylvania Avenue, the principal street of the city. Houses now began to appear at somewhat closer distances, and every here and there was what is called in the vernacular of the country "a block of building," or, in other words, a connected range of shops and dwelling-houses. The coach at length stopped at Gadsby's hotel, where — though with some difficulty — I succeeded in procuring apartments.
When I arrived it was little more than three o'clock, so, in order to pass the time till dinner, I
24sallied forth, to view the lions. The Capitol stands on elevated ground, and it consists of a centre and wings. It is covered with whitewash, which the Americans say was necessary to hide the smoke of the conflagration in 1814. This is nonsense. The smoke-marks, instead of injuring, would probably have improved the effect of the building, and diminished that rawness of aspect, which is so strongly opposed to architectural beauty. The structure is certainly imposing, both from situation and magnitude, though full of faults. The greatest is want of simplicity and definite character. The different parts of the building are good, but I could not help feeling that there was a general deficiency of congruity and adaptation. Like a volume of the Elegant Extracts, it contains a great many fine things, without any assignable affinity to account for their collocation. In the principal front — the western — the facade is broken from the wings being thrown back. This is unfortunate, and the effect is still further injured by the basement of the centre being brought too prominently into view. The vestibule opens on a large circular hall, which occupies the
25centre of the building, and is lighted by the dome. This spacious apartment is adorned by four pictures by Colonel Trumbull, a gentleman distinguished both as a patriot and an artist. He bore, I believe, considerable part in the contest of the Revolution, and has since been employed by the General Government to commemorate, by his pencil, those triumphs to which he contributed with his sword. The subjects he has selected, are the surrender of Burgoyne, the Declaration of Independence, the surrender of York Town, and Washington's resignation of his command at the termination of the war. Regarding these pictures merely as works of art, it is impossible to compliment Colonel Trumbull on his success. The truth is, the subjects are unmanageable. In the Declaration of Independence, we have a respectable congregation of decent farmer-looking men, staring, quite as vacantly, from under their periwigs, as the solemnity of the occasion could possibly demand. A few are seated or standing at the table, which displays a large scroll of parchment. The rest are seated on benches, waiting apparently with exemplary patience
26the completion of the important document. Out of such materials Titian himself could not have made a picture. The subject admits of no action, nor of strong emotion of any kind. Then the quantity of canvass which is devoted to coat, waistcoat, and breeches, and the rows of clumsy legs without one bit of drapery to conceal them!
The other pictures are better, though they too involved great difficulties of management. The artist has patriotically given to Burgoyne a certain craven look, which has at least the fault of being commonplace in conception. In the figure of Washington, however, Colonel Trumbull has been very successful. There is a calm and unobtrusive grandeur about him, which satisfies the imagination. We are content to believe that the soul of the hero animated such a form as that we gaze on in Colonel Trumbull's canvass, and our interest is heightened by the knowledge, that the artist has given us a faithful portrait of the great man with whom in early life he enjoyed the privilege of personal intercourse.
Having reached the Rotunda, I enquired the way
27to the House of Representatives, and following the directions I received, found myself at the bottom of a narrow stair which led directly to the gallery appropriated for strangers. On ascending, I entered a splendid semicircular saloon, round the arc of which is a range of anomalous columns, composed of breccia, found in the neighbourhood, with a highly-decorated entablature of white marble. In the centre of the chord is the chair of the Speaker, from which radiate seven passages to the circumference, and the desks and seats of the members are ranged in concentric rows. Behind the chair is a sort of corridor or gallery, with a fireplace at either end, and furnished with seats and sofas, which serves as a lounging place for the members and strangers to whom the Speaker may think proper to grant the privilege of entré
On my entrance I found the House in animated debate, and listened with much interest to the first specimens of American eloquence I had enjoyed the opportunity of hearing. At five o'clock the House adjourned, and I returned to the hotel.
28In the evening I accompanied a member of Congress, whose family I had known in Baltimore, to a ball given by a lady of his acquaintance, to whom he obligingly assured me that my intrusion would be welcome. On arriving, I found a very large party crowded into narrow compass, the houses at Washington being generally on a smaller scale than in the other cities I had visited. During the evening I had to pass through a formidable array of introductions to distinguished individuals, and after four hours of almost unbroken conversation, much of which could not be carried on without considerable expenditure of thought, I confess I did feel somewhat tired, and about three in the morning rejoiced to find myself stretched in a comfortable bed at Gadsby's.
The capital of the Federal Union is situated on a point of land formed by a bifurcation of the Potomac, about a hundred and twenty miles from, the sea. Attached to it is a territory ten miles square, called the district of Columbia, which, in order to secure the complete independence of the
29general government, is placed under the immediate control of Congress. It would have been inconsistent with the American character, had the original plan of the future metropolis not been framed on a scale of gigantic magnitude. A parallelogram, nearly five miles in length, and more than two in breadth, was at once parcelled out with pleasing regularity into streets, squares, and avenues, and preparations were fondly made for the rapid growth of a city, compared with which London would dwindle into a village. In short, nothing could be more splendid than Washington on paper, and nothing more entirely the reverse of splendid than the real city, when at wide intervals a few paltry houses were seen to arise amid the surrounding forest.
The founders of Washington imagined it would become the seat of a large foreign commerce. This expectation has been disappointed. Washington has no trade of any kind, and there is at present no prospect of its ever possessing any. Its only hopes are now founded on its advantages as the seat of government, which must secure to it the benefit arising
30rom the expenditure of a large diplomatic body, and of those immediately connected with the executive government.
Many years have passed since the foundation of Washington, and it has at length begun to assume something of the appearance of a city. It is not easy, however, to detect in its present aspect any thing of that system and regularity so delightful in the scheme of its founders. Instead of commencing this gigantic undertaking at a central point, it was considered most judicious to begin at the extremities, and build inward from the circumference. The consequence has been, that there is perhaps no city in the world of the same population, in which the distances to be traversed in the ordinary intercourse of society are so large. The most glaring want in Washington is that of compactness and consistency. The houses are scattered in straggling groups, three in one quarter, and half a dozen in another; and ever and anon our compassion is excited by some disconsolate dwelling, the first and last born of a square or crescent yet in nubibus, suffering like an ancient
31maiden in the mournful solitude of single blessedness.
There is nothing sordid in Washington, but nothing, at the same time, which claims a higher praise than is implied in the epithet respectable. The chief street of the city is called Pennsylvania Avenue, and extends from the Capitol to the President's house, a distance, which I guessed in walking it to be about a mile and a half. Near to the latter of these buildings are the public offices, unadorned edifices of brick, with nothing about them which it would be very easy either to censure or admire. In this quarter also are the houses of the foreign ministers, and generally of the members of the Cabinet, so that its claims to being the Court end are undeniable.
On the morning after my arrival, having despatched my letters, I returned to the Capitol, where I passed the morning very agreeably in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the latter, and the Vice-President of the United States, who presides in the former, — to both of whom I had the honour to be the bearer of introductions, — were obliging enough to grant me the privilege of
32entré to the body of the house, so that during my stay in Washington I enjoyed the advantage of being able to listen to the debates without any of the jostling and inconvenience often unavoidable in the gallery.
I have already described the hall of the Representatives; I would now say something of the members. Their aspect as a body was certainly somewhat different from any idea I had formed of a legislative assembly. Many were well dressed, and of appearance sufficiently senatorial to satisfy the utmost demands even of a severer critic in such matters than I pretend to be. But a large proportion undoubtedly struck me as vulgar and uncouth, in a degree which nothing in my previous experience had prepared me to expect. It is impossible to look on these men without at once receiving the conviction, that they are not gentlemen by habit or education, and assuredly in no society in Europe could they fee received as such.
Each member is furnished with a desk, and a considerable number are usually engaged during the progress of public business in writing letters, or
33reading newspapers. Generally speaking, great decorum prevails in debate. Neither cheering, nor interruption of any kind, is permitted, and it is rare that any strenuous exercise of the Speaker's authority is demanded for the preservation of order. There have been occasions, however, on which the violent passions excited by antagonism of opinion, combined with personal dislike, have led to scenes perhaps unprecedented in any other deliberative assembly in the world. But the course of debate, though often troubled and vehement, is rarely violent, and the moral sense of propriety entertained by the majority of the House, is practically found to operate as a sufficient restraint on the irritable passions of individuals.
The hall of the Senate is a good deal smaller than that of the Representatives, and is very elegantly fitted up. It is likewise in the form of a semicircle, with desks at convenient distances for the members who sit uncovered. The President's chair is in the centre, and the office of this functionary — so far at least as it is connected with the maintenance of order — I should imagine to be something of a sinecure.
In the course of the many debates of the Senate at which I was present during my stay in Washington, I do not remember any instance in which it was found necessary for the President to interpose his authority. The appearance of the assembly is grave and dignified. The senators are generally men of eminence in their several States, who may be supposed to bring to the task of legislation the results of more mature judgment and varied experience. The tone of debate is therefore pitched higher than in the more popular House. Questions are discussed in a temper more philosophical and statesmanlike. The range of argument is widened, that of invective narrowed; and the members of the Senate are less given to indulge in those flights of vapid and puerile declamation, which prove nothing but deficiency of taste and judgment in the orator.
Washington is undoubtedly the gayest place in the Union, and must, I should imagine, be the very paradise of hackney-coachmen.
35do not get rich, it must be owing to some culpable extravagance, for their vehicles are in continual demand from the hour of dinner till five in the morning, and long distances and heavy charges are all in their favour. Washington, too, is the only place in the Union where people consider it necessary to be agreeable, — where pleasing, as in the Old World, becomes a sort of business, and the enjoyments of social intercourse enter into the habitual calculations of every one.
The reason of this is obvious enough. The duties of legislation bring together a large body of gentlemen from all quarters of the Union, whose time in the morning is generally passed in the Capitol, but who, without the delassements of dinner parties and balls, would find their evening hours a burden somewhat difficult to dispose of. Idle men are always pleasant; they feel the necessity of being so, and make
36it their occupation, when they have no other. Your lawyer or your merchant, on the other hand, is so engrossed by weightier matters, that he has no time to cultivate the graces of life, or those thousand arts of courtesy which contribute so materially to enhance the enjoyments of society. The experience of the world is in favour of the assertion, that it is impossible to excel both in pleasure and business. A man of talent may select the sphere of his ambition, the bar, the pulpit, the exchange, the senate, or the drawing-room; but to attempt the honours of a double triumph, is, in general, to secure but duplicity of failure.
In Washington all are idle enough to be as agreeable as they can. The business of Congress is no great burden on the shoulders of any of its members; and a trip to Washington is generally regarded as a sort of annual lark, which enables a man to pass the winter months more pleasantly than in the country. A considerable number of the members bring their families, with the view of obtaining introduction to better society than they can hope to meet elsewhere; but the majority leave such
37incumbrances at home, some, it may be presumed, from taste, and others from economy.
There are few families that make Washington their permanent residence, and the city, therefore, has rather the aspect of a watering-place than the metropolis of a great nation. The members of Congress generally live together in small boarding-houses, which, from all I saw of them, are shabby and uncomfortable. Gentlemen with families take lodgings, or occupy apartments in a hotel; and it is really marvellous, at the Washington parties, to see how many people are contrived to be stowed away in a drawing-room somewhat smaller than an ordinary-sized pigeon-house. On such occasions one does not suffer so much from heat as from suffocation; for not only does the whole atmosphere become tainted in quality, but there seems an absolute deficiency in quantity for the pulmonary demands of the company.
Within a few days of my arrival, I enjoyed an opportunity of seeing at one comprehensive view the whole society of Washington. The French minister, who had recently arrived from Europe, had
38determined to open his diplomatic career by a splendid ball, an event of no ordinary magnitude in a society like that of Washington. On my arrival, I found the house, though a large one, filled even to overflow, by one of the motliest crowds in which it had ever been my fortune to mingle. The members of the foreign legations were of course present; and the contrast between their appearance, and that of a considerable portion of the company, was more striking than will readily be considered credible in England. I presume the invitation to members of Congress had been indiscriminate, for the party was adorned by many members of that body who would not probably have been present on any principle of selection. Many of the gentlemen had evidently not thought it necessary to make any change in their morning habiliments, and their boots certainly displayed no indication of any recent intimacy with Day and Martin. Others were in worsted stockings, and their garments, made evidently by some tailor of the backwoods, were of a fashion which, when displayed amid a scene so brilliant, was somewhat provocative of a smile. I was informed that
39the gentlemen whose appearance I have attempted to describe, were chiefly members from the Western States, and they might be seen parading the apartments with ladies of aspect quite as unique, and sometimes even more grotesque than their own.
The majority of the company, however, were unobjectionable, and the scene altogether was very interesting to a traveller, whose object was to see every thing which could at all illustrate the general condition of manners and society in the United States. It afforded me the advantage of introduction to many persons of eminence with whose reputation I was already familiar; and, after partaking with partial success in the scramble for supper, I returned home, satisfied that my hours had been very far from unprofitably spent.
Mr Vaughan, the British minister, being indisposed, was good enough to request Mr Van Buren, the Secretary of State, to present me to the President. The hour appointed was two o'clock on the day following; and, having to deal with personages of such importance, I was of course punctual in my attendance. The President's house is rather a handsome
40building, with a portico in front of four columns, of what order I forget. It is built of stone, but the walls, like those of the Capitol, are coated with whitewash. The entrance hall is spacious, and we were received in a plainly furnished apartment, without ornament of any kind. The President was seated in an easy-chair, from which he arose on our entrance, and, on my name being announced, very cordially presented his hand, and requested me to occupy a chair beside him. Mr Van Baron then took his departure, and I enjoyed half an hour's very pleasant conversation with this distinguished person.
General Jackson is somewhat above the middle height, spare, and well formed. Though he has probably numbered more than the years specified by the Psalmist as forming the ordinary limit of human life, no symptom of decrepitude is visible in his air or motions. His hair, though nearly white, is abundant, and on the upper part of the head bristles up somewhat stiffly. The forehead is neither bold nor expansive, though by no means deficient in height. The head, like that of Sir Walter
41Scott, is particularly narrow in the region of ideality. The countenance of General Jackson is prepossessing; the features are strongly defined, yet not coarse; and, even at his advanced age, the expression of the eye is keen and vivid. The manner of the President is very pleasing. He evidently feels the dignity of his high office, and supports it; but there is no exaction of external deference beyond that which in ordinary society one gentleman is entitled to claim from another. One sees nothing of courtly elegance, but, on the other hand, nothing which the most rigid critic could attribute to coarseness or vulgarity.
The conversation I had the honour of holding with this distinguished person related principally to European politics. The world was then occupied with Poland, her wrongs, her sufferings, her chances of success in the unequal contest with the vast power of Russia. This subject naturally led to the general prospects of Europe, the progress of intelligence, and the probable duration of peace. Of course these were matters which did not admit of much novelty either of thought or illustration, but the observations
42of General Jackson were always marked by sagacity, and a certain directness both of thought and expression for which European statesmen are rarely remarkable. On the whole, I retired from the interview with sentiments of very sincere respect both for the intellectual and moral qualities of the American President.
In the hotel there was a mission from one of the more distant Indian tribes — the Mnemonics, I believe, — who were entertained during their stay in Washington at the public expense. There were five or six men, not handsome, certainly, in the European sense of the term, but fine athletic weather-beaten-looking fellows, and quite as savage in appearance as the most ardent hunter of the picturesque could possibly desire. Their faces and foreheads were daubed with red paint, and my fair readers will probably agree that rouge, however becoming on the cheek, must lose much of its efficacy as a cosmetic, when exhibited on the forehead and the nose. The hair, — indeed, the whole person, was anointed with some unctuous substance, the odour of which was far from agreeable. The distinguishing, and almost
43invariable characteristics of the Indian countenance, are generally known. The head round and somewhat flat on the summit, the hair dark, the eye full but not protuberant, the bones of the cheek prominent, the nose short, low, and dilated, the mouth large, the lips full and rarely compressed, and the general form of the face a broad oval.
In person, those composing the deputation were below the middle height, and certainly owed nothing to the decoration of the toilet. Several of them wore only a blanket fastened in front by a skewer, and their hair was stuck over with feathers. There were two ladies attached to the mission, neither of whom were good-looking, being in person short and squab, and deficient in that expression of grave and dignified intelligence which distinguishes the males.
There were also several children, and I desired the waiter, if possible, to induce some of them to pay me a visit. One evening he brought in two, a boy and a girl. The girl seemed about eleven or twelve years old. Her costume consisted of a sort of printed bed gown without sleeves, fastened close up to the throat; trowsers, mocassins or leggins of deer
44skin, worn generally by the Indians, and the whole covered by a blanket, the drapery of which she really managed with a good deal of grace. In each ear she wore two large silver earrings. Fastened to the crown of the head, was a piece of blue ribbon which hung down not unbecomingly on one side of the face.
The boy was apparently younger by two or three years, and a fine manly little fellow. He also wore a blanket by way of Benjamin; but instead of a bed-gown, rejoiced in a long coat, the tails of which reached almost to his heels, and which being made for some one of form and dimensions very different, was not remarkable for felicity of adaptation. Neither could speak English, but the boy evidently was the leading person, the girl only following his example.
Having a bottle of claret on the table, I filled each of them a glass, but the flavour of the wine did not seem to meet their approbation. They ate almonds and raisins, but evidently without relish, and walnuts had no better success. I then gave them cigars, which they appeared to enjoy; indeed I never saw any
45one blow a cloud with greater zest than the young lady. The failure of the claret then induced me to try the effect of stronger potations, and I brought a bottle of Eau de Cologne from my dressing table, the contents of which they finished without difficulty, or apparent inconvenience from the strength of the spirit.
They remained with me about half an hour, during the whole of which time they supported the sober gravity of demeanour, which the Indians consider to be inseparable from true dignity. Nothing seemed to excite surprise, and the only symptom of animation they displayed, was on catching a view of their own countenances in a mirror, when they both laughed. During their whole visit, neither uttered a word, but when I gave the girl a dollar, explaining to her by signs that half of it was to be given to her brother, she readily understood me, and nodded her head in promise of compliance. At length the boy rose to take leave, followed by the young lady, and shaking hands with me, they strode out of the apartment with a sort of barbaric grace which well became these children of the wilderness.
Before quitting the subject of these Indians, whose wild appearance had excited in my imagination a thousand fantastic associations, I must mention one circumstance which I found sadly hostile to poetical interest. One morning, a few days before leaving Washington, I observed my diplomatic friends, lounging and walking about as usual in the gallery of the hotel, but, alas! how miserably transmogrified! Their "Great Father," the President, had, it appeared, preparatory to their departure, presented each person attached to the mission with a new coat, in shape something like that worn by a coachman, and of blue cloth, turned up at the collar and cuffs with scarlet. The women wore cloaks of the same colours and materials, and my two little friends, whose barbaric appearance had been so delightful, now exhibited like the footboy in green livery, whom Hazlitt describes as having contributed so much to the splendours of Barry Cornwall's tea parties. In short, instead of Indian chiefs, I saw before me a set of beings who reminded one of the servants' hall, certainly not the most pleasing or genial region for the fancy to wander in. The poor men, however, seemed
47so proud of their new finery, and to do them justice, strutted in it with so grand an air, that it almost became doubtful whether the effect of this anomalous conjunction was not rather to ennoble the livery, than to degrade brave men who never before had suffered degradation.
IN the observations I have already hazarded on the character of the federal government, it was my object simply to illustrate the fallacy of the leading and fundamental principles on which it is established. I would now willingly be permitted to direct the attention of the reader to those practical defects, arising from want of congruity and adaptation in its separate institutions, which have contributed materially to derange the whole action of the machine.
The colonies had no sooner achieved their independence, than they became desirous of establishing such an union between the different States, as might maintain tranquillity at home, and ensure unity in their relations to foreign powers. In 1787, a
49convention, over which Washington presided, was held in the city of Philadelphia. This convention consisted of delegates from all the States, with the exception of Rhode Island. After long deliberation, the plan of government, which forms the present federal constitution, was recommended and submitted for the separate consideration of the different States. In each of these a convention was assembled, and in 1789, the constitution, all the necessary formalities having been gone through, was duly organized and put in operation.
The legislative power conferred by this constitution is vested in Congress, which consists of two bodies — the House of Representatives and the Senate. The former of these is chosen biennially, in a proportion not exceeding one member for every thirty thousand inhabitants. The minimum only being specified, Congress possesses the power of extending the number of electors who are to enjoy the privilege of returning a member. No person is eligible to this assembly who is not twenty-five years old, who is not resident in the State in which he is chosen, or who has not enjoyed the privileges of citizenship for
50seven years. No qualification in property is required, and the right of suffrage is universal, or nearly so.
This system of representation, though simple enough, is connected with some anomalies. The slave-holding States enjoy the privilege of sending more representatives than the others. The total number of white persons, and three-fifths of the slave population, constitute the amount to which the right of representation has been accorded. Thus, suppose the States of Ohio and Virginia each to contain one million of white, inhabitants, and the latter to possess half a million of slaves, while the former has none; Virginia will send representatives to Congress, on a population of 1,300,000, and of course will exercise the greater influence in the national councils.
The Senate is composed of two representatives from each State. They are elected by the State legislatures for a term of six years, one-third of the number going out by rotation every second year. The qualifications demanded for a senator are, that he shall be thirty years of age, a citizen of nine years standing, and an inhabitant of the state which he represents.
In addition to its legislative functions, the Senate is recognised as a branch of the executive. In this capacity it is invested with the privilege of ratifying or annulling the official appointments of the President. A treaty with any foreign power is not valid until a majority of two-thirds of the Senate shall have given it their sanction.
Some of the particulars stated in this brief outline seem to demand a few observations. In the course of the present work, I have already had occasion to express my convictions as to the results of universal suffrage in a country like the United States. But there are other minor points connected with the election and constitution of the legislative bodies, which appear calculated to derogate very materially from their usefulness. The regulation, that the members of both Houses should be resident in the particular State in which they are elected, I cannot but consider as particularly objectionable. In the first place, it narrows, very unnecessarily, the limits of choice in the electors. In the second, it tends to promote that sectional feeling, that exclusive devotion to the petty interests of some particular
52district, which is generally inconsistent with the adoption of an enlarged and statesmanlike policy. It places the representative in a state of absolute dependence on his immediate constituents, and prevents all appeal to other bodies of electors, by whom his talents and principles maybe more justly appreciated. It prevents a state, in which there happens to be a dearth of talent, from availing itself of the superfluity in another. It contributes also to feed and keep alive those provincial jealousies, which often border so closely on hostility of feeling, and to render more prevalent in the different States that conviction of incompatibility in their various interests which threatens at no distant period to cause. a total disruption of the Union.
In opposition to the injurious effects of this clause of the constitution, what are its good ones? I can discover none. As a precaution to secure the election of members sufficiently acquainted with the interests of the particular district they represent, it is utterly useless. Indeed, a more gratuitous piece of legislation can scarcely be conceived. An American cannot doubt either the will or the capacity of
53the electors to take care of their own interests, and to judge of the qualifications of the several candidates who may solicit their suffrages. Even without restriction, it will rarely occur that the inhabitants of a particular state or district will elect a stranger for their representative. There are a thousand feelings arising from neighbourhood and habitual intercourse in the common business of life, which in ordinary cases would prevent this. A candidate from a different State would always come into the field under great disadvantages. The current of local prejudice would be entirely in favour of his opponents, and if in spite of every obstacle he did succeed in securing his return, what would this prove but that he was manifestly the person best qualified to discharge the duties of their representative?
In Great Britain, notwithstanding the experience of centuries, no such legislative absurdity ever was contemplated. A man from the Land's End may sit for Caithness or the Orkneys. A burgess of Berwick-upon-Tweed may be elected at Cork or Limerick. In short, a member, without once changing
54his domicile, often sits in different Parliaments, for different places; nor has it ever entered the imagination of any one, that this freedom of choice has been productive either of injury or inconvenience. Its advantages, however, are manifold. An English member of Parliament is not necessarily dependent on the judgment of his immediate constituents. He advocates the particular policy which appears to him best calculated to promote the interest of his country, and, whatever his opinions may be, he is not afraid to express them emphatically and openly. It is no doubt possible that this may prevent his re-election for some borough or county, but the whole country is open to him; he does not feel himself to be meanly subservient to the inhabitants of one particular district; and his opinions must be strange indeed, if he cannot find some body of constituents with whose notions of policy his own are in accordance.
But in America all this is different. There no man can be elected except for the particular district in which he chances to reside. If his opinions differ from those which happen to prevail in his own petty circle, he is excluded from public life altogether.
There is no alternative, but that of giving up all hope of political distinction, or of speaking and acting in a manner basely subservient to the prejudices and caprices of his constituents. Let a member of Congress attempt to follow a bold, manly, and independent course, and he is instantly sent back into private life, with his feelings injured, and his future chances of success materially diminished by the reputation of public failure.
The absurdity of the amount of representation of the different States being at all influenced by the number of slaves, is too gross to require elaborate exposure. Yet without this, the Union could .not have been effected, owing to the extreme jealousy of the Southern States. It is the fashion in America to dilate on the anomalies of the British constitution, but even the Scottish Highland proprietors, though by no means a body celebrated either for wisdom or disinterestedness, have not yet ventured to petition that the black cattle, which, like slaves in Virginia, are sent annually in droves to the south, should be taken into the census of population, with a view to add to their political influence.
There can be no doubt, that the division of the legislature into two bodies, acting separately, and with co-ordinate powers, is founded in wisdom. It may be doubted, however, whether in times of excitement the American Senate would practically be found to have any efficient influence in preventing violent and hasty legislation. Unlike the British House of Peers, the Senate is not composed of members having a direct and personal interest in maintaining the privileges of their branch of the legislature. They are men taken for a temporary purpose from the common walks of life, to which, at the expiration of their political service, they immediately return. They are subject to all the impulses which can affect the deliberations of the more popular House. In no point of view do they present themselves under the aspect of an independent body. They are the creatures of popular favour, and in that like the representatives, they live, move, and have their being. The interests, the habits, the modes of thought, of both bodies are the same.
It is in vain, therefore, to look to the American Senate as affording any check on the tendency
57towards democracy, which is discernible in all the workings of the constitution. It was the wish of Hamilton, that the Senators should be elected for life, and that a considerable qualification of property should be attached to the office. Had Washington publicly supported him in these views, it is probable that a scheme of government, combining greater vigour and durability, might have been adopted. But Washington, though bold in the field, was timid in the cabinet. The opportunity was suffered to pass, and from the period of the adoption of the present constitution, all hopes of organizing a government on a broader and more permanent basis, were for ever at an end.
The President of the United States is elected for four years. On entering office, he takes an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States. He is Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy, and of the militia of the different States, when called into actual service by the general government. He has the power of negotiating treaties, but not of ratifying them, until sanctioned by a majority of two-thirds of the Senate. He nominates
58all officers, civil and military, but the assent of the Senate is necessary to the validity of the appointment. He receives foreign ambassadors. He may grant pardons and reprieves, except in cases of treason and impeachment. Should the two Houses of Congress disagree as to the period of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he may think proper. He fills offices ad interim when the Senate are not sitting; but, on their reassembling, that body may annul the appointments.
Under the control of the President are three executive departments, the heads of which constitute what is called the Cabinet. The Secretary of State discharges all the duties of the foreign department. Through this officer the President expresses his opinions in all diplomatic intercourse. The other members of the Cabinet, are the Secretaries of the Treasury, of War, and of Naval Affairs.
Of such materials is the American executive composed, and it is impossible to observe the restrictions with which every exercise of its authority has been clogged, without at once perceiving that it was from this quarter alone, that danger to the Constitution
59was expected to proceed. The idea of a perpetual Dictator was the bugbear which frightened American statesmen from their propriety, and rendered them indifferent to all perils which assumed another and less alarming aspect. Even at the present day, after forty years experience of their Constitution, there are many individuals, otherwise distinguished for talent and good sense, whose imagination is still haunted by "chimeras dire" of military tyranny, organised by a quadrennial President with a salary of five thousand a-year, an army of six thousand men, and without independent and unshackled patronage of any sort! One might be content to smile at such nonsense if it carried with it no serious consequences; but when we see the destinies of a great nation materially affected by it, we cannot but lament the extent and influence of the delusion. In truth, the manifest and pervading defect of the American government is the very want of that independent energy which her statesmen regard with so much futile apprehension. The President is a kind of King Log, whom it has been thought prudent to deprive of members altogether, in order to
60prevent the possibility of his doing mischief. It might have been very judicious, no doubt, to extract the teeth and pare the claws of so ferocious an animal, but certainly not to carry the mutilation so far as to destroy the whole bodily functions, if these could be rendered useful to the community.
It is to be lamented that a government of greater vigour and efficiency was not originally adopted, since the very newness of political institutions is of itself a source of weakness. It is only by slow degrees that the intellect and habits of a people become accommodated to the operation of a government, that their prejudices are enlisted in its favour, and a sort of prescriptive respect is obtained which adds materially to the benefit it is capable of conferring. Until the American institutions should have gained this vantage-ground, it was above all things desirable, that they should be established on broad and permanent principles, with enough of independent energy to resist the inroads of mere wanton innovation. Had the federal government been so framed as to rest for support, not on the precarious favour of the multitude, but on the deliberate intelligence of the
61property and talent of the country, there could have been no assignable limit to the prosperity and intellectual advancement of this fortunate people. At present it only contrives to drag on a feeble existence, by adapting its whole policy to the prejudices and passions of the most ignorant part of the community, which it is the bounden duty of every government to restrain and regulate.
Since we have seen that both the legislative bodies are absolutely and necessarily subservient to the popular feeling, it might have been expected, at least, that the highest executive office of the Republic would have been rendered inaccessible to such influence. It was natural to imagine that the President of the United States would be placed above temptation of every sort, and be assailed by no inducement to swerve from the policy which he might consider best calculated to promote the interests of his country.
Such a presumption, however, would be entirely unwarranted. The President is elected for a period of four years, but the custom has generally been to re-elect him for a second term of equal duration.
From the time of his first inauguration, therefore, the policy of every President is naturally directed to secure this re-election. He takes especial care that the opinions expressed in every State document bearing his sanction, shall he in accordance with the passions or prejudices of the numerical majority of the people. Being without the means of leading opinion, he is content to follow it. He stands in circumstances too precarious to admit of his boldly adopting measures of enlarged and liberal policy, or attempting to stem the tide of ignorance and prejudice. In short, during his first period of office at least, the American President is any thing but independent, and when he has succeeded in extending the duration of his power, he stands so committed, so trammelled by pledges of all sorts, so identified with particular opinions, and some particular policy, that it is impossible to retrace his steps without loss both of consistency and character.
The appointment of the great officers of State rests with the President, subject to the approval of the Senate; and since he bears the whole responsibility of the Cabinet, it seems only fair that he should
63possess the privilege of selecting the individuals of whom it shall be composed. But even here, independently of the check of the Senate, his choice is not practically free, nor can he always select the men best qualified for the duties to be performed. With a view to his own re-election, the greater and more influential States must be conciliated by the advancement of one of their citizens to a seat in the Cabinet. If the Secretary of State be a native of New York, a citizen of Pennsylvania will probably be appointed to the Treasury, so that the very construction of the Cabinet is materially influenced by the dependence of the President, and the consequent necessity he feels of truckling to local and sectional interests, instead of following the upright and unbending policy, which his own principles and judgment would probably have dictated.
All this is bad, but laying it entirely out of view, the mere shortness of the period during which any President or any Cabinet can hope to continue in office, appears a circumstance directly injurious to the national interests. It prevents the adoption of any permanent and far-sighted policy, tending
64progressively to augment the public wealth and prosperity. One man will not plant, that another may reap the harvest of his labours; he will not patiently lay the foundation of a structure, the plan of which is continually liable to be changed by his successors, and on whom, if completed, the whole honours must ultimately devolve. In short, it is an inherent and monstrous evil, that American statesmen must legislate for the present, not for the future; that they are forced, by the necessity of their situation, to follow the policy most in accordance with the immediate prejudices of the people, rather than that which is calculated to promote the highest and best interests of the community. Immediate and temporary expediency is, and must be, the moving and efficient impulse of American legislation. The political institutions of the United States are consistent neither with stability of purpose in the legislative, nor vigour in the executive departments. Let us look where we will, all is feeble and vacillating. There is no confidence reposed in public men; no appeal to the higher and more generous motives which influence conduct; no scope for the display of lofty
65and independent character; no principle from the operation of which we can rationally expect any higher development of the national mind.
The exclusion of the ministers from even a deliberative voice in either branch of the legislature, is another curious feature in the American constitution. It proceeds, no doubt, from that extreme jealousy of the executive to which I have alluded, and is necessarily productive of much delay and inconvenience. No communication can take place between the legislative bodies and the heads of departments otherwise than by writing, and the consequence is that long and inconclusive debates are constantly taking place, which a little information from an official functionary might have prevented. Under the present arrangement, a minister of state never appears at all in the eyes of the public. He has to brave no enemy, and repel no attack. He can be cited before no tribunal, and cannot be called upon to stand forth and vindicate his conduct in the face of his country. He remains securely sheltered under the cloak of the President, on whose shoulders rests the whole political responsibility of the cabinet.
It is somewhat strange that the American constitution, which evidently presumes that every man in office is a scoundrel, should have removed, in this instance, one of the strongest and most efficient securities for public virtue. In England, for one half the year at least, ministers are brought into immediate contact with their political opponents. They are compelled to give public explanations of their conduct. They are kept in continual remembrance of their official responsibility. They are subjected to a test, which it requires not only upright policy, but high talents, to encounter successfully. A British minister cannot skulk in Downing Street, when the Commons of England are discussing the wisdom of his measures, or the purity of his motives. He stands forward in the eye of the world; he challenges enquiry; he meets his accusers face to face; he answers publicly a public accusation, and according to the verdict given he stands or falls.
No man can believe, I should imagine, that such habitual and inexorable scrutiny, anticipated by every public officer, is not productive of the most beneficial consequences. But from any thing like
67this the high functionaries in the United States are scrupulously protected. The oracles of an American minister are issued only from the shrine of his bureau. He is too delicate a flower for the rough handling of a public assembly, and of course may disregard attack, where the constitution has so wisely precluded the possibility of defence.
It is no answer to all this to say, that every public officer in the United States is liable to impeachment, in case of individual malversation in office. No doubt he is so; but violation of trust in a minister of state, so flagrant as to warrant impeachment, is an offence of rare occurrence, and one for which the disgrace of public exposure is generally a sufficient punishment. What is chiefly to be guarded against are the jobs, the trickeries, the petty impurities of office, which the necessity of braving personal examination in a public assembly would probably prevent. The Americans, therefore, in excluding their executive officers from all place in their representative bodies, have gratuitously discarded a powerful and efficient security for the honest and upright administration of their affairs.
68The knowledge that every political measure will be subjected to a rigid and unsparing scrutiny, and must be defended to the satisfaction of honourable men in open discussion, is perhaps the most powerful safeguard devised by human ingenuity to secure the integrity of public men.
When we look, however, somewhat more minutely into the details of this republican government, it is soon perceived that the members of the cabinet are, in truth, nothing better than superintending clerks in the departments over which they nominally preside. At the commencement of every Congress, the practice is to appoint standing committees, who, in fact, manage the whole business of the executive departments. The process is as follows: — The President, in his message, invites the attention of Congress to such subjects as may appear of national importance. Permanent committees are appointed by both Houses, and to these the consideration of the various interests of the country is referred. Thus, whatever relates to finance falls within the department of the "committee of ways and means," while that on foreign affairs assumes cognizance of every
69thing connected with the external relations of the government. These committees have separate apartments, in which the real business of the country is carried on, and from which the heads of the executive departments are rigidly excluded. The whole power of the government is thus absolutely and literally absorbed by the people, for no bill connected with any branch of public affairs could be brought into Congress with the smallest prospect of success, which had not previously received the initiative approbation of these committees.
It should be remembered that the power thus assumed by the people is wholly unknown to the Constitution. It is one of those important, but silent encroachments which are progressively affecting the forms, as they have long done the spirit of the government. It is still, however, the fashion to say, if not to believe, that the Constitution remains unchanged, and it is scarcely worth while to argue the point, with men who are evidently deficient either in sincerity or penetration. But if any man of sense and sagacity, who can be considered unbiassed by the prejudices of habit and education, will declare, after
70a deliberate examination of the working of this government, that its whole important functions are not practically engrossed by the House of Representatives, I shall be ready to give up those opinions which I now offer to the world, as embodying the result of my own observations in the United States.
THOUGH the soil of the United States may be considered ungenial for the growth of philosophy and literature, it would certainly appear to be very happily adapted for the cultivation of eloquence. It is one effect of free institutions, that in multiplying the depositories of political power, they render the faculty of persuasion a necessary element on which successful ambition must rest for support. Under a despotic government there is "ample room and verge enough" for no eloquence but that of the pulpit. There exists little community of sentiment between the governors and the governed, and habits of passive obedience are incompatible with that buoyancy of thought and feeling with which true
72eloquence is inseparably connected. But in a republic the whole interests of man, individually and collectively, become matter of unrestricted discussion, and afford vantage-ground for the orator. Earth, air, ocean, and the living myriads that inhabit them, and that wider world of thought and consciousness existing in the human breast, are all comprised within the limits of his dominion, and obey the impulse of his genius.
In America the power of persuasion constitutes the only lever of political advancement. In England, though the field for the exercise of this talent be very great, yet rank, wealth, family connexions, hereditary claims, and a thousand other influences must be taken into account, in reckoning the ordinary elements of successful ambition. How powerful — whether for good or evil I shall not enquire — many of these are, is well known, but none of them exist in the United States. There, rank is unknown; there are no great accumulations of property; and competition for the higher offices of the commonwealth, has long been rather the struggle of men, or more properly, perhaps, of sectional interests, than of
73principles. The candidates, however, for every situation of emolument, are, beyond all example, in this country, numerous; and, as each individual is naturally anxious to establish some trifling point of superiority in reference to his opponents, the consequence is, that political opinion is dissected with a degree of nicety which the most accomplished metaphysician would find it difficult to surpass. But all enter the contest armed with the same weapons, displaying the same banner, appealing to the same umpire, and contending for the same reward. Patronage of every kind is virtually in the hands of the people. They are the fountain of fame and of honour, the ultimate tribunal by which all appeals must be heard and decided.
In the United States, oral eloquence, and the newspaper press, constitutes the only instruments really available in acquiring influence over this many-headed and irresponsible arbiter of merit and measures. There exists, indeed, no other channel through which there is any possibility of attaining political distinction. The influence and circulation of newspapers is great beyond any thing ever known in
74Europe. In truth, nine-tenths of the population read nothing else, and are, consequently, mentally inaccessible by any other avenue. Every village, nay, almost every hamlet, has its press, which issues secondhand news, and serves as an arena in which the political gladiators of the neighbourhood may exercise their powers of argument and abuse. The conductors of these journals are generally shrewd but uneducated men, extravagant in praise or censure, clear in their judgment of every thing connected with their own interests, and exceedingly indifferent to all matters which have no discernible relation to their own pockets or privileges.
The power exercised by this class of writers over the public mind is very great. Books circulate with difficulty in a thinly-peopled country, and are not objects on which the solitary denizen of the forest would be likely to expend any portion of the produce of his labour. But newspapers penetrate to every crevice of the Union. There is no settlement so remote as to be cut off from this channel of intercourse with their fellow-men. It is thus that the clamour of the busy world is heard even in the wilderness,
75and the most remote invader of distant wilds is kept alive in his solitude to the common ties of brotherhood and country.
Newspapers have a character and influence, distinct from that of all other literature. They are emphatically present existences; the links between the past and the future. Forming part, as it were, of the very business of life, they are never alien to the minds of those who participate in its interests. They are read; laid aside; forgotten at night, to be again remembered in the morning. In truth, it is this incessant recreation which constitutes their power. The opinions of men are yielded willingly to their influence. It is constant dropping, as the old proverb hath it, which wears the stone.
But the newspaper press is perhaps better adapted for the advocation and diffusion of the principles of a party, than for the attainment of the immediate objects of individual ambition. The influence of a public journal can scarcely be considered a thing personal to its conductor. It circulates in a thousand places where his name and existence are entirely unknown. Indeed, to the great mass of his readers
76he is not a man of thews and sinews, broad cloth and corduroys, eating, drinking, spitting, and tobacco-chewing like themselves, but a sort of airy and invisible being, "a voice, a mystery," which it requires an effort of abstraction to impersonate.
In America, therefore, the influence of the pen, though admitting of vast extension, is only secondary, as an instrument of political ambition, to that of the tongue. A writer may enforce the peculiar tenets of his party with the utmost skill, and support them with great logical acuteness, and yet be very scantily endowed with the powers of a debater. Such powers, however, are indispensable, or, at least, in the estimation of the electors, are practically found to outweigh every other accomplishment. A convincing proof of this almost uniform preference may be found in the fact, that of the whole federal legislature nineteen-twentieths are lawyers, men professionally accustomed to public speaking. The merchants — the great capitalists of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and the other Atlantic cities, constituting, I fear not to say, the most enlightened body of citizens in the Union — are almost as effectually excluded
77from political power, by deficiency in oratorical accomplishment, as they could be by express legal enactment.
The acquisition of a faculty so important, therefore, is necessarily one of the primary objects of Transatlantic education. Teachers of elocution, and of all the petty trickeries of delivery, to which inferior men find it necessary to resort, abound everywhere. An American boy, from the very first year of his going to school, is accustomed to spout. At college he makes public orations. On emerging into life he frequents debating societies, numerous everywhere, and his qualifications thus become known to the electors, whose suffrages on some future occasion he is anxious to obtain. He then commences practice as a lawyer, and in that capacity reaps some advantage from his previous notoriety. The road to political distinction then opens. He is probably elected a member of the legislature of his native State. Should he acquit himself in his new capacity with credit, in a few years he becomes a delegate to Congress, and enters on a higher sphere of legislative duty. At no period of his progress, however, is his
78tenure of the favour of his constituents secure. There is a sectional jealousy prevalent throughout the United States; a restless anxiety in the inhabitants of each district, that their local, and perhaps exclusive interests, however insignificant, should be resolutely obtruded on the attention of the legislature. They consider also that their own consequence is intimately affected by the figure made by their representative in Congress, and would feel it to be a dereliction, on his part, of their just claims, were he to suffer any interesting question to pass without engrossing some portion of the attention of the Assembly.
Verily, the yoke of such constituents is not easy, nor is their burden light. The public prints must bear frequent record of the loquacity of their representative, or they are not satisfied. The consequence is, that in the American Congress there is more of what may be called speaking against time, than in any other deliberative assembly ever known. Each member is aware that he must either assume a certain prominence, or give up all hope of future re-election, and it is needless to say which alternative is usually preferred. A universal tolerance of long speeches
79is thus generated, and no attempt is ever made to restrict the range of argument or declamation, within the limits even of remote connexion with the subject of debate. One continually roads in the public papers such announcements as the following: —
"In the House of Representatives, yesterday, Mr Tompkins occupied the whole day with the continuation of his brilliant speech on the Indian question, and is in possession of the floor to-morrow. He is expected to conclude on Friday; but, from, the press of other business, it will probably be Tuesday next before Mr Jefferson X. Bagg will commence his reply, which is expected to occupy the whole remainder of the week."
In fact, an oration of eighteen or twenty hours is no uncommon occurrence in the American Congress.
After this vast expenditure of breath, the next step of the orator is to circulate his speech in the form of a closely-printed pamphlet of some hundred and fifty pages. A plentiful supply of copies is despatched for the use of his constituents, who swallow the bait; and at the conclusion of the session, the member returns to his native town, where he is
80lauded, feasted, and toasted, and — what he values, I doubt not, still more — re-elected.
The Americans enjoy the reputation in Europe of being par excellence a sensible people. I fear their character in this respect must suffer some depreciation in the opinion of those who have enjoyed the advantage of observing the proceedings of their legislative assemblies. The mode in which the discussion of public business is carried on in Congress, certainly struck me as being not only unstatesman-like, but in flagrant violation of the plainest dictates of common sense. The style of speaking is loose, rambling, and inconclusive; and adherence to the real subject of discussion evidently forms no part, either of the intention of the orator, or the expectation of his audience. A large proportion of the speakers seem to take part in a debate with no other view than that of individual display, and it sometimes happens that the topic immediately pressing on the attention of the assembly, by some strange perversity, is almost the only one on which nothing is said.
It is evident that such a style of discussion — if
81discussion it can be called — could only become prevalent in an assembly with abundance of leisure for the enactment of these oratorical interludes. In a body like the British Parliament, compelled by the pressure of business to be economical of time, it could not possibly be tolerated. The clamorous interests of a great nation are matters too serious to be trifled with, and time is felt to be too valuable for expenditure on speeches better fitted for a spouting club, than a grave deliberative assembly.
The truth, I believe, is, that the American Congress have really very little to do. All the multiplied details of local and municipal legislation fall within the province of the State governments, and the regulation of commerce and foreign intercourse practically includes all the important questions which they are called on to decide. Nor are the members generally very anxious so to abbreviate the proceedings of Congress, as to ensure a speedy return to their provinces. They are well paid for every hour lavished on the public business; and being once at Washington, and enjoying the pleasures of its society, few are probably solicitous for the termination
82of functions which combine the advantage of real emolument, with the opportunities of acquiring distinction in the eyes of their constituents. The farce, therefore, by common consent, continues to be played on. Speeches apparently interminable are tolerated, though not listened to; and every manoeuvre by which the discharge of public business can be protracted is resorted to, with the most perfect success.
Of course I state this merely as the readiest hypothesis by which the facts already mentioned can be explained; but, in truth, there are many other causes at work. Though in either House there is no deficiency of party spirit, and political hostilities are waged with great vigour, yet both in attack and defence there is evidently an entire want both of discipline and organization. There is no concert, no division of duties, no compromise of opinion; but the movements of party are executed without regularity or premeditation. Thus, instead of the systematic and combined attack of an organized body, deliberately concerted on principles which will unite the greatest number of auxiliaries, government have in general to sustain only the assaults of single and
83desultory combatants, who mix up so much of individual peculiarity of opinion, with what is common to their party, that any general system of effective co-operation is impossible. It is evident enough, in whatever business the House may be engaged, that each individual acts for himself, and is eager to make or to discover some opportunity of lavishing all his crudities of thought or fancy on his brother legislators.
The consequence of all this is, that no one can guess, with any approach to probability, the course of discussion on any given subject: A speech, an argument, an insinuation, an allusion, is at any time sufficient to turn the whole current of debate into some new and unforeseen channel; and I have often found it absolutely impossible to gather from the course of argument, even the nature of the question on which the House were divided in opinion. In England, it is at least pretty certain that a motion on criminal law will not lead to a discussion on foreign policy, including the improvement of turnpike roads, the expenses of Plymouth breakwater, the renewal of the East India Company's charter,
84and the prospects of Swan River settlement. But in America, a debate in Congress is a sort of steeplechase, in which no one knows any thing of the country to be crossed, and it often happens that the object of pursuit is altogether lost sight of by the whole party.
One effect — I do not know that it is a bad one — of this excursive style of discussion is, that every member finds it necessary to be on the qui vive. Something may at any moment be said, to which it is necessary that the representative for a particular state or district should immediately reply. Whatever maybe the subject of debate, no member — especially in the Lower House — can be absent a single hour with safety, when an orator of the hostile party, according to American phrase, is "in possession of the floor." I have often, in coming to the Capitol, enquired at members of the House of Representatives whether it was probable that any interesting discussion would take place in the course of the day. The answer uniformly was, that it was impossible to foresee; for though the topic then occupying the attention of the House might be of the most common-place
85kind, the debate on it was liable at any moment to diverge, and bring on the most unexpected results. But on this matter, as I have already perhaps dealt too much in "wise saws," I shall take the liberty of adducing a few modern instances.
One of the first debates at which I was present, related to a pecuniary claim of the late President Monroe on the United States, amounting, if I remember rightly, to sixty thousand dollars. This claim had long been urged, and been repeatedly referred to committees of the House of Representatives, who, after a careful investigation of the subject, had uniformly reported in favour of its justice.
The question at length came on for discussion, "Is the debt claimed by Mr Monroe from the United States a just debt, or not?" Nothing could possibly be more simple. Here was a plain matter of debtor and creditor; a problem of figures, the solution of which must rest on a patient examination of accounts, and charges, and balances. It was a question after the heart of Joseph Hume, — a bone, of which that most useful legislator understands so well how to get at the marrow.
Well, how was this dry question treated in the House of Representatives? Why, as follows. Little or nothing was said as to the intrinsic justice or validity of the claim. Committees of the House had repeatedly reported in its favour, and I heard no attempt, by fact or inference, to prove the fallacy of their decision. But a great deal was said about the political character of Mr Monroe some dozen years before, and a great deal about Virginia, and its Presidents and its members, and its attempts to govern the Union, an its selfish policy. A vehement discussion took place as to whether Mr Monroe or Chancellor Livingstone had been the efficient agent in procuring the cession of Louisiana. Members waxed warm in attack and recrimination, and a fiery gentleman from Virginia was repeatedly called to order by the Speaker. One member declared, that, disapproving toto ccelo of the former policy of Mr Monroe's Cabinet, he should certainly now oppose his demand for payment of a debt, the justice of which was not attempted to be disproved. Another thought Mr Monroe would be very well off if he got half of what he claimed, and moved an amendment
87to that effect, which being considered a kind of compromise, I believe, was at length carried, after repeated adjournments and much clamorous debate.
Another instance of discussion somewhat similar struck me very forcibly, and will afford, I imagine, sufficient illustration of the mode of doing business in the House of Representatives. It took place on a claim put forward by the widow of Commodore Decatur, for prize money due to him and his ship's crew for something done in the Mediterranean. The particulars I forget, but they are of no consequence. The Commodore having no family, had bequeathed the whole of his property, real and personal, to his wife, whom circumstances had since reduced to poverty. When I entered, the debate had already commenced, and the House seemed almost unanimous in the admission of the claim. This was dull enough, and as the subject itself had little to engage the attention of a stranger, I determined to try whether any thing of more interest was going forward in the Senate. While I was conversing with a member of the House, however, some symptoms of difference of opinion began to manifest themselves.
88One member proposed, that as the money was to be granted principally with a view to benefit the widow of Commodore Decatur, the ordinary rules of prize division should not be adhered to, and that a larger share than usual should be allotted to the commander of the armament. This proposition, however, was evidently adverse to the wishes of the majority, and the amendment met with little support. This matter being settled, the discussion for some time went on smoothly enough, and there seemed every prospect of its reaching a speedy and amicable termination.
At length, however, a member rose, and argued that the circumstance of the Commodore having bequeathed his whole property to his wife, when he imagined he had very little property to leave, afforded no ground for the conclusion, that had he known of this large addition, it might not have been differently applied. He, therefore, expressed his firm determination to oppose its exclusive appropriation to the widow. The widow, however, was not without able and zealous advocates to set forth her claims, and urge their admission. These pronounced her to be one of the most amiable and excellent of her sex, and
89maintained that, as the House had no possible access to know how the Commodore would have acted under circumstances merely hypothetical, there was no course to be pursued but to appropriate the money according to the desire actually expressed in his last will and testament.
While the House were, for the nonce, divided into widowites and anti-widowites, the discussion became still further embroiled. New matter of debate arose. Admitting that Mrs Decatur was entitled to the usufruct of the money during her life, was it fitting that she should have the power of alienating it at her death from the relatives of her husband? This was very warmly debated. At length, a gentleman, in a very vehement and pathetic speech, set forth the attractions, both mental and personal, of two young ladies, daughters of a sister of Captain Decatur, whose necessities unfortunately were equal to their merits. He had the honour, he said, of being their neighbour in the country; they were elegant and accomplished, and often did his family the honour to accept such hospitality as they could offer. He
90should certainly oppose the grant altogether, if these young ladies were not to come in for a share.
This speech had evidently great effect, and the party of the young ladies — comprising, of course, all the bachelors of the House — was evidently a strong one. A grave elderly member, however, took up the cudgels on the other side. He informed the House, that the brother of Commodore Decatur had been his intimate friend, and unfortunately had left a family very scantily provided for. What claims could any young ladies, however accomplished, who were daughters only of a sister, possess equal to those of this brother's children? The latter were evidently the proper objects to be benefited by the present grant. He should oppose it on any other terms.
The number of amendments had now become very great, and the accumulation of obstacles was increasing with every speech. I was assured, — and from the tenor of the debate, I have no doubt it was so, — that a majority was decidedly in favour of the original claim, but minor discrepancies of opinion were found to be irreconcilable. Some insisted on the widow receiving the whole amount of the grant,
91others that it should go to the brother's family, others that the young ladies should be enriched by it, and others still were for a general division, while a considerable party advocated the propriety of voting the grant untrammelled by condition of any sort. The result was, that, after a most unprofitable waste of many hours, no money was granted at all, and the matter left for farther debate in another Congress, when the farce I have just described will be re-enacted, no doubt, with all its original spirit.
During my attendances at the Capitol, I have been sometimes amused by observing the process by which a question, originally simple, becomes, in the progress of discussion, so complicated and mixed up with irrelevant matter, and loses so completely all logical form, that it might puzzle the most expert dialectician to form any judgment on it at all. I have often attempted, on entering the House during a debate, to discover from the speeches something of the nature of the topic which occupied the attention of the assembly. In this I was generally unsuccessful, and my conjectures were sometimes almost ludicrously wide of the mark. Indeed, it was no uncommon
92occurrence for the mass of amendments to become so great, that even the members were bewildered, and were compelled to apply to the Speaker to explain their bearing on each other and the original question; and certainly nothing gave me a higher opinion of the powers of that gentleman, than the clear and skilful manner in which he managed to recall the attention to the real point at issue, and prevent the House from becoming absolutely stultified by its own proceedings.
In looking back to the earlier days of the republic, it would be scarcely fair to try the specimens of oratory that have come down to us by the standard of very rigid criticism. The appropriate eloquence of the time was that of action, not of words. While the struggle for liberty was undecided, the men who dwelt in camps, and spoke with swords in their hands, had no leisure to think of tropes and figures, and their addresses to their countrymen were distinguished by a manly earnestness worthy of the great cause in which they had embarked, and which more than compensated for unavoidable deficiencies of taste.
But with the achievement of the national independence a different state of things arose. Oratory, which on great and critical occasions, when mighty interests are at stake, and men give strong utterance to irrepressible convictions, is less an art than an impulse, became in more peaceful times a mere branch of professional accomplishment, which it was considered necessary for political aspirants to acquire. The succeeding generation of Americans were not content as their fathers had been with the simple expression of their feelings and opinions, without rhetorical embellishment, or studied artifices of speech. They attempted higher flights, but their ambition was more remarkable for its daring than its success. The recorded specimens of this period of the republic indicate a sad deficiency of taste, originality, and imaginative power. Starting, like another Adam, into sudden political existence, speaking the language, preserving the laws, and dependent on the literature of England, America found it more difficult to cast off the trammels of mental allegiance, than to burst asunder the bonds of physical enthralment. Strong arms and brave hearts had proved adequate
94to the one, but a higher intellectual advancement than they had yet attained was necessary for the other.
Thus it was, that from the very dawn of their independence, the Americans became an imitative people. Having no examples of native excellence to appeal to, they at once adopted the models of another nation, without reflecting that these, however excellent, might be ill adapted for imitation in a state of manners and society altogether different. Surrounded by all the elements of originality in the world of untried images and associations with which they were familiar, they renounced them all, to become the imitators of a people who to this hour have denied them even the praise of skilful imitation.
The world affords no instance of a people, among whom an eloquence, merely imitative, ever was successful. It is indeed quite evident, that eloquence, to be effective, must be expressly accommodated, not only to the general condition of society, but to the habits, intelligence, sympathies, prejudices, and peculiarities of the audience. The images which appeal most forcibly to the feelings of one people,
95will fail utterly of effect when addressed to another, living under a different climate, accustomed to a different aspect of external nature, and of habits and partialities generated under a different modification of social intercourse.
The first great objection, therefore, to American eloquence, is, that it is not American. When a traveller visits the United States, and sees the form and pressure of society; a population thinly scattered through regions of interminable forest; appearances of nature widely varying from those of European countries; the entire absence of luxury; the prevailing plainness of manner and expression; the general deficiency of literary acquirement; the thousand visible consequences of democratic institutions; he is naturally led to expect that the eloquence of such a people would be marked at least by images and associations peculiar to their own circumstances and condition. This anticipation would no doubt be strengthened by the first aspect of Congress. He would find in the Capitol of Washington two assemblies of plain farmers and attorneys; men who exhibited in their whole deportment an evident aversion
96from the graces and elegancies of polished society; of coarse appetites, and coarser manners; and betraying a practical contempt for all knowledge not palpably convertible to the purposes of pecuniary profit. The impression might not be pleasing, but he would congratulate himself on having at least escaped from the dull regions of commonplace, and calculate on being spared the penalty of listening to the monotonous iteration of hackneyed metaphor, and the crambe recocta of British oratory, hashed up for purposes of public benefit or private vanity, by a Washington cuisinier.
In all this he would be most wretchedly deceived. He might patiently sit out speeches of a week's duration, without detecting even the vestige of originality, either of thought or illustration. But he would be dosed ad nauseam with trite quotations from Latin authors, apparently extracted for the nonce from the schoolbooks of some neighbouring academy for young gentlemen. He would hear abundance of truisms, both moral and political, emphatically asserted and most illogically proved; he would learn the opinions of each successive orator on all matters
97of national policy, foreign and domestic. He would be gorged to the very throat with the most extravagant praises of the American government, and the character and intelligence of the people. He would listen to the interminable drivellings of an insatiable vanity, which, like the sisters of the horseleech, is for ever crying, "Give, give." He would follow the orator into the seventh heaven of bombast, and descend with him into the lowest regions of the bathos. Still in all this he would detect nothing but a miserably executed parody — a sort of bungling plagiarism — an imitation of inapplicable models — a mimicry like that of the clown in a pantomime, all ridicule and burlesque. In American oratory, in short, he will find nothing vernacular but the vulgarities, and the entire disregard of those proprieties, on the scrupulous observance of which the effect even of the highest eloquence must necessarily depend.
In Congress, the number of men who have received — what even in the United States is called — a classical education, is extremely small, and of these the proportion who still retain sufficient scholarship to
98find pleasure in allusion to the words of the great writers of antiquity, is yet smaller. The great majority are utterly and recklessly ignorant of the learned languages, and the whole literature embodied in them; and it is evident that, with such an audience, any appeal to classical authority is mere waste of breath in the one party, and of patience in the other. It may appear strange, under such circumstances, but I have no doubt of the fact, that in the course of a session, more Latin — such as it is — is quoted in the House of Representatives, than in both Houses of the British Parliament. Indeed it is ludicrous enough to observe the solicitude of men, evidently illiterate, to trick out their speeches with such hackneyed extracts from classical authors, as they may have picked up in the course of a superficial reading. Thus, if a member be attacked, he will probably assure the House, not in plain English, that the charge of his opponent is weak, and without foundation, but in Latin, that it is "telum imbelle et sine ictu." Should he find occasion to profess philanthropy, the chances are that the words of Terence, "Homosum, humaninihil,"&c. will be mispronounced
99in a pathetic accent, with the right hand pressed gracefully on the breast. In short, members were always ready with some petty scrap of threadbare trumpery, which, like the Cosmogonist in the Vicar of Wakefield, they kept cut and dry for the frequent occasions of oratorical emergency.
During my stay in Washington, I had the good fortune to be present at one debate in the House of Representatives which excited much public interest. It related to the appointment of Mr Randolph as Minister to the Court of Russia. The circumstances were as follow. Early in 1830, it was judged right by the Cabinet of Washington to have a resident minister at the Court of Russia. The individ ual selected for this high appointment was Mr John Randolph, a gentleman of much eccentricity, high talents, and confessedly gifted with extraordinary powers as a debater. Though this gentleman has never held any political office, yet he has uniformly engrossed a very large share of the public attention, and has had the art or the misfortune in his own country to attract an unexampled portion of sincere admiration and vehement dislike. No man in America ever brought
100to debate an equal power of biting sarcasm, and few men perhaps, if so gifted, would have used it so unsparingly. With the qualities of a statesman, Mr Randolph is not considered by his countrymen to be largely endowed. His true element is opposition. He has attacked every successive administration for the last thirty years, with what vigour and effect those who have writhed under the torture of his withering invectives can alone adequately describe. There is indeed something almost fearfully ingenious in his employment of epithets, which cut, as it were, to the very core, the objects of his wrath. In habit and feeling, no man can be more aristocratic than Mr Randolph, yet he has always been the stanch advocate of democratic principles. In one respect, he is the very converse of Jefferson. He detests French literature and French society, praises England and her government perhaps more than they deserve, and among his strange and multifarious acquirements must be included an accurate acquaintance with the genealogies of the whole British Peerage!
When the situation of Minister to the Court of St
101Petersburg was offered to this remarkable individual, he candidly informed the President that the state of his health was such, as to render him incapable of braving the severities of a Russian climate, and that, unless permitted to pass the winter months in London or Paris, he should feel compelled to decline the appointment. The permission was granted, and Mr Randolph departed on his mission. He left, however, many enemies behind him, men who had suffered under the lash of his eloquence, and were naturally anxious to seize every opportunity of retorting punishment on so formidable an opponent.
A few days before my arrival in Washington, the subject of this appointment had been fairly brought into debate, and a Mr Tristram Burgess, from Rhode Island, had made a vehement attack, both on Mr Randolph, and on the Government. This called up Mr Cambreleng, one of the members for New York, a gentleman of great talent, and decidedly the first political economist of the Union, who entered warmly on the defence of Ministers. There is no doubt that Mr Cambreleng, under the influence of temporary excitement, in some degree, exceeded the legitimate
102limits of legislative discussion. Mr Tristram Burgess happened to be an elderly gentleman, with a hooked nose, a head bald on the summit, but the sides of which displayed hair somewhat blanched by time. In allusion to these personal peculiarities, Mr Cambreleng certainly said something about the fires of Etna glowing beneath the snows of Caucasus, and also, rather unpleasantly, compared his opponent to a bald-headed vulture. There can be no doubt of the bad taste of all this; and I know Mr Cambreleng well enough to entertain the perfect conviction, that had any opportunity of subsequent explanation been afforded him, he would have been most ready to disclaim any hasty expression that could be considered personally offensive to his opponent. It appeared, however, that explanation was neither demanded nor expected. The House adjourned, and nearly three weeks elapsed before the subject again came on for discussion.
I had no sooner reached Washington than I learned that great expectations were excited by the anticipated reply of Mr Burgess, who was one of the crack orators of the House. Poor Mr Cambreleng
103evidently regarded as a doomed man; his fate was sealed; he could have no chance in a war of words with an intellectual giant like Mr Tristram Burgess! I received congratulations on all hands on my good fortune in enjoying at least one opportunity of hearing a first-rate specimen of American eloquence. In short, the cry was still "he comes;" and when, on the appointed day, he did come, it was bearing such a mass of written papers, as gave promise of a prepared and voluminous speech.
The promise was not belied. Mr Burgess's talent for diffusion was of the first order, and the speech was Shandean. Being, however, what is vulgarly called a slow coach, he did not get over the ground so rapidly as might have been desired, considering the vast distance he was determined to travel. I know at least that he was three days on the road, and the point to which he at last conducted his passengers appeared to my vision very similar to that from which he started.
Though my curiosity had been a good deal excited, the first three sentences were enough to calm it. Mr Burgess was evidently a man of some cleverness
104with a tolerable command of words, and a good deal of worldly sagacity. He occasionally made a good hit, and once or twice showed considerable adroitness in parrying attack; but he was utterly wanting in taste and imagination; there were no felicities either of thought or expression; nor could I detect a trace of any single quality which could be ranked among the higher gifts of an orator. A three days' speech from such a man was certainly a very serious affair; and though, as a matter of duty, on so great an occasion, I did bring myself to sit out the whole of it, it was done with the resolute determination to endure no second penance of a similar description.
Were it possible to give any tolerable report of a speech, which, of itself, would fill a volume, I would willingly appeal to it as exemplifying the justice of every blunder, both of taste and judgment, which I have attributed to American eloquence. There were scraps of Latin and of Shakspeare; there were words without meaning, and meanings not worth the trouble of embodying in words; there were bad jokes, and bad logic, and arguments without logic of any kind; there was abundance of exotic graces, and
105home-bred vulgarities, — of elaborate illustration of acknowledged truths, — of vehement invective and prosy declamation, — of conclusions without premises, and premises that led to no conclusion; and yet this very speech was the subject of an eight days' wonder to the whole Union! The amount of praise bestowed on it in the public journals, would have been condemned as hyperbolical if applied to an oration of Demosthenes. Mr Burgess, at the termination of the session, was feted at New York; and Rhode Island exulted in the verbal prowess of the most gifted of her sons!
There can be no doubt, therefore, that the speech of Mr Burgess was an excellent speech of the kind; and in order to give the reader some more definite notion of what that kind was, I shall enter on a few details. Be it known, then, that a large portion of the first day's oration related to the personal allusions of Mr Cambreleng, who, as the reader is aware, had said something about the snows of Caucasus, and bald-headed vultures. Such an affair in the British Parliament would probably have been settled at the moment by the good feeling of the House. If
106not, a short and pithy retort was certainly allowable, and good sense would have prevented more.
But the House of Representatives and Mr Burgess manage these affairs differently. The orator commenced upon grey hair, and logically drew the conclusion, that as such discolouration was the natural consequence of advanced years, any disrespectful allusion to the effect, implied contempt for the cause. Now, among every people in the world, Mahometan or Christian, civilized or barbarous, old age was treated with reverence. Even on the authority of Scripture we are entitled to assert, that the grey head should be regarded as a crown of honour. All men must become old, unless they die young; and every member of this House must reckon on submitting to the common fate of humanity, &c. &c. &c., and so on for about a quarter-of-an-hour.
Having said all that human ingenuity could devise about grey hair, next came bald heads; and here the orator, with laudable candour, proceeded to admit that baldness might in one sense be considered a defect. Nature had apparently intended that the human cranium should be covered with hair, and
107there was no denying that the integument was both useful and ornamental. I am not sure whether, at this stage of the argument, Mr Burgess took advantage of the opportunity of impressing the House with a due sense of the virtues of bear's grease and macassar oil. I certainly remember anticipating an episode on nightcaps and Welsh wigs, but on these the orator was unaccountably silent. He duly informed the House, however, that many of the greatest heroes and philosophers could boast little covering on their upper region. Aristotle was bald, and so was Julius Caesar, &c. &c. &c.
It was not till the subject of baldness had become as stale and flat, as it certainly was unprofitable, that the audience were introduced to the vulture, who was kept so long hovering over the head of Mr Burgess's opponent, that one only felt anxious that he should make his pounce and have done with it Altogether, to give the vulture — like the devil — his due, he was a very quiet bird, and more formidable from the offensive nature of his droppings, than any danger to be apprehended from his beak or claws. In truth, he did seem to be somewhat scurvily treated
108by the orator, who, after keeping him fluttering about the hall for some three hours, at last rather unceremoniously disclaimed all connexion with him, and announced that he — Mr Burgess — was "an eagle soaring in his pride of place, and, therefore, not by a moping owl, to be hawked at, and killed!" This was too much for gravity, but luckily the day's oration had reached its termination, and the House broke up in a state of greater exhilaration, than could reasonably have been anticipated from the nature and extent of the infliction.
Having dealt, perhaps somewhat too largely, in censure, it is only fair that I should now advert to a few items which are entitled to a place on the per contra side of the account. In Congress, there is certainly no deficiency of talent, nor of that homely and practical sagacity, which, without approaching the dignity of philosophy, is perhaps even a safer guide in the administration of a government like that of the United States. American legislators talk nonsensically, but they act prudently; and their character is the very reverse of that attributed by Rochester to the second Charles —
And never did a wise one."
It is not right that these men should be judged exclusively by their words; their actions also must be taken into account in forming a fair estimate of their character, moral and political. Were the condition of society to continue unchanged, they might commit blunders without end, but there would be no danger that the interests of the community would suffer from pertinacious adherence to them. In this country, measures are judged less by their speculative tendencies, and more remote consequences, than by their direct and immediate results on the pockets or privileges of the people. In Congress there is much clearness of vision, but little enlargement of view; considerable perspicacity in discerning effects, but none of that higher faculty which connects them with their causes, and traces the chain of consequences beyond the range of actual experience. In short, it strikes me that American legislators are more remarkable for acuteness than foresight; for those qualities of intellect which lead men to profit by experience, than those which enable them to direct it.
110I have already said that the speaking in the Senate is very superior to that in the other House; an opinion which I early took up, and subsequently felt no temptation to change. Yet the faults of both bodies differ rather in degree than in character. There is the same loose, desultory, and inconclusive mode of discussion in both; but in the Senate there is less talking for the mere purpose of display, and less of that tawdry emptiness and vehement imbecility which prevails in the Representatives. Though the members of the Senate be absolutely and entirely dependent on the people, they are dependent in a larger sense; dependent not on the petty clubs and coteries of a particular neighbourhood, but on great masses and numbers of men, embracing every interest and pursuit, and covering a wide extent of country. Then, from the comparative paucity of their numbers, there is less jostling and scrambling in debate, more statesmanlike argument, and less schoolboy declamation; in short, considerably less outcry, and a great deal more wool.
The Senate contains men who would do honour to any legislative assembly in the world. Those who
111left the most vivid impression on my memory are Mr Livingstone, now Secretary of State, and Mr Webster, whose powers, both as a lawyer and a debater, are without rival in the United States. Of these eminent individuals, and others, whose intercourse I enjoyed during my stay in Washington, I shall hereafter have occasion to speak. There were other members of the Senate, however, to whose speeches I always listened with pleasure. Among these were General Hayne, from South Carolina, — who, as Governor of that State, has since put the Union in imminent peril of mutilation, — and Mr Tazewell, of Virginia, a speaker of great logical acuteness, clear, forcible, and direct in his arguments. General Smith, of Maryland, and Mr Forsyth, of Georgia, both struck me as being particularly free from the sins that do most easily beset their countrymen. When either of these gentlemen addressed the House, I always felt secure, not only that they had something to say, but that they had something worth saying; an assurance of which they only who have gone through a course of Congressional debates can appreciate the full value.
But whatever advantages the speeches of the Senate may possess over those of the Representatives, certainly brevity is not of the number. Every subject is overlaid; there is a continual sparring about trifles, and, it struck me, even a stronger display of sectional jealousies than in the other House. This latter quality probably arises from the senators being the representatives of an entire community, with separate laws, interests, and prejudices, and constituting one of the sovereign members of the confederation. When a member declares his opinions on any question, he is understood to speak the sentiments of a State, and he is naturally jealous of the degree of respect with which so important a revelation may be received. Then there are state antipathies, and state affinities, a predisposition to offence in one quarter, and to lend support in another; and there is the odium in longum jaciens between the Northern and Southern States, shedding its venom in every debate, and influencing the whole tenor of legislation.
One of the great evils arising, in truth, out of the very nature of the Union, is the sectional spirit
113apparent in all the proceedings of Congress. A representative from one State by no means considers himself bound to watch over the interests of another; and each being desirous to secure such local objects as may be conducive to the advantage of his own district, every species of trickery and cabal is put in requisition by which these objects may be obtained. There can be no doubt that the prevalence of such feelings is quite inconsistent with sound and wholesome legislation. Measures are estimated, not by their own merits, and their tendency to benefit the whole Union, but by the degree in which they can be made to subserve particular interests. One portion of the States is banded against another; there is no feeling of community of interests; jealousies deepen into hostilities; the mine is laid, a spark at length falls, and the grand federal Constitution is blown into a thousand fragments.
Many evils arise from the circumstance of the Government, both in its executive and legislative branches, being purely elective. The members of the latter, being abjectly dependent on the people,
114are compelled to adopt both the principles and the policy dictated by their constituents. To attempt to stem the torrent of popular passion and clamour, by a policy at once firm and enlightened, must belong to representatives somewhat more firmly seated than any which are to be found in Congress. Public men in other countries may be the parasites of the people, but in America they are necessarily so. Independence is impossible. They are slaves, and feel themselves to be so. They must act, speak, and vote according to the will of their master. Let these men hide their chains as they will, still they are on their limbs, galling their flesh, and impeding their motions; and it is, perhaps, the worst and most demoralizing result of this detestable system, that every man, ambitious of popular favour, — and in America who is not so? — is compelled to adopt a system of reservation. He keeps a set of exoteric dogmas, which may be changed or modified to suit the taste or fashion of the moment. But there are esoteric opinions, very different from any thing to be found in State documents, or speeches in Congress, or 4th of July orations, which embody the
115convictions of the man, and which are not to be surrendered up at the bidding of a mob.
I speak now of minds of the higher order. The majority of Congress are fitted for nothing better than what they are. God meant them to be tools, and they are so. But there are men among them qualified to shine in a higher sphere; who stand prominently out among the meaner spirits by whom they are surrounded, and would be distinguished in any country by vigour, activity, and comprehension of thought. These men must feel, that to devote their great powers to support and illustrate the prejudices of the ignorant and vulgar, is to divert their application from those lofty purposes for which they were intended. It cannot be without a sense of degradation that they are habitually compelled to bear part in the petty squabbles of Congress; to enter keenly into the miserable contests for candles-ends and cheeseparings; to become the cats' paws of sectional cupidity; to dole out prescribed opinions; to dazzle with false glitter, and convince with false reasoning; to flatter the ignorant, and truckle to the base; to have no object of ambition but the
116offices of a powerless executive; to find no field for the exercise of their higher faculties; to know they are distrusted,and, judging from the men with whom they mingle, to feel they ought to be so.
It is to be wished that the writings of Burke were better known and appreciated in America. Of all modern statesmen, Burke brought to the practical duties of legislation the most gifted and philosophical mind. In an age prolific in great men, he stood confessedly the greatest; and while the efforts and the eloquence of his contemporaries were directed to overcome mere temporary emergencies, Burke contemplated the nobler achievement of vindicating unanswerably the true principles of enlightened government, and bequeathing to posterity the knowledge by which future errors might be avoided, and future difficulties overcome.
It is this loftiness of purpose which constitutes the leading distinction of Burke, when compared with contemporary or succeeding statesmen. They spoke for the present; he for all times, present and future. Their wisdom was directed to meet the immediate perils and exigencies of the state; his to establish
117great and memorable principles, by which all perils and all difficulties might be successfully encountered. The consequence has been, that while their words have passed away, his endure, and exert a permanent and increasing influence on the intellect of mankind. Who now resorts for lessons in political wisdom to the speeches of North, or Chatham, or Pitt, or Fox? but where is the statesman who would venture to profess himself unread in those of Burke?
That the opinions of this great political philosopher were sometimes erroneous may be admitted, yet it may truly be said that they were never founded on mere narrow views of temporary expediency, and that his errors were uniformly those of a grand and glorious intellect, scarcely less splendid in failure than in triumph.
The nature of the connexion which ought to exist between the representative and his constituents, and the duties it imposes, are finely illustrated in the final address of Burke to the electors of Bristol. It were well if the people, both of England and America, would read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the following noble passages, not more remarkable for
118their wisdom and eloquence, than for their tone of dignified independence.
"It is the duty of the representative," says this memorable man, "to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to bis constituents. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or any set of men living. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and HE BETRAYS INSTEAD OF SERVING YOU if he sacrifice it to your opinion."
"If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, not of inclination. And what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those whohear the arguments?"
"Authoritative instructions, mandates, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey; these are things unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from A FUNDAMENTAL MISTAKE OF THE WHOLE ORDER AND TENOR OF OUR CONSTITUTION. Parliament is not a Congress of Ambassadors from different states, and with hostile interests, which interests each must maintain as an agent against other agents; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of ONE nation, with ONE interest, and that of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member for Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament."
There is another evil connected with the practical working of the constitution, to which I feel it necessary briefly to advert. The election of the President affects so many interests and partialities, and appeals so strongly to the passions of the people, that it is uniformly attended with a very injurious disturbance of the public tranquillity. The session of Congress immediately preceding the election, is chiefly occupied by the manoeuvres of both parties to gain some advantage for their favourite candidate. The quantity
120of invective expended on men and measures is enormously increased. The ordinary business of the country is neglected. Motions are made, and enquiries gone into, in the mere hope that something may be discovered which party zeal may convert into a weapon of attack or defence. In short, the legislature of a great nation is resolved into electioneering committees of rival candidates for the Presidency.
Without doors, the contest is no less keen. From one extremity of the Union to the other, the political war slogan is sounded. No quarter is given on either side. Every printing press in the United States is engaged in the conflict. Reason, justice, charity, the claims of age and of past services, of high talents and unspotted integrity, are forgotten. No lie is too malignant to be employed in this unhallowed contest, if it can but serve the purpose of deluding even for a moment the most ignorant of mankind. No insinuation is too base, no equivocation too mean, no artifice too paltry. The world affords no parallel to the scene of political depravity exhibited periodically in this free country.
In England I know it will be believed that this
121picture is overcharged, that it is utterly impossible that any Christian community can be disgraced by scenes of such appalling atrocity. It may be supposed too, that in getting up materials for the charge, I have been compelled to go back to the earlier period of the constitution, to the days of Adams and Jefferson, when the struggle of men was the struggle of great principles, and the people were yet young and unpractised in the enjoyment of that liberty which they had so bravely earned.
Of either hypothesis I regret to say that it is more charitable than true. I speak not of the United States as they were, but as they are. Let the moral character of the past generation of Americans rest with them undisturbed in their graves. Our business at present is with living men, and it is these who are now charged, not by me, but by writers of their own age and country, with the offences I have ventured to describe.
"Party spirit," says the late Governor Clinton, in his annual message to the legislature in 1828, quoted by Captain Hall, "has entered the recesses of retirement, violated the sanctity of female character, invaded
122the tranquillity of private life, and visited with severe inflictions the peace of families. Neither elevation nor humility has been spared, nor the charities of life, nor distinguished public services, nor the fireside, nor the altar, been left free from attack; but a licentious and destroying spirit has gone forth, regardless of every thing, but the gratification of malignant feelings, and unworthy aspirations. The causes of this portentous mischief must be found, in a great measure, in the incompetent and injudicious provisions relative to the office of chief magistrate of the Union."
In the American Annual Register, published at New York, for the years 1828 and 1829, a work of great merit and impartiality, the editor, in narrating the circumstances of the last Presidential election, thus writes: —
"Topics were introduced tending still more to inflame the public mind, and to prevent it from forming an unbiassed judgment upon continuing the existing policy of the country. In the excited state of popular feeling, the character and services of both candidates were overlooked; and even Congress, in more instances than one, by a party vote, manifested
123the high and honourable station held by one of the candidates.
"The example thus given by men from whose character and station better things might have been expected, was not without its effect upon the community.In conducting the political discussions which followed the adjournment of Congress, both truth and propriety were set at defiance. The decencies of private life were disregarded; conversations and correspondence which should have been confidential were brought before the public eye; the ruthless warfare was carried into the bosom of domestic life; neither age nor sex was spared; the daily press teemed with ribaldry and falsehood; and even the tomb was not held sacred from the rancorous hostility which distinguished the presidential election of 1828."
I shall certainly not endeavour, by any observations of my own, to heighten the sentiment of disgust which such extraordinary revelations are calculated to excite. If I know my own motives, I allude to them at all, not with the contemptible and unworthy object of lowering the character of the
124American people in the eyes of my countrymen; not to afford a paltry triumph to those in whose eyes freedom is a crime, and despotism a virtue; but because it is due to truth and justice, and nearly concerns the political welfare of other nations, that the practical results of the Constitution of the United States should be known.
In all previous experience, an elective chief magistracy — it matters not whether the object of contention be the throne of a King, or the chair of a President — has been found incompatible with the peace and welfare of a community. The object is too high and spirit-stirring; it appeals too strongly to the hopes and passions of men; it affects too many interests, not to lead to the employment of every available instrument for its attainment. In some circumstances the contest is decided by physical force; in others, by falsehood, calumny, and those artifices by which cunning can impose upon ignorance. Blood flows in the one case, and the land is desolated by civil war; character, moral dignity, and the holiest charities of life, are sacrificed in the other.
One thing is certain. In the United States the experiment of an elective executive has been tried under the most favourable circumstances. The population is diffused over a vast extent of surface, and therefore less subject to be influenced by those delusions and impulses by which masses of men are liable to be misled. There exists in America no great and absorbing question of principle or policy, by which the feelings or the prejudices of men are violently excited. On the contrary, the general character of public measures has long ceased to furnish any broad or distinct grounds of dispute; and the contest, however vehement, has been that of rival politicians, rather than of contending principles. Moreover, in the United States, a class of men condemned by uncontrollable causes to the sufferings of abject poverty, is unknown. The means of subsistence are profusely spread everywhere, and the temptations to crime comparatively small. Let it be remembered, therefore, that it is under such circumstances, and among a people so situated, that the experiment of periodically electing the chief officer of the commonwealth has been tried and failed.
It is true indeed, that while confessing the grossness of the failure, many Americans would willingly attribute it to the injudicious provisions for the collection of the national suffrage. But the evil lies deeper. However the electoral body may be formed, an abundant field must always be left for the exercise of trickery and intrigue. The passions and prejudices of men must always be too deeply interested in the distribution of this high patronage for the continuance of public tranquillity. Slander, calumny, and the thousand atrocities which have hitherto disgraced the presidential elections, will continue to burst their floodgates, and spread contamination through the land; and should a period of strong political excitement arrive, when men shall be arrayed, not in demonstration of mere personal partialities, but in support of conflicting principles connected with their immediate interests, I confess, that I, at least, can find nothing in the American Constitution, on which to rest a hope for its permanence.
IN the basement story of one of the wings of the Capitol is the hall of the Supreme Court of the United States. It is by no means a large or handsome apartment; and the lowness of the ceiling, and the circumstance of its being under ground, give it a certain cellar-like aspect, which is not pleasant. This is perhaps unfortunate, because it tends to create in the spectator the impression of justice being done in a corner; and, that while the business of legislation is carried on with all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious debate, in halls adorned with all the skill of the architect, the administration of men's rights is considered an affair of secondary importance.
Though the American law courts are no longer contaminated by wigs, yet the partiality for robes would appear not yet to be wholly extinct. The judges of the Supreme Court wear black Geneva gowns; and the proceedings of this tribunal are conducted with a degree of propriety, both judicial and forensic, which leaves nothing to be desired. I certainly witnessed none of those violations of public decency, which in the State Courts are matters of ordinary occurrence. There was no lounging either at the bar or on the bench; nor was it, apparently, considered necessary to sink the gentleman in the lawyer, and assume a deportment in the discharge of professional duty which would not be tolerated in private society.
The Supreme Court consists of seven judges, removable only by impeachment, and possesses a federal jurisdiction over the whole Union. It sits annually in Washington for about two months, and is alone competent to decide on questions connected with the constitution or laws of the United States. Though possessing original jurisdiction in a few cases, its chief duties consist in the exercise of an appellate
129jurisdiction from the Circuit Courts, which are held twice a-year in the different States.
It would be tedious to enumerate the various cases in which the Federal Courts, in their three gradations of Supreme, Circuit, and District, exercise an exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction. It is enough that it should be generally understood that the Supreme Court is the sole expounder of the written constitution; and when we consider how open this important instrument has been proved to diversity of interpretation, what opposite meanings have been put upon its simplest clauses, and, in short, that the Constitution is precisely whatever four judges of this court may choose to make it, it will be seen how vitally important is the power with which it has been intrusted, and how difficult must be its exercise.
But the difficulties of the Supreme Court do not end here. Its jurisdiction extends not over a homogeneous population, but a variety of distinct communities, born under different laws, and adopting different forms in their administration.
Causes before the State Courts, in which the laws of the United States are even collaterally involved,
130are removable by writ of error to the Supreme Federal Court, and the decision of the State Court may be affirmed or reversed. In the latter case, a mandate is issued directing the State Court to conform its judgment to that of the Supreme Court. But the State tribunal is at perfect liberty to disregard the mandate, should it think proper; for the principle is established, that no one court can command another, but in virtue of an authority resting on express stipulation, and it is the duty of each judicature to decide how far this authority has been constitutionally exercised.
Then the legislatures of different States have found it occasionally convenient to pass laws for the purpose of defrauding their foreign creditors, while, in the case of Great Britain at least, the federal government is bound by express treaty that no lawful impediment shall be interposed to the recovery of the debts due by American citizens to British subjects. Under such circumstances, the Federal Court, backed by the whole honest portion of the people, certainly succeeded in putting a stop to the organized system of State swindling adopted by
131Kentucky after the late war; but awkward circumstances occurred, and the question may yet be considered practically undecided, whether the State legislatures possess a controlling power over the execution of a judgment of the Supreme Court.
Should a case occur, as is far from improbable, in which the federal legislature and judiciary are at variance, it would, no doubt, be the duty of the latter to declare every unconstitutional act of the former null and void. But under any circumstances, the Court has no power of enforcing its decrees. For instance, let us take the Indian question, and suppose, that in defiance of treaties, Georgia should persist in declaring the Creek and Cherokee Indians subject to the State laws, in order to force them to migrate beyond the Mississippi, The Indians appeal to the Supreme Court, and demand protection from unprincipled violence. The Court recognises their rights, and issues its mandate, which is just so much waste paper, unless the Government choose to send a military force along with it, which neither the present Congress nor executive would be inclined to do.
With all its sources of weakness, however, the United States Court is a wise institution. It is truly the sheet-anchor of the Union; and the degree of respect in which its decrees are held, may he considered as an exact index of the moral strength of the compact by which the discordant elements of the federal commonwealth are held together.
The most distinguished lawyers of the Union practise in the Supreme Court, and I had there an opportunity of hearing many of the more eminent members of Congress. During my stay there was no Jury trial, and the proceedings of the Court consisted chiefly in delivering judgments, and in listening to legal arguments from the bar. The tone of the speeches was certainly very different from any thing I had heard in Congress. The lawyers seemed to keep their declamation for the House of Representatives, and in the Supreme Court spoke clearly, logically, and to the point. Indeed, I was more than once astonished to bear men whose speeches in Congress were rambling and desultory, in an extreme degree, display, in their forensic addresses, great legal acuteness, and resources of argument
133and illustration of the first order. In addressing the bench, they seemed to cast the slough of their vicious peculiarities, and spoke, not like schoolboys contending for a prize, but like men of high intellectual powers, solicitous not to dazzle but to convince.
A few days after the interview already mentioned, I received the honour of an invitation to dine with the President. It unfortunately happened, that on the day indicated, I was already engaged to a party at Mr Van Buren's; and on enquiring the etiquette on such occasions, I was informed that an invitation from the President was not held to authorize any breach of engagement to the leading member of the Cabinet. The President, however, having politely intimated that he received company every evening, I ventured, along with a distinguished member of the House of Representatives, to present myself, on one occasion, at the "White House."
We found the President had retired with a headache, but in a few minutes he appeared, though, from the heaviness of his eye, evidently in a state of
134considerable pain. This, however, had no influence on his conversation, which was spirited, and full of vivacity. He informed us that he had been unwell for several days, and having the fatigues of a levee to encounter on the following evening, he had retired early in order to recruit for an occasion which required the presence of all his bodily powers. When this subject was dismissed, the conversation turned on native politics, the Indian question, the powers of the Supreme Court, and a recent debate in the Senate, which had excited considerable attention.
Of the opinions expressed by this distinguished person, it would be unpardonable were I to say any thing; but I heard them with deep interest, and certainly considered them to he marked by that union of boldness and sagacity, which is generally supposed to form a prominent feature of his character. General Jackson spoke like a man so thoroughly convinced of the justice of his views, that he announced them unhesitatingly and without reserve. This openness might be increased, perhaps, by the knowledge of my companion being a decided supporter of his government; but sincerity is so legible both in
135his countenance and manner, that I feel convinced that nothing but the strongest motives of state policy could make him hesitate, under any circumstances, to express boldly what he felt strongly.
On the following evening I attended the levee. The apartments were already full before I arrived, and the crowd extended even into the hall. Three — I am not sure that there were not four — large saloons were thrown open on the occasion, and were literally crammed with the most singular and miscellaneous assemblage I had ever seen.
The numerical majority of the company seemed of the class of tradesmen or farmers, respectable men fresh from the plough or the counter, who, accompanied by their wives and daughters, came forth to greet their President, and enjoy the splendours of the gala. There were also generals and commodores, and public officers of every description, and foreign ministers and members of Congress, and ladies of all ages and degrees of beauty, from the fair and laughing girl of fifteen, to the haggard dowager of seventy. There were majors in broad cloth and corduroys, redolent of gin and tobacco, and majors' ladies in
136chintz or russet, with huge Paris ear-rings, and tawny necks, profusely decorated with heads of coloured glass. There were tailors from the board, and judges from the bench; lawyers who opened their mouths at one bar, and the tapster who closed them at another; — in short, every trade, craft, calling, and profession, appeared to have sent its delegates to this extraordinary convention.
For myself, I had seen too much of the United States to expect any thing very different, and certainly anticipated that the mixture would contain all the ingredients I have ventured to describe. Yet after all, I was taken by surprise. There were present at this levee, men begrimed with all the sweat and filth accumulated in their day's — perhaps their week's — labour. There were sooty artificers, evidently fresh from the forge or the workshop; and one individual, I remember — either a miller or a baker — who, wherever he passed, left marks of contact on the garments of the company. The most prominent group, however, in the assemblage, was a party of Irish labourers, employed on some neighbouring canal, who had evidently been apt scholars
137in the doctrine of liberty and equality, and were determined, on the present occasion, to assert the full privileges of "the great unwashed." I remarked these men pushing aside the more respectable portion of the company with a certain jocular audacity, which put one in mind of the humours of Donny-brook.
A party, composed of the materials I have described, could possess but few attractions. The heat of the apartment was very great, and the odours — certainly not Sabsean — which occasionally affected the nostrils, were more pungent than agreeable. I therefore pushed on in search of the President, in order that, having paid my respects in acknowledgment of a kindness for which I really felt grateful, I might be at liberty to depart. My progress, however, was slow, for the company in the exterior saloons were wedged together in a dense mass, penetrable only at occasional intervals. I looked everywhere for the President as I passed, but without success; but at length a friend, against whom I happened to be jostled, informed me that I should find him at the extremity of the most distant apartment.
The information was correct. There stood the President, whose looks still indicated indisposition, paying one of the severest penalties of greatness; compelled to talk when he had nothing to say, and shake hands with men whose very appearance suggested the precaution of a glove. I must say, however, that under these unpleasant circumstances, he bore himself well and gracefully. His countenance expressed perfect good-humour; and his manner to the ladies was so full of well-bred gallantry, that having, as I make no doubt, the great majority of the fair sex on his side, the chance of his being unseated at the next election must be very small.
I did not, however, remain long a spectator of the scene. Having gone through the ordinary ceremonial, I scrambled out of the crowd the best way I could, and bade farewell to the most extraordinary scene it had ever been my fortune to witness. It is only fair to state, however, that during my stay in Washington, I never heard the President's levee mentioned in company without an expression of indignant feeling on the part of the ladies, at the circumstances I have narrated. To the better order of Americans,
139indeed, it cannot but be painful that their wives and daughters should thus be compelled to mingle with the very lowest of the people. Yet the evil, whatever may be its extent, is in truth the necessary result of a form of government essentially democratic. Wherever universal suffrage prevails, the people are, and must be, the sole depository of political power. The American President well knows that his only chance of continuance in office, consists in his conciliating the favour of the lowest — and therefore most numerous — order of his constituents. The rich and intelligent are a small minority, and their opinion he may despise. The poor, the uneducated, are, in every country, the people. It is to them alone that a public man in America can look for the gratification of his ambition. They are the ladder by which he must mount, or be content to stand on a level with his fellow-men.
Under such circumstances, it is impossible there should be any exclusion of the real governors of the country wherever they may think proper to intrude. General Jackson is quite aware, that the smallest demonstration of disrespect even to the meanest
140mechanic, might incur the loss of his popularity in a whole neighbourhood. It is evident, too, that the class in actual possession of the political patronage of a community, is in effect, whatever be their designation, the first class in the state. In America, this influence belongs to the poorest and least educated. Wealth and intelligence are compelled to bend to poverty and ignorance, to adopt their prejudices, to copy their manners, to submit to their government. In short, the order of reason and common sense is precisely inverted; and while the roots of the political tree are waving in the air, its branches are buried in the ground.
During the time I was engaged at the levee, my servant remained in the hall through which lay the entrance to the apartments occupied by the company, and on the day following he gave me a few details of a scene somewhat extraordinary, but sufficiently characteristic to merit record. It appeared that the refreshments intended for the company, consisting of punch and lemonade, were brought by the servants, with the intention of reaching the interior saloon. No sooner, however, were these ministers
141of Bacchus descried to be approaching by a portion of the company, than a rush was made from within, the whole contents of the trays were seized in tran-situ, by a sort of coup-de-main; and the bearers having thus rapidly achieved the distribution of their refreshments, had nothing for it but to return for a fresh supply. This was brought, and quite as compendiously despatched, and it at length became apparent, that without resorting to some extraordinary measures, it would be impossible to accomplish the intended voyage, and the more respectable portion of the company would be suffered to depart with dry palates, and in utter ignorance of the extent of the hospitality to which they were indebted.
The butler, however, was an Irishman, and in order to baffle further attempts at intercepting the supplies, had recourse to an expedient marked by all the ingenuity of his countrymen. He procured an escort, armed them with sticks, and on his next advance these men kept flourishing their shillelahs around the trays, with such alarming vehemence, that the predatory horde, who anticipated a repetition of their plunder, were scared from their prey,
142and, amid a scene of execrations and laughter, the refreshments, thus guarded, accomplished their journey to the saloon in safety!
Washington, the seat of government of a free people, is disgraced by slavery. The waiters in the hotels, the servants in private families, and many of the lower class of artisans, are slaves. While the orators in Congress are rounding periods about liberty in one part of the city, proclaiming, alto voce, that all men are equal, and that "resistance to tyrants is obedience to God," the auctioneer is exposing human flesh to sale in another! I remember a gifted gentleman in the Representatives, who, in speaking of the Senate, pronounced it to be "the most enlightened, the most august, and most imposing body in the world!" In regard to the extent of imposition, I shall not speak; but it so happened that the day was one of rain, and the effect of the eulogium was a good deal injured by recollecting that, an hour or two before, the members of this enlightened and august body were driven to the Capitol by slave coachmen, who were at that very moment waiting
143to convey them back, when the rights of man had been sufficiently disserted on for the day.
I trust I do not write on this painful subject in an insulting spirit. That slavery should exist in the United States is far less the fault than the misfortune of the people. The present generation were born with the curse upon them; they are the involuntary inheritors of a patrimony of guilt and misery, and are condemned to pay the penalty of that original sin, which has left a deep tarnish on the memory of our common ancestors. But that slavery should exist in the district of Columbia, that even the footprint of a slave should be suffered to contaminate the soil peculiarly consecrated to Freedom, that the very shrine of the Goddess should be polluted by the presence of chains and fetters, is perhaps the most extraordinary and monstrous anomaly to which human inconsistency — a prolific mother — has given birth.
The man who would study the contradictions of individual and national character, and learn by how wide an interval, profession may be divided from performance, should come to Washington. He will there read a new page in the volume of human nature;
144he will observe how compatible is the extreme of physical liberty, with bondage of the understanding. He will hear the words of freedom, and he will see the practice of slavery. Men who sell their fellow-creatures will discourse to him of indefeasible rights; the legislators, who truckle to a mob, will stun him with professions of independence; he will be taught the affinity between the democrat and the tyrant; he will look for charters, and find manacles; expect liberality, and be met by bigotry and prejudice; — in short, he will probably return home a wiser, if not a better man, — more patient of inevitable evils, — more grateful for the blessings he enjoys, — better satisfied with his own country and government, — and less disposed to sacrifice the present good for a contingent better.
In Washington, there is little to be done in the way of sight-seeing. There is a theatre, which I was too much occupied to visit. The churches have nothing about them to attract observation. The patent office contains models of all the mechanical inventions of this ingenious people, and their number is more remarkable than their value. In a thinly
145peopled country, men are thrown upon their individual resources. Where labour cannot be commanded, it is natural they should endeavour to strike out contrivances by which it may be economized. The misfortune is, that each man being ignorant of what has been effected by others, finds it necessary to begin de novo. He invents, takes out a patent, and then probably discovers that the same thing had been better done before.
In the Secretary of State's office, is an apartment containing portraits of all the Indian chiefs who have visited Washington. The portraits are ill executed, but full of character; and the collection is interesting, as exhibiting the last and only memorial of men, great in their generation, but without poet or historian to perpetuate the memory of their greatness. Many of the countenances are full of noble expression, and bear the impress of a wild but tranquil grandeur. Others are of dark, savage, and ferocious aspect, with an eye full of cunning, and a stern inflexibility of muscle, which seems to say, "I slay, and spare not." A few are expressive of mildness and benevolence; and when I remembered
146the melancholy history of this fated race, and the hopeless contest they are compelled to wage with civilized rapacity, I felt it impossible to gaze on these records of their lineaments without pain.
My visit to Washington brought with it the advantage of forming acquaintance with many distinguished individuals, of some of whom I would now willingly be permitted to record my impressions. First in rank is Mr Calhoun, the Vice-President of the United States. This gentleman was formerly a candidate for the Presidency, but resigned his pretensions in favour of General Jackson. Subsequent differences, however, with that eminent person, have produced a separation of their interests, and it is not generally supposed that he has much chance of succeeding at the next election. Mr Calhoun is about the middle height, spare, and somewhat slouching in person. His countenance, though not handsome, is expressive, and enlivened by a certain vivacity of eye which might redeem plainer features. His head is large, and somewhat disfigured by a quantity of stiff bristly hair, which rises very high above his forehead. In conversation he is pleasant, and remarkably
147free from that dogmatism which constitutes not the least of the social sins of Americans. Mr Calhoun evidently disregards all graces of expression, and whatever be the subject of discussion, comes directly to the point. His manner and mode of speaking indicate rapidity of thought, and it struck me, that, with full confidence in his own high talents, Mr Calhoun would probably find it more agreeable to carry truth by a coup de main, than to await the slower process of patient induction. It is evident, indeed, at the first glance, that the Vice-President is no ordinary person. His mind is bold and acute; his talent for business confessedly of the first order; and enjoying the esteem of his countrymen, there can be little doubt that he is yet destined to play a conspicuous part in the politics of the Union.
Mr Edward Livingstone, then Senator for Louisiana, shortly after my departure from Washington, became Secretary of State. Bred to the New York bar, he early took his station in the very first line of his profession. As a philosophical lawyer, he stands not only unrivalled, but unapproached. His experience in public life has been very great; and his
148high talents, extensive knowledge, and amiable character, have deservedly acquired for him the admiration and esteem of a people not prompt in the payment of such tribute.
Mr Livingstone's fame, however, is not American, but European. The criminal code which he has framed for Louisiana, is confessedly a magnificent specimen of philosophical legislation, and places the reputation of its author on a secure and permanent foundation. From this code the punishment of death is excluded, and Mr Livingstone is a warm advocate for its removal from the statute-books of the other States.
The labours of Mr Livingstone in the compilation of his code were, for many years, unwearied and assiduous. Men of more limited knowledge, and inferior powers, would have been unfit for such a task. Men of less enthusiasm would have shrunk from it in dismay. Mr Livingstone, fortunately for himself and his country, braved all difficulties, devoted to it the whole energies of his mind, and brought it to a happy completion.
Animated by the zeal of a philanthropist, he made
149himself acquainted with the laws of all nations, and the contents of every treatise on crime and punishment which could he discovered in Europe. He maintained an extensive correspondence with the most eminent political philosophers of the age, and among others, with Bentham, by whose enlightened advice he professes to have largely profited.
One incident in the life of Mr Livingstone is worthy of record, as affording a fine illustration of the character of the man. His labours connected with the code were already far advanced, when his whole papers were destroyed by fire. This happened at ten o'clock at night, and at seven on the following morning, with unbroken spirit, he began his task afresh! Few men are endowed with such buoyancy of spirit, or such indomitable perseverance.
In person, Mr Livingstone is rather above the middle height. His countenance, though without elegance of feature, is peculiarly pleasing, from the benevolence of its expression, and a certain enthusiasm, unusual at his years, which lights up his eye when he discourses on any interesting subject. His manners are those of a finished gentleman, yet rather,
150I should imagine, the spontaneous result of an innate and natural delicacy of thought and feeling, than of intercourse with polished society. To the courtesy and kindness of this eminent individual I feel deeply indebted. It is with pleasure that I now give public expression to those sentiments of admiration and respect, which I shall ever entertain for his character and talents.
The person, however, who has succeeded in riveting most strongly the attention of the whole Union, is undoubtedly Mr Webster. From the Gulf of St Lawrence to that of Mexico, from Cape Sable to Lake Superior, his name has become, as it were, a household word. Many disapprove his politics, but none deny his great talents, his unrivalled fertility of argument, or his power, even still more remarkable, of rapid and comprehensive induction. In short, it is universally believed by his countrymen that Mr Webster is a great man; and in this matter I certainly make no pretension to singularity of creed. Mr Webster is a man of whom any country might well be proud. His knowledge is at once extensive and minute, his intellectual resources very
151great; and whatever may be the subject of discussion, he is sure to shed on it the light of an active, acute, and powerful mind.
I confess, however, I did meet Mr Webster under the influence of some prejudice. From the very day of my arrival in the United States, I had been made involuntarily familiar with his name and pretensions. Gentlemen sent me his speeches to read. When I talked of visiting Boston, the observation uniformly followed, "Ah! there you will see Mr Webster." When I reached Boston, I encountered condolence on all hands. "You are very unfortunate," said my friends, "Mr Webster set out yesterday for Washington."Whenever, at Philadelphia and Baltimore, it became known that I had visited Boston, the question, "Did you see Mr Webster?" was a sequence as constant and unvarying as that of the seasons.
The result of all this was, that the name of Webster became invested in my ear with an adventitious cacophony. It is not pleasant to admire upon compulsion, and the very preeminence of this gentleman had been converted into something of a bore.
To Washington, however, I came, armed with letters to the unconscious source of my annoyance. The first night of my arrival I met him at a ball. A dozen people pointed him out to my observation, and the first glance riveted my attention. I had never seen any countenance more expressive of intellectual power.
The forehead of Mr Webster is high, broad, and advancing. The cavity beneath the eyebrow is remarkably large. The eye is deeply set, but full, dark, and penetrating in the highest degree; the nose prominent, and well denned; the mouth marked by that rigid compression of the lips by which the New Englanders are distinguished. When Mr Webster's countenance is in repose, its expression struck me as cold and forbidding, but in conversation it lightens up; and when he smiles, the whole impression it communicates is at once changed. His voice is clear, sharp, and firm, without much variety of modulation; but when animated, it rings on the ear like a clarion.
As an orator, I should imagine Mr Webster's forte to lie in the department of pure reason. I cannot
153conceive his even attempting an appeal to the feelings. It could not be successful; and he has too much knowledge of his own powers to encounter failure. In debate his very countenance must tell. Few men would hazard a voluntary sophism under the glance of that eye, so cold, so keen, so penetrating, so expressive of intellectual power. A single look would be enough to wither up a whole volume of bad logic.
In the Senate I had unfortunately no opportunity of hearing Mr Webster display his great powers as a debater. During my stay the subjects on which he happened to speak were altogether of inferior interest. In the Supreme Court he delivered several legal arguments which certainly struck me as admirable, both in regard to matter and manner. The latter was neither vehement nor subdued. It was the manner of conscious power, tranquil and self-possessed.
Mr Webster may be at once acquitted of all participation in the besetting sins of the orators of his age and country. I even doubt whether in any single instance he can be fairly charged with having
154uttered a sentence of mere declamation. His speeches have nothing about them of gaudiness and glitter. Words with him are instruments, not ends; the vehicles, not of sound merely, but of sense and reason. He utters no periods full of noise and fury, like the voice of an idiot, signifying — nothing; and it certainly exhibits proof that the taste of the Americans is not yet irretrievably depraved, when an orator like Mr Webster, who despises all the stale and petty trickery of his art, is called by acclamation to the first place.
In conversation, Mr Webster is particularly agreeable. It seems to delight him, when he mingles with his friends, to cast off the trammels of weighty cogitation, and merge the lawyer and the statesman in the companion; — a more pleasant and instructive one I have rarely known in any country. As a politician, the opinions of Mr Webster are remarkably free from intolerance. His knowledge is both accurate and extensive. He is one of the few men in America who understand the British Constitution, not as a mere abstract system of laws and institutions, but in its true form and pressure, as it works
155and acts upon the people, modified by a thousand influences, of which his countrymen in general know nothing.
Mr Van Buren, then Secretary of State, and now Vice-President, possesses perhaps more of the manner which in England would be called that of the world, than any other of the distinguished individuals whom I met in Washington. He is evidently a clever man, with a perfect knowledge of character, and the springs of human action. Neither his conversation nor his manner are marked by any thing of official reserve. Indeed, where the whole business of the government is conducted by committees of the Senate and Representatives, an American Secretary of State can have few secrets, and those not of much value. The opponents of the ministry, however, accuse Mr Van Buren of being a manoeuvrer in politics — a charge, I presume, to which he is obnoxious only in common with his brother statesmen, of whatever party; for where independence is impossible, finesse is necessary. But on the details of party politics I say nothing; I only know that the Secretary of State is a gentleman of talent and
156information, of agreeable manners, and in conversation full of anecdote and vivacity.
After a sojourn of three weeks, I began to think of departure, but a farewell ball, given by the British Minister, preparatory to his quitting Washington, induced me to prolong my stay. Mr Vaughan had won golden opinions from all parties and conditions of Americans. No minister had ever been more highly esteemed, and the knowledge that the precarious state of his health rendered it necessary that he should return to England, contributed to cast something of gloom over the festivity. The scene, however, was very brilliant; and the company, though numerous, certainly more select than the party at the French Minister's. There were at least no dirty boots, — a blessing which the Washington ladies, I have no doubt, estimated at its full value.
On the day following I took my departure.
FROM Washington I returned to Baltimore, where I experienced a renewal of that kindness and hospitality, to which on my former visit I had been so largely indebted. As the best mode of proceeding to the South, I had been recommended to cross from Baltimore to Wheeling, on the Ohio, and there to take steam for New Orleans, so soon as the navigation of the river should be reported open. For this intelligence, however, it was necessary to wait in Baltimore, and certainly a more agreeable place of confinement could not have been selected.
Fortune favoured me. In a few days the newspapers announced that the ice had broken up, and the Ohio was again navigable. Having had the good fortune
158to encounter one of my English fellow-passengers by the New York, likewise bound for New Orleans, we agreed to travel together, and on the morning of the 6th of March, before daylight, stepped into the railway carriage which was to convey us ten miles on our journey.
The vehicle was of a description somewhat novel. It was, in fact, a wooden house or chamber, somewhat like those used by itinerant showmen in England, and was drawn by a horse at the rate of about four miles an hour. Our progress, therefore, was not rapid, and we were nearly three hours in reaching a place called Ellicot Mills, where we found a wretched breakfast awaiting our arrival.
Having done honour to the meal in a measure rather proportioned to our appetites than to the quality of the viands, we embarked in what was called the "Accommodation Stage," — so designated, probably, from the absence of every accommodation which travellers usually expect in such a vehicle. The country through which we passed was partially covered with snow. The appearance both of the dwelling-houses and the inhabitants gave indication
159of poverty, which was confirmed by the rough and stony aspect of the soil wherever it was visible. The coach stopped to dinner at a considerable village called Frederickstown, where the appearance of the entertainment was so forbidding that I found it impossible to eat. My appetite, therefore, was somewhat overweening, when we reached Hagarstown, a place of some magnitude, where we halted for the night, having accomplished a distance of eighty miles.
At three o'clock on the following morning we again started on our journey. The roads were much worse than we had found them on the preceding day, the country was buried deeper in snow, and our progress was in consequence slower. The appearance of poverty seemed to increase as we advanced. Here and there a ragged negro slave was seen at work near the wretched log hovel of his master; and the number of deserted dwellings which skirted the road, and of fields suffered to relapse into a state of nature, showed that their former occupants had gone forth in search of a more grateful soil.
We breakfasted at Ciearspring, a trifling village,
160and then commenced mounting the eastern ridge of the Alleghanies, called Sideling Mountain. To one who has trodden the passes of the Alps and Apennines, the Alleghany Mountains present nothing very striking. Indeed, the general character of American mountains is by no means picturesque. They are round and corpulent protuberances, and rarely rise into forms of wild and savage grandeur. But some of the scenes presented by the Alleghanies are very fine. Nature, when undisturbed by man, is never without a beauty of her own. But even in these remote mountain recesses the marks of wanton havoc are too often visible. Numbers of the trees by the road were scorched and mutilated, with no intelligible object but that of destruction. Objects the most sublime or beautiful have no sanctity in the eyes of an American. He is not content with the full power of enjoyment, he must exert the privilege to deface.
Our day's journey terminated at Flintstown, a solitary inn, near which is a mineral spring, whereof the passengers drank each about a gallon, without experiencing, as they unanimously declared, effect of
161any sort. I own I did not regret the inefficiency of the waters.
With the morning of the third day our difficulties commenced. We now approached the loftier ridges of the Alleghauies; the roads became worse, and our progress slower. The scenery was similar in character to that we had already passed. The mountains from base to summit were covered with wood, interspersed with great quantities of kalmias, rhododendrons, and other flowering shrubs.
On the day following our route lay over a ridge called the Savage Mountain. The snow lay deeper every mile of our advance, and at length, on reaching a miserable inn, the landlord informed us, that no carriage on wheels had been able to traverse the mountain for six weeks. On enquiring for a sleigh, it then appeared that none was to be had, and the natives all assured us that proceeding with our present carriage was impossible. The landlord dilated on the depth of snow, the dangers of the mountain, the darkness of the nights, and strongly urged our taking advantage of his hospitality till the following day. But the passengers were all anxious to push
162forward, and, as one of them happened to be a proprietor of the coach, the driver very unwillingly determined on making the attempt. We accordingly set forth, but had not gone above a mile when the coach stuck fast in a snow-drift, which actually buried the horses. In this predicament the whole men and horses of the little village were summoned to our assistance, and, after about two hours' delay, the vehicle was again set free.
We reached the next stage in a hollow of the mountain, without further accident, and the report as to the state of the roads yet to be travelled was very unpromising. The majority of the passengers, however, having fortified their courage with copious infusions of braudy, determined not to be delayed by peril of any sort. On we went, therefore; the night was pitchy dark; heavy rain came on, and the wind howled loudly amid the bare and bony arms of the surrounding forest. The road lay along a succession of precipitous descents, down which, by a single blunder of the driver, who was quite drunk, we might at any moment be precipitated. Dangerous as, under these circumstances,
163our progress unquestionably was, the journey was accomplished in safety; and halting for the night at a petty village, situated between the ridge we had crossed, and another which yet remained to be surmounted, the passengers exchanged congratulations on the good fortune which had hitherto attended them.
Before sunrise we were again on the road, and commenced the ascent of Laurel Mountain, which occupied several hours. The view from the summit was fine and extensive, though perhaps deficient in variety. We had now surmounted the last ridge of the Alleghanies, and calculated on making the rest of our way in comparative ease and comfort. This was a mistake. Though we found little snow to the westward of the mountains, the road was most execrable, and the jolting exceeded any thing I had yet experienced. The day's journey terminated at Washington, a town of considerable population, with a tavern somewhat more comfortable than the wretched and dirty dogholes to which, for some days, we had been condemned.
During our last day's journey we passed through
164a richer country, but experienced no improvement in the road, which is what is called a national one, or, in other words, constructed at the expense of the general government. If intended by Congress to act as an instrument of punishment on their sovereign constituents, it is no doubt very happily adapted for the purpose. In its formation all the ordinary principles of road-making are reversed; and that grateful travellers may be instructed to whom they are indebted for their fractures and contusions, a column has been erected to Mr Clay, on which his claims to the honours of artifex maximus, are duly emblazoned.
The tedium of the journey, however, was enlivened by the presence of a very pretty and communicative young lady, returning from a visit in the neighbourhood, to Alexandria, the place of her residence. From her I gathered every information with regard to the state of polite society in these tramontane regions. This fair damsel evidently made conquest of a Virginian doctor, who had been our fellow-traveller for some days, and was peculiarly disgusting from an inordinate addiction to the
165vernacular vices of dram-drinking and tobacco-chewing. Being generally drunk, he spat right and left in the coach, and especially after dark, discharged volleys of saliva, utterly reckless of consequences. One night I was wakened from a sound sleep by the outcries of a Quaker, into whose eye he had squirted a whole mouthful of tobacco juice. The pain caused by this offensive application to so delicate an organ was very great. Broadbrim forgot for the nonce all the equanimity of his cloth; cursed the doctor for a drunken vagabond; and, on reaching our resting-place for the night, I certainly observed that his eye had suffered considerable damage. For myself, being a tolerably old traveller, I no sooner discovered the doctor's propensity, than I contrived to gain possession of the seat immediately behind him, and thus fortunately escaped all annoyance, except that arising from the filthiness of his person, and the brutality of his conversation.
About mid-day we reached Brownsville, a manufacturing town of considerable size, situated on the Monangahela, which, by its junction with the Alleghany, near Pittsburg, forms the Ohio. The appearance
166of Brownsville is black and disgusting; its streets are dirty, and unpaved; and the houses present none of the externals of opulence. The river is a fine one, about the size of the Thames at Westminster; and having crossed it, our route lay for some miles through a pretty and undulating country. At night we reached Wheeling, after a day's journey of only thirty miles, accomplished with more difficulty and inconvenience than we had before experienced.
Being anxious to gain a view of the Ohio, I took possession, during the last stage, of a seat beside the driver, on the box. Night was closing as we gained the summit of the hill, which overhangs the town of Wheeling. The river was just visible, with its noble volume of waters flowing onward in quiet and tranquil grandeur. Before we reached the town, it was dark; the sky was moonless, and I was therefore obliged to defer the gratification of my curiosity till the following morning.
I was abroad betimes. Immediately opposite to Wheeling, the stream of the Ohio is divided by an island of considerable size. Above and below, it is
167about the breadth of the Rhine at Mayence. The scenery, though very pleasing, could scarcely be termed beautiful Steam-boats, of all sizes, were ranged along the quays; and the loud hissing of the engines gave notice of numerous preparations for departure.
The town of Wheeling, dirty and smoke-begrimed, could boast of no attraction; and my English fellow-traveller having engaged berths in a steamer, about to sail in a few hours for Louisville, our baggage was immediately despatched on board. In order to pass the time, I then crossed over to the island, and spent an hour in examining its scenery. The proprietor informed me it contained about a hundred acres. Some of the timber was magnificent, but cultivation had made sad havoc in the natural beauties of the spot.
About two o'clock we started on our voyage. Our steamer was not a first-rate one, but the accommodation was good, and her progress, with the stream in her favour, very rapid. For several hours I remained on deck, gazing on a character of scenery to which I had seen nothing similar in Europe. The
168river is bounded by a succession of wooded eminences, sometimes rising from the very margin; sometimes receding to a short distance, and leaving a narrow plain of fertile land, on which here and there a stray settler had established himself. The dwellings of such settlers were of the very rudest construction, being generally log huts, about equal in comfort, I should imagine, to the cabin of an Irish peasant.
The great defect of the scenery of the Ohio is want of variety. During the first day I was delighted, but, on the second, something of the charm was gone; and at length its monotony became almost tedious. A thousand miles of any scenery, with one definite and unchanging character, will generally be found too much.
In two days we reached Cincinnati, a town of nearly thirty thousand inhabitants, finely situated, on a slope ascending from the river. The streets and buildings are handsome, and certainly far superior to what might be expected in a situation six hundred miles from the sea, and standing on ground which, till lately, was considered the extreme limit
169of civilisation. It is apparently a place of considerable trade. The quay was covered with articles of traffic; and there are a thousand indications of activity and business, which strike the senses of a traveller, but which he would find it difficult to describe. Having nothing better to do, I took a stroll about the town, and its first favourable impression was not diminished by closer inspection. Many of the streets and churches would have been considered handsome in New York or Philadelphia; and in the private dwellings considerable attention had been paid to external decoration.
The most remarkable object in Cincinnati, however, is a large Graeco-Moresco-Gothic-Chinese looking building, — an architectural compilation of prettinesses of all sorts, the effect of which is eminently grotesque. Our attention was immediately arrested by this extraordinary apparition, which could scarcely have been more out of place had it been tossed on the earth by some volcano in the moon. While we stood opposite to the edifice, contemplating the gorgeousness of its effect, and speculating "what aspect bore the man" to whom the inhabitants of these central
170regions could have been indebted for so brilliant and fantastic an outrage on all acknowledged principles of taste, a very pretty and pleasant-looking girl, came out, and invited us to enter. We accordingly did so, and found every thing in the interior of the building had been finished on a scale quite in harmony with its external magnificence. Below, was a saloon of very spacious dimensions, which our fair conductress informed us had been intended for a bazaar. Above, were ball and supper apartments, with retiring rooms for the ladies, duly supplied with mirrors and toilet tables. Nothing, in short, was wanting, which could in any way contribute to splendour, elegance, or comfort.
All this excited our curiosity, for in truth it seemed as if the projector of this singular edifice had intended by its erection to contribute rather to the speculative and contingent wants of some future generation, than to minister to the present necessities of the prudent and hard-working Cincinnatians. We found our guide as communicative as could be desired. She informed us that the building had been erected by an English lady of the name of Trollope,
171who, induced by pleasure or business, had some years before taken up her residence in Cincinnati; that the experiment of a bazaar had been tried and failed; that the lower saloon was now altogether unoccupied, except on the 4th of July, when it witnessed the usual scene of festive celebration; that the sober Cincinnatians had always been content with two balls in the year, and would by no means consent to increase their annual modicum of dancing; in short, that the whole speculation had turned out a decided failure, and it was in contemplation of the fair proprietrix to convert it into a church.
I had then never heard of Mrs Trollope; but at New York I had afterwards the pleasure of becoming acquainted with her, and can bear testimony to her conversation being imbued with all that grace, spirit, and vivacity, which have since delighted the world in her writings. How far Mrs Trollope's volumes present a just picture of American society it is not for me to decide, though I can offer willing testimony to the general fidelity of her descriptions. But her claims to the gratitude of the Cincinnatians are undoubtedly very great. Her architectural talent
172has beautified their city; her literary powers have given it celebrity. For nearly thirty years Cincinnati had gradually been increasing in opulence, and enjoying a vulgar and obscure prosperity. Corn had grown, and hogs had fattened; men had built houses, and women borne children; but in all the higher senses of urbane existence, Cincinnati was a nonentity. It was "unknown, unhonoured, and unsung." Ears polite had never heard of it. There was not the glimmering of a chance that it would be mentioned twice in a twelvemonth, even on the Liverpool Exchange. But Mrs Trollope came, and a zone of light has ever since encircled Cincinnati. Its inhabitants are no longer a race unknown to fame. Their manners, habits, virtues, tastes, vices, and pursuits, are familiar to all the world; but, strange to say, the market-place of Cincinnati is yet unadorned by the statue of the great benefactress of the city! Has gratitude utterly departed from the earth?
These western regions are undoubtedly the chosen abode of plenty. Provisions are so cheap that no one ever seems to dream of economy. Three times a-day
173was the table in the steam-boat literally covered with dishes, wedged together as closely as a battalion of infantry in solid square. Though the passengers were only about twenty in number, there was always dinner enough for a hundred. Joints, turkeys, hams, chops, and steaks, lay spread before us in most admired confusion. Brandy bottles were located at judicious intervals; and porter was to be had on paying for it. I had asked for wine, but in vain; so, being at the luxurious city of Cincinnati, and tolerably tired of the poison called brandy, I sent for a bottle of Champagne from the inn. The bottle came, but on being opened, the contents were much more like sour cider than Champagne. In short, the stuff was decidedly too bad for drinking, and was accordingly pushed aside. But the appearance of this anomalous-looking flask evidently caused some commotion among the passengers. The wine was probably one which few of them had tasted, and many were evidently determined to seize the earliest opportunity of enlarging their experience. "I should like a glass of your wine, sir, if you have no objections," said my old enemy the Virginian
174doctor. I immediately pushed the bottle to him, and he filled his tumbler to the brim. Observing this, the persons about him, without ceremony of any kind, seized the bottle, and its contents incontinently disappeared.
In regard to the passengers, truth, compels me to say, that any thing so disgusting in human shape I had never seen. Their morals and their manners were alike detestable. A cold and callous selfishness, a disregard of all the decencies of society, were so apparent in feature, word, and action, that I found it impossible not to wish that their catalogue of sins had been enlarged by one more — hypocrisy Of hypocrisy, however, they were not guilty. The conversation in the cabin was interlarded with the vilest blasphemy, not uttered in a state of mental excitement, but with a coolness and deliberation truly fiend-like. There was a Baptist clergyman on board, but his presence did not seem to operate as a restraint. The scene of drinking and gambling had no intermission. It continued day and night. The captain of the vessel, so far from discouraging either vice, was one of the most flagrant offenders in
175both. He was decidedly the greatest gambler on board; and was often so drunk as to be utterly incapable of taking command of the vessel. There were a few female passengers, but with their presence we were only honoured at meals. At all other times, they prudently confined themselves to their own cabin.
One circumstance may be mentioned, which is tolerably illustrative of the general habits of the people. In every steam-boat there is a public comb and hair-brush suspended by a string from the ceiling of the cabin. These utensils are used by the whole body of the passengers, and their condition, the pen of Swift could alone adequately describe. There is no tooth-brush, simply, I believe, because the article is entirely unknown to the American toilet. A common towel, however, passes from hand to hand, and suffices for the perfunctory ablutions of the whole party on board. It was often with great difficulty that I procured the exclusive usufruct of one, and it was evident that the demand was not only unusual but disagreeable.
One day at dinner, my English fellowStraveller,
176who had resided many years in the United States, enquired whether I observed an ivory hilt protruded from beneath the waistcoat of a gentleman opposite. I answered in the affirmative, and he then informed me that the whole population of the Southern and Western States are uniformly armed with daggers. On my expressing some doubt of this singular fact, he pointed to a number of sticks collected in one corner of the cabin, and offered a wager that every one of these contained either a dagger or a sword. I took the bet, and lost it; and my subsequent observations confirmed the truth of his assertion in every particular. Even in travelling in the State of New York, I afterwards observed that a great number of the passengers in stage-coaches and canal boats were armed with this unmanly and assassin-like weapon.
It is the fashion in the United States to ask a foreigner whether he does not admire the extraordinary respect and deference which the people pay to the law. It is pretty evident, however, from the circumstances I have mentioned, that whatever respect each individual may pay to the law in his own person,
177he has no great confidence in a similar demonstration on the part of his neighbour.
We left Cincinnati about two o'clock, and betimes on the following morning were at Louisville, in Kentucky. The scenery of the river continued unchanged. I was particularly struck with the vast masses of drift-wood carried down by the stream. Trees, of the most gigantic dimensions, seemed to have been uprooted by the floods from the spot in which they had stood for centuries. The great quantity of this driftwood occasions some danger; for the paddles, by striking it, are apt to break, and there is always a man on the look-out to report any apparent risk of contact.
At Louisville, the vessel terminated her voyage. It is a place of greater trade, I believe, than Cincinnati, though with scarcely half the population. Being tired of steam-boat living, we breakfasted at the inn. We were at first ushered into the bar, already crowded with about a hundred people, all assembled with the same object as ourselves. At length the bell sounded, and the crowd rushed up stairs to the breakfast-room as if famine-stricken. The meal was
178coarse and bad. The bread was made with grease, and a sight of the dressed dishes was enough. Immediately opposite was a cold fowl, to which I requested a gentleman to help me. He deliberately cut out the whole body for himself, and then handed across the dish with the drumsticks.
After breakfast, we went over all the New Orleans vessels, but could find none about to sail, sooner than the following day at noon. My companion and myself accordingly took places in the Huntress, and, for fifty dollars, I had the good fortune to secure a separate cabin for myself and servant. This was of some consequence; because, in these regions, no white man can appear without disgrace in the capacity of servant to another. I was therefore obliged, at Wheeling, to desire mine to designate himself as my clerk or secretary; and in cleaning my clothes, he generally ensconced himself behind a curtain. On the present occasion, with the promise of this accommodation, I was content to put up with a very inferior vessel to many others then at Louisville.
Within forty miles of Louisville, is the residence of Mr Clay, and I had entered Kentucky with the
179intention of visiting that eminent person, who is considered equally remarkable for his powers as a statesman and a companion. I learned, however, at Louisville, that Mr Clay was then at New Orleans, but expected to leave that city in the course of the following week. As I was particularly anxious to become acquainted with the great rival of the present President, I determined on giving up all idea of a tour in Kentucky, and pushing on to New Orleans with the least possible delay. This decision was unfortunate, for it prevented my becoming acquainted with a very interesting State, and availing myself of several hospitable invitations I had received in New York and Washington. I found, too, on my arrival at New Orleans, that Mr Clay had taken his departure, so that the only effect of my arrangements was a double disappointment.
The Kentuckians may be called the Irish of America. They have all that levity of character, that subjection of the moral to the convivial, that buoyancy of spirit, that jocular ferocity, that ardour, both of attachment and of hatred, which distinguish the natives of the Emerald Isle. The Kentuckians
180are the only Americans who can understand a joke. There is a kind of native humour about them which is very pleasant; and, I must say, that several Kentucky gentlemen were among the most agreeable companions, with whom I had the good fortune to become acquainted during my tour.
About a mile below Louisville are the falls, or rather rapids, of the Ohio, which, when the river is low, offer a formidable obstruction to the navigation. In order to avoid them, a canal has been constructed near a place called Shipping-port. The work was one of some difficulty, and has been executed in the most expensive manner. Owing to the quantities of sediment which the river carries into it when in flood, I was sorry to learn that this fine work is considered likely to prove a failure. As the canal is only to be used, however, when the river is low, and consequently free from impurity, I cannot but think that, by the addition of floodgates, the evil might be easily remedied.
The New Orleans steam-boats are a very different description of vessels to any I had yet seen. They are of great size, and the object being to carry as
181large a cargo as possible, the whole vessel, properly so called, is devoted to this purpose, and the cabins for the passengers are raised in successive tiers above the main deck. The lower of these cabins is appropriated to the gentlemen. It is generally spacious, and very handsomely fitted up. Three of its sides are surrounded by a gallery and veranda. Over this is the ladies' cabin, equally handsome, though smaller. On the roof of the ladies' cabin is a deck on which the passengers may amuse themselves as they think proper. Near the forecastle, at the same elevation, is the place for the steerage passengers. These vessels have very much the appearance of three-deckers, and many of them are upwards of 500 tons burden. Their engines are generally constructed on the high pressure principle, and one or two generally blow up every season, sending a score or two of parboiled passengers to an inconvenient altitude in the atmosphere.
On the day following we commenced our voyage, of 1500 miles, to New Orleans. The weather was delightful, and I now enjoyed the privilege of reading and writing undisturbed in my cabin. The
182passengers, though coarse as heart could desire, were at least less openly and obtrusively profligate than those I have already described. There was the same scene of gambling and drinking, but I was now able to remove from the din and the blasphemy.
After leaving Louisville, we were nearly three days in reaching the point of junction between the Mississippi and Ohio. The latter river receives the waters of several large tributaries, the Tenessee, the Cumberland, the Wabash, &c;c., by which its magnitude is prodigiously increased. We skirted the new and flourishing states of Indiana and Illinois, which I did not visit. With their facilities, agricultural and commercial, their advantages and disadvantages, their soil, their climate, their productions, the public have already been made familiar by writers far better qualified to afford instruction on such matters than I pretend to be.
To a traveller, whose leading objects are connected with the structure of society, there is little in a scantily peopled territory to excite speculation. He that has seen one settler in the backwoods has seen a thousand. Those whom the love of lucre, and
183consciousness of independence, have induced to seek the recesses of the forest, who gaze daily on the same aspect of nature, who endure the same privations, encounter the same difficulties, and struggle by the same means, for the same ultimate reward, can present but one aspect of human character, and that far from the most interesting. With individuals so situated, indeed, I was necessarily, in different portions of my journey, brought into frequent contact. But I never voluntarily sought them, for I was chiefly anxious to contemplate men in their social and more extended relations, and to observe the influences, moral and political, by which the national character had been formed or modified. My steps, therefore, were directed to the city, not to the solitary shantee; to the haunts of large masses of men, rather than to those of isolated adventurers, who have yet to dispute the dominion of the forest with the bear and the panther.
On the second morning after our departure from Louisville, a change in the general character of the river seemed to indicate that we were rapidly approaching the Mississippi. For about fifty miles
184before the point of union, the surrounding scenery is flat, and the breadth of the Ohio is more than doubled, as if, from a feeling of rivalry, the river god had expanded his waters to the utmost. On the present occasion, the Ohio had the advantage of being very full from the melting of the snows along the whole line of its course, while the Mississippi, descending from higher latitudes, had experienced no such augmentation.
For hours I was on the tiptoe of expectation to catch the first glimpse of "the father of rivers," and with this view, had taken up a station on the highest pinnacle of the forecastle. At length, when yet about five miles distant, the Mississippi, sailing along in dark and solemn grandeur, became distinctly visible. Both rivers were about two miles broad, but the expanse of the Ohio struck me as being somewhat larger than that of its more powerful rival. I do not remember any occasion on which my imagination was more excited. I felt, in parting with the Ohio, as if I had done injustice to its attractions. True, it presents but one phasis of beauty, but that is of the noblest character. For a
185distance of nine hundred miles I had beheld it roll its clear waters, smoothly and peacefully, and I now, almost with a feeling of regret, bade it farewell.
The Huntress kept on her way rejoicing. We passed the small settlement of Cairo, standing on an isthmus between the two rivers, and in a few minutes beheld ourselves borne on the most majestic tribute of waters which Earth pays to Ocean.
It certainly appears strange that the Mississippi, after absorbing the Ohio, presents no visible augmentation of its volume. Below the point of junction, the river is not broader than the Ohio alone. Though flowing in the same channel, the streams are not mingled. For many miles there is a distinct line of demarcation between the waters of the two rivers. Those of the Ohio are clear, while the stream of the Mississippi is ever dark and turbid. When the Mississippi is in flood, it almost dams up the Ohio, and suffers it to occupy but a small portion of the common channel. But in other circumstances the case is different, and the Ohio constitutes, in parliamentary phrase, a very respectable minority.
After quitting la belle riviere, as the French first designated the Ohio, one feels as if he had made an exchange for the worse. The scenery of the Mississippi is even less varied than that of the Ohio. It is almost uniformly flat, though in the course of twelve hundred miles a few bluffs and eminences do certainly occur. The wood grows down to the very margin of the river, and the timber, for some hundred miles, is by no means remarkable for size. As the river descends to the southward, however, it is of finer growth; and about latitude 36°, vegetation becomes marked by a degree of rankness and luxuriance which I have never seen equalled anywhere else.
The American forests are generally remarkable for the entire absence of underwood, so that they are easily penetrable by a foot traveller, and generally even by a mounted one. But in the neighbourhood of the Mississippi there is almost uniformly a thick undergrowth of cane, varying in height from four or five to about twenty feet, according to the richness of the soil. Through this thicket of cane I should think it quite impossible to penetrate, yet I
187have been assured the Indians do so for leagues together, though by what means they contrive to guide their course, where vision is manifestly impossible, it is not easy to understand.
The steam-boats stop twice a-day to take in a supply of wood for the engine. These vessels have become so numerous that a considerable number of settlers make it their business to supply them, and thus turn their labour to better account than would be found in the cultivation of the soil. But the climate is deadly and pestilential; they are worn and sallow; and those with whom I spoke seemed to regard fevers as things of course. Medicine they have none; and when one's eyes rested on the miserable and pallid children, and their haggard mother, it was impossible not to feel compassion for these forlorn outcasts.
Outcasts they literally are. Many have fled for crimes, to a region where the arm of the law cannot reach them. Others are men of broken characters, hopes, and fortunes, who fly not from justice, but contempt. One man told me it was so. He had known better days. Men blamed him when he became
188poor. He withdrew his poverty from their sight, and came to labour amid the untrodden forests of the Mississippi. The man had been handsome, and still bore about him something of dignity. His manners were remarkably pleasing; but my fellow-passengers assured me that he was one who could stab while he smiled. I certainly should not much have fancied encroaching on the hospitality of his solitary shantee.
These settlers are called Squatters. They locate where they please, without troubling themselves about any title to the land they occupy. Should a rival in the business of wood-cutting choose to take up his residence inconveniently near, the rifle settles the dispute. One or other becomes food for the vultures, and the market continues uninjured by competition.
During the whole course of the voyage, we daily passed numbers of large arks or rafts, consisting of rough timbers, nailed together in the shape of a square box, in which the poorer proprietors of the upper country send down the produce of their land to New Orleans. These vessels were often without
189sails of any kind, and the only skill necessary in the navigation was to keep in the middle of the stream. Time was, and that not far distant, when these rafts constituted almost the only vehicles for conveying produce to the place of embarkation. In those days, a voyage to Louisville and back occupied about nine months, and by means of steam it can now be performed in little more than a fortnight. The application of steam navigation to the purposes of commerce has indeed given a mighty impulse to the prosperity of the central States. In the niches next to Mrs Trollope, the Cincinnatians should place statues of Fulton and James Watt. To the first they owe celebrity; to the two last, a market for their bacon and flour.
Time passed on board of the steam-boat, if not pleasantly, at least tranquilly. True, there was gambling and drinking, and wrangling and swearing; true, there was an utter disregard of all the decent courtesies of society: but to these things I had gradually become accustomed; for as they hourly and almost minutely "overcame us like a summer's cloud," they were no longer regarded with "special
190wonder." But there were some things to which I had not become accustomed, and one of these was slavery; and another, eating and drinking and holding communion with a slave-dealer.
Unfortunately, the man generally occupied the place next to me at dinner; and, strange to say, with the soul of a brute, I remarked that he performed all the functions of an ordinary American. He ate, he drank, he voided profusion of tobacco juice, he swallowed brandy every half hour of the day, and passed three-fourths, both of day and night, in gambling. His poor gang of slaves were above stairs, the men loaded with heavy chains, and the women with scarcely rags enough to serve the purposes of decency. I spoke occasionally to both, and the women were certainly the more intelligent. They seemed to take pride in the largeness of the prices they had formerly brought in the market; and one, with a look of dignity, told me her master had refused three hundred dollars for her. Who, after this, shall presume to say, that vanity is not an inherent attribute of woman?
The men were in a state at once wretched and
191disgusting. Their chains prevented their performing the ordinary functions of cleanliness, and their skin had become covered with a sort of scaly eruption. But I will not enlarge on a subject so revolting. I remember, however, that no one on board talked about freedom so loudly or so long as this slave-dealer. He at length left us, and the sky seemed brighter, and the earth greener, after his departure.
It has been the fashion with travellers to talk of the scenery of the Mississippi as wanting grandeur and beauty. Most certainly it has neither. But there is no scenery on earth more striking. The dreary and pestilential solitudes, untrodden save by the foot of the Indian; the absence of all living objects, save the huge alligators which float past, apparently asleep, on the drift-wood; and an occasional vulture, attracted by its impure prey on the surface of the waters; the trees, with a long and hideous drapery of pendent moss, fluttering in the wind; and the giant river rolling onward the vast volume of its dark and turbid waters through the wilderness, form the features of one of the most
192dismal and impressive landscapes on which the eye of man ever rested.
If any man thinks proper to believe that such objects are not, in themselves, sufficient, I beg only to say that I differ with him in point of taste. Rocks and mountains are fine things undoubtedly, but they could add nothing of sublimity to the Mississippi. Pelion might be piled on Ossa, Alps on Andes, and still, to the heart and perceptions of the spectator, the Mississippi would be alone. It can brook no rival, and it finds none. No river in the world drains so large a portion of the earth's surface. It is the traveller of five thousand miles, more than two-thirds of the diameter of the globe. The imagination asks, whence come its waters, and whither tend they? They come from the distant regions of a vast continent, where the foot of civilized man has never yet been planted. They flow into an ocean yet vaster, the whole body of which acknowledges their influence. Through what varieties of climate have they passed? On what scenes of lonely and sublime magnificence have they gazed? Have they penetrated
Where stalked the Mammoth to his shaggy lair,
193Through paths and alleys, roof'd with sombre green,
Thousands of years before the silent air
Was pierc'd by whizzing shaft of hunter keen?
In short, when the traveller has asked and answered these questions, and a thousand others, it will be time enough to consider how far the scenery of the Mississippi would be improved by the presence of rocks and mountains. He may then be led to doubt whether any great effect can be produced by a combination of objects of discordant character, however grand in themselves. The imagination is perhaps susceptible but of a single powerful impression at a time. Sublimity is uniformly connected with unity of object. Beauty may be produced by the happy adaptation of a multitude of harmonious details; but the highest sublimity of effect can proceed but from one glorious and paramount object, which impresses its own character on every thing around.
The prevailing character of the Mississippi is that of solemn gloom. I have trodden the passes of Alp and Appenine, yet never felt how awful a thing is
194nature, till I was borne on its waters, through regions desolate and uninhabitable. Day after day, and night after night, we continued driving right downward to the south; our vessel, like some huge demon of the wilderness, bearing fire in her bosom, and canopying the eternal forest with the smoke of her nostrils. How looked the hoary river-god I know not; nor what thought the alligators, when awakened from their slumber by a vision so astounding. But the effect on my own spirits was such as I have never experienced before or since. Conversation became odious, and I passed my time in a sort of dreamy contemplation. At night, I ascended to the highest deck, and lay for hours gazing listlessly on the sky, the forest, and the waters, amid silence only broken by the clanging of the engine. All this was very pleasant; yet till I reached New Orleans, I could scarcely have smiled at the best joke in the world; and as for raising a laugh — it would have been quite as easy to quadrate the circle.
The navigation of the Mississippi is not unaccompanied by danger. I do not now speak of the risk
195of explosion, which is very considerable, but of a peril arising from what are called planters and sawyers. These are trees firmly fixed in the bottom of the river, by which vessels are in danger of being impaled. The distinction is, that the former stand upright in the water, the latter lie with their points directed down the stream. We had the bad luck to sustain some damage from a planter, whose head being submersed was of course invisible.
The bends or flexures of the Mississippi are regular in a degree unknown in any other river; indeed, so much is this the case, that I should conceive it quite practicable for a hydrographer to make a tolerably accurate sketch of its course without actual survey. The action of running water, in a vast alluvial plain like that of the basin of the Mississippi, without obstruction from rock or mountain, may be calculated with the utmost precision. Whenever the course of a river diverges in any degree from a right line, it is evident that the current can no longer act with equal force on both its banks. On one side the impulse is diminished, on the other increased. The tendency in these sinuosities, therefore, is manifestly
196to increase, and the stream which hollows out a portion of one bank being rejected to the other, the process of curvature is still continued, till its channel presents an almost unvarying succession of salient and retiring angles.
In the Mississippi the flexures are so extremely great, that it often happens that the isthmus which divides different portions of the river gives way. A few months before my visit to the south a remarkable case of this kind had happened, by which forty miles of navigation had been saved. The opening thus formed was called the new cut; and it was matter of debate between the Captain and pilot whether we should not pass through it.
Even the annual changes which take place in the bed of the Mississippi are very remarkable. Islands spring up and disappear; shoals suddenly present themselves where pilots have been accustomed to deep water; in many places whole acres are swept away from one bank and added to the other; and the pilot assured me, that in every voyage be could perceive fresh changes.
Many circumstances contribute to render these
197changes more rapid in the Mississippi than in any other river. Among these, perhaps, the greatest is the vast volume of its waters, acting on alluvial matter, peculiarly penetrable. The river, when in flood, spreads over the neighbouring country, in which it has formed channels, called bayous. The banks thus become so saturated with water that they can oppose little resistance to the action of the current, which frequently sweeps off large portions of the forest.
The immense quantity of drift-wood is another cause of change. Floating-logs encounter some obstacle in the river, and become stationary. The mass gradually accumulates; the water, saturated with mud, deposits a sediment, and thus an island is formed, which soon becomes covered with vegetation. About ten years ago the Mississippi was surveyed by order of the Government; and its islands, from the confluence of the Missouri to the sea, were numbered. I remember asking the pilot the name of a very beautiful island, and the answer was, five hundred-and-seventy-three, the number assigned to it in the hydrographical survey, and the only name by
198which it was known. But in the course of these ten years, a vast variety of changes have taken place, and a more accurate chart has become highly desirable.
A traveller on the Mississippi has little to record in the way of incident. For a week we continued our course, stopping only to take in wood, and on one occasion to take in cargo, at an inconsiderable place called Memphis, which stands on one of the few bluffs we encountered in our progress. At length we reached Natchez, a town of some importance in the State of Mississippi. We only halted there for an hour, and the upper town, which stands on a height at some distance, I did not see. But the place was described by the passengers as being the scene of the most open and undisguised profligacy. All I observed in the lower town, certainly gave me no reason to doubt the accuracy of the description. Taverns full of men and women of the most abandoned habits, dancing, drinking, and uttering the most obscene language, were open to the street. I was advised not to walk to any distance from the landing place, for the risk of being robbed was considerable. I did
199however attempt to reach the upper town, about a mile off, but the bell announcing preparation for departure arrested my progress.
One of the most striking circumstances connected with this river voyage, was the rapid change of climate. Barely ten days had elapsed since I was traversing mountains almost impassable from snow. Even the level country was partially covered with it, and the approach of spring had not been heralded by any symptom of vegetation. Yet, in little more than a week, I found myself in the region of the sugar cane!
The progress of this transition was remarkable. During the first two days of the voyage, nothing like a blossom or a green leaf was to be seen. On the third, slight signs of vegetation were visible on a few of the hardier trees. These gradually became more general as we approached the Mississippi; but then, though our course lay almost due south, little change was apparent for a day or two. But after passing Memphis, in latitude 35°, all nature became alive. The trees which grew on any little eminence, or which did not spring immediately from the swamp,
200were covered with foliage; and at our wooding times, when I rambled through the woods, there were a thousand shrubs already bursting into flower. On reaching the lower regions of the Mississippi, all was brightness and verdure. Summer had already begun, and the heat was even disagreeably intense.
Shortly after entering Louisiana, the whole wildness of the Mississippi disappears. The banks are all cultivated, and nothing was to be seen but plantations of sugar, cotton, and rice, with the houses of their owners, and the little adjoining hamlets inhabited by the slaves. Here and there were orchards of orange-trees, but these occurred too seldom to have much influence on the landscape.
At Baton Rouge, a fort of some strength, which commands the navigation of the river, we discharged a major and a few private soldiers of the United States army, and on the following evening I found myself at New Orleans.
I LANDED at New Orleans on the 22d of March. The day had been one of heavy rain, and the appearance of the city was by no means prepossessing. The streets, being generally unpaved, were full of mud, and a dense canopy of mist shed a gloom on every thing.
We had some difficulty in finding accommodation. The principal hotel is that of Madame Herries, but the house was already full. We tried three others with no better success, and the streets of New Orleans are perhaps the last in the world in which a gentleman would choose to take up his night's lodging. At length the keeper of a boarding-house took compassion on our forlorn condition. There
202was an uninhabited house, she said, in an adjoining street, in which she thought she could prevail on the proprietor to furnish us with apartments, and at meals we might join the party in her establishment.
And so it was arranged. The rooms were had, and wretchedly furnished, but they were quiet, and we had an old and ugly female slave to wait on us. This woman was in character something like the withered hags who are so finely introduced in the Bride of Lammermoor. During my stay, I tried every means to extract a smile from her, but without success. I gave her money, but that would not do; and wine, of which on one occasion she drank two tumblers, with no better effect. By way of recommending the lodgings, she told me three gentlemen had died in them during the last autumn of yellow fever. "Two were Englishmen," she added, "and she herself had laid out their corpses on that very table!" In short, though she did not often choose to converse, whenever the fit was on her, she displayed great tact and discrimination in the selection of topics.
The morning after my arrival was bright and beautiful, and I sallied forth to
Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings,
And wander up and down to view the city."
It would be absurd to call New Orleans a handsome city. It is not so. The streets are generally narrow, and always filthy; and with the exception of the cathedral, there are no public buildings of any magnitude. But in comparison with such cities as those to which I had been accustomed in the United States, the general aspect of New Orleans may be called picturesque. The architecture of the older sections of the city is Spanish, and when Louisiana came into possession of France, the original taste in building seems still to have predominated. The houses are generally of one story, and the principal apartment opens at once on the street. They are built of wood, but here and there edifices of greater pretension, covered with stucco, and adorned with verandas, give something of pleasing variety.
In this quarter of the city reside the French and Spanish portion of the population; that occupied by
204the Anglo-Americans, has no attraction of any kind. The streets are wider, but unpaved; the houses larger, but bare and unseemly, and their internal superiority of comfort has been gained at the expense of external effect.
The condition of the streets in the greater part of New Orleans, is indeed an absolute nuisance. There are brick trottoirs, but the carriage-way is left in a state of nature. The consequence is, that after rain — and the climate is particularly humid — the centre of the street is at least a foot thick of mud, through which, foot-passengers, when desirous of crossing, must either wade up to their knees, or set off on a wild-goose chase after stepping-stones perhaps a mile distant, which may enable them — if they can jump like a kangaroo — to get over dry-shod.
In other respects, I must say, New Orleans is not an uncomfortable place. The American hotels are bad, but there is an admirable French restaurateur, whose establishment is conducted in a style far superior to any thing I had seen in the United States. When not otherwise engaged, I generally dined there,
205either alone, or with a companion, instead of scrambling at the public table of the boarding-house.
There is an old proverb, "give a dog a bad name and hang him." The proverb is as applicable to cities as to dogs, and unfortunately New Orleans has got a bad name. I have nothing to say which can make it any worse, and perhaps not much which would induce a very rigid moralist to delay execution. But I can bear witness that New Orleans contains a very well-bred and hospitable circle, where a traveller will meet more easy politeness than in most cities of the Union.
Both the language and manners are French. Few of the Creole ladies can speak English, and still fewer of the slaves. The latter jabber a sort of patois unlike any thing I ever heard in France, though my intercourse with the French peasantry has been tolerably extensive.
The situation of New Orleans is admirably adapted for commerce. It is and must be the great port of the south, as New York is of the north and centre of the Union. The Western States enjoy a ready communication with both; with the former, by the
206Ohio and Mississippi; with the latter, by means of canals which now connect the Ohio with Lake Erie, and Lake Erie with the Hudson. The city stands on a bed of alluvium on the eastern hank of the Mississippi, about a hundred-and-twenty miles from the sea. Its population is about fifty thousand, and the number of slaves is very great.
I fear the standard of morals in New Orleans cannot be rated very high. Yet in no city are the externals of decorum more rigidly maintained. The eye is never shocked by any public display of indecency; and the coloured women, whatever may be their laxity of principle, are careful to maintain at least the outward semblance of virtue. I had heard a great deal of the beauty of these persons, but cannot profess having been at all smitten with their charms. One often meets a fine figure among them, but rarely a fine countenance. The skin is dingy, and the features are coarse. Something of the negro always remains — the long heel — the woolly hair — the flat nose — the thick lips — or the peculiar form of the head.
The Creole ladies, on the other hand, certainly
207struck me as handsome. They too are dark, but their complexion is clear not clouded, like that of the Quadroons. Their figure is light and graceful, and with fine teeth, and an eye, large, dark, and bright, they must be admitted to possess quite as much attraction as the New Orleans gentlemen deserve. The effects of this enervating climate however are visible enough. The Creole ladies speak with a sort of languid drawl; their motions want energy and briskness, and the efficacy of their charms might perhaps be increased by a little more animation.
During my stay at New Orleans the legislature was in session, and I occasionally visited both houses. The mode of proceeding struck me as curious. The Creoles speak French, and the Americans English, neither understanding the language of the other. Whenever a speech is concluded, an interpreter gives as perfect a version of it as his memory can command. The time thus lost is enormous under any circumstances, but when the debate becomes personal, it has at least the advantage of giving members time to cool.
On one occasion, however, the discussion was conducted with a good deal of acrimony, and the scene became ludicrous enough. A French gentleman, when I entered the house, was delivering an energetic oration, impugning both the conduct and motives of an American. The latter during the whole time remained apparently in happy ignorance, both of the nature and extent of the punishment of which he was the object.
At length the honourable gentleman sat down, and the chief heads of his speech and arguments were detailed in English by the interpreter. The American then became, as they say in Scotland, "neither to hold nor to bind." He instantly commenced not only a vehement defence of himself, but an attack on his opponent, in a language of which the latter seemed to understand precisely as much as he did of Sanscrit. In short, I know of no body to whom the gift of tongues could be so useful as the legislature of Louisiana.
There is a French and an English theatre in New Orleans, The former is tenanted by a very tolerable set of comedians, who play musical pieces and
209Vaudevilles with a great deal of spirit, The company of the English theatre was altogether wretched. I saw Damon and Pythias represented to a full house. Damon was so drunk that he could scarcely stand, and Pythias displayed his friendship in assisting him off the stage.
As in most Catholic countries, Sunday is the great day for amusements of every kind. The shops are open; the market displays unusual attractions, and the sounds of merriment and music are heard in every street. In the morning, three-fourths of the population run to hear mass, and the cathedral is crowded by people of all colours, in their best and gayest attire. In a European city the cathedral would probably pass without notice. In New Orleans it is a prominent object. As a building, it is fall of inconsistencies, and the interior presents nothing to arrest the attention. The decorations of the altars are gewgaw enough, and there is no sculpture.
Both Catholic and Protestant agree in the tenet that all men are equal in the sight of God, but the former alone gives practical exemplification of his creed. In a Catholic church the prince and the peasant, the
210slave and his master, kneel before the same altar, in temporary oblivion of all worldly distinctions. They come there but in one character, that of sinners; and no rank is felt or acknowledged but that connected with the offices of religion. Within these sacred precincts the vanity of the rich man receives no incense; the proud are not flattered, the humble are not abashed. The stamp of degradation is obliterated from the forehead of the slave, when he beholds himself admitted to community of worship with the highest and noblest in the land.
But in Protestant churches a different rule prevails. People of colour are either excluded altogether, or are mewed up in some remote corner, separated by barriers from the body of the church. It is impossible to forget their degraded condition even for a moment. It is brought home to their feelings in a thousand ways. No white Protestant would kneel at the same altar with a black one. He asserts his superiority everywhere, and the very hue of his religion is affected by the colour of his skin.
From the hands of the Catholic priest, the poor slave receives all the consolations of religion. He is
211visited in sickness, and consoled in affliction; his dying lips receive the consecrated wafer; and in the very death-agony, the last voice that meets his ear is that of his priest uttering the sublime words, "Depart, Christian soul." Can it be wondered, therefore, that the slaves in Louisiana are all Catholics; that while the congregation of the Protestant church consists of a few ladies, arranged in well-cushioned pews, the whole floor of the extensive cathedral should be crowded with worshippers of all colours and classes?
From all I could learn, the zeal of the Catholic priests is highly exemplary. They never forget that the most degraded of human forms is animated by a soul, as precious in the eye of religion, as that of the sovereign Pontiff". The arms of the church are never closed against the meanest outcast of society. Divesting themselves of all pride of caste, they mingle with the slaves, and certainly understand their character far better than any other body of religious teachers. I am not a Catholic, but I cannot suffer prejudice of any sort to prevent my doing justice to a body of Christian ministers, whose zeal
212can be animated by no hope of worldly reward, and whose humble lives are passed in diffusing the influence of divine truth, and communicating to the meanest and most despised of mankind the blessed comforts of religion. These men publish no periodical enumeration of their converts. The amount, and the success of their silent labours, is not illustrated in the blazon of missionary societies, nor are they rhetorically set forth in the annual speeches of Lord Roden or Lord Bexley. And yet we may surely assert, that not the least of these labours is forgotten. Their record is, where their reward will be.
New Orleans and yellow fever are as inseparably connected as ham and chicken, and the writer who records his impressions of the one, is expected to say something of the other. I believe at no season of the year is New Orleans a healthy place of residence. The exhalations from the Mississippi, and the vast swamps by which it is surrounded, taint the atmosphere continually, and the variation at different seasons is only in degree. Even in March the air of Orleans is manifestly unhealthy. It is sometimes
213so thick and impregnated with vapour, that the lungs play with difficulty, and the effect of such weather on the animal economy is very perceptible. The skin is clammy even in repose, and the slightest exertion brings on profuse perspiration. For myself, I could not walk a quarter of a mile without feeling a degree of lassitude to which I had never been accustomed. The resource under such circumstances is generous diet and a sofa, but the only absolute cure is a brisk north-wester, which, by clearing off the impurities of the atmosphere, at once restores the patient to his natural functions.
It is not, however, till the heats of summer are considerably advanced, that the yellow fever appears in its terrors. It comes in silence, and steals, as it were, unawares into the city. The sky is bright, and the weather beautiful. The city is reported healthy, and business and pleasure proceed with accelerated impulse. In such circumstances, a report probably spreads, that a sailor on board of one of the vessels at the river, has been stricken with this fearful malady. On the following day, the rumour of fresh cases becomes prevalent, but the inhabitants comfort
214themselves that these have been exclusively confined to the shipping. Even of this consolation, however, they are shortly deprived. The disease appears simultaneously in various quarters of the city, through which it stalks like a destroying angel, spreading havoc and desolation.
The Creoles are entirely exempt from its ravages. The chief victims are Europeans, and natives of the Northern States. Of these, not one in twenty escapes attack; and of those attacked, not above two-thirds survive. The latter are then considered to be what is called "acclimated," and are not liable to a recurrence of the disease, unless their constitution be again changed by a residence in a colder climate.
One of the curiosities which all strangers should see — and which too many of them visit without seeing — is the public burying-ground, about half-a-mile from the city. It is simply a portion of the surrounding swamp, and, though very extensive, is not found too large for the wants of the population. There are always some twenty or thirty graves, of different sizes, kept open on speculation, so that there is no doubt of any gentleman, who chooses to
215die in a hurry, finding accommodation at the shortest notice. One acquires from habit a sort of lurking prejudice in favour of being buried in dry ground, which is called into full action by a sight of this New Orleans cemetery. The spade cannot penetrate even a few inches below the surface, without finding water, and considerable difficulty is experienced in sinking the coffins, since the whole neighbourhood could not furnish a stone the size of an orange.
Such a disposal of the dead may more properly be termed inundation than interment, and there is something so offensive to the imagination in the whole process, and in the idea of being devoured by the crawfish, which burrow in myriads, that the richer people generally prefer being kept above the level, both of ground and water, in little buildings like ovens, composed of brick and plaster, without ornament of any sort. Altogether, those who are content to live in New Orleans, may be content to be buried there when they die. I confess my own inclination prompted me to neither, and I quitted the cemetery with the firm resolution of never eating
216another crawfish, with whatever attractions the skill of the cook may have invested it.
There are slave auctions almost every day in the New Orleans Exchange. I was frequently present at these, and the man who wants an excuse for misanthropy, will nowhere discover better reason for hating and despising his species. The usual process differs in nothing from that of selling a horse. The poor object of traffic is mounted on a table; intending purchasers examine his points, and put questions as to his age, health, &c. The auctioneer dilates on his value, enumerates his accomplishments, and when the hammer at length falls, protests, in the usual phrase, that poor Sambo has been absolutely thrown away. When a woman is sold, he usually puts his audience in good humour by a few indecent jokes.
One of the first human beings whom I happened to see thus sold was a poor woman, apparently dying of a consumption. She was emaciated, her voice was husky and feeble, and her proper place was evidently the hospital. It was with difficulty she was raised upon the table. "Now, gentlemen, here is Mary!"
217said the auctioneer; "a clever house-servant and an excellent cook. Bid me something for this valuable lot. She has only one fault, gentlemen, and that is shamming sick. She pretends to be ill, but there is nothing more the matter with her than there is with me at this moment. Put her up, gentlemen, — shall I say a hundred dollars to begin with? Will nobody say a hundred dollars for Mary, a clever servant and excellent cook? Thank you, sir, fifty — well, fifty dollars is bid for her." Here the auctioneer stopped for a minute or two, while several men began feeling the poor woman's ribs, and putting questions as to her health.
"Are you well?" asked one man.
"Oh, no, I am very ill."
"What is the matter with you?"
"I have a bad cough and pain in my side."
"How long have you had it?"
"Three months and more."
Here the auctioneer finding such interrogatories did not tend to enhance the value of the lot, again went on. "Never mind what she says, gentlemen,
218I told you she was a shammer. Her health is good enough. Damn her humbug. Give her a touch or two of the cow-hide, and I'll warrant she'll do your work. Speak, gentlemen, before I knock her down. Seventy dollars only bid, — going, going, going, gone!" The sale concluded amid sundry jests, at the expense of the purchaser. "A bloody good lot of skin and bone," said one. "I guess that 'ere woman will soon be food for the land-crabs," said another; and amid such atrocious merriment the poor dying creature was led off.
If such scenes are acted in a Christian country, it is the duty of every traveller to take care at least, that they shall not be done in a corner, that they shall be proclaimed loudly to the world, and that those who perpetrate the enormities shall receive their due meed of indignation and contempt.
The time is past when it was necessary to write whole volumes, in illustration of the evils and injustice of slavery. These are now admitted and confessed by every one. They are so great as to admit of no exaggeration by eloquence, nor of
219palliation or concealment by sophistry. Public opinion in England requires no stimulus.
I feel anxious, that writing on this subject I should be clearly understood. It may not be a crime — it probably ought not to be charged as one — in the American people, that slavery still exists in by far the larger portion of the territory of the Union. But now when the United States have enjoyed upwards of half a century of almost unbroken prosperity, when their people, as they themselves declare, are the most moral, the most benevolent, the most enlightened in the ,world, we are surely entitled to demand, what have this people done for the mitigation of slavery? what have they done to elevate the slave in the scale of moral and intellectual being, and to prepare him for the enjoyment of those privileges to which, sooner or later, the coloured population must be admitted?
The answer to these questions unfortunately may be comprised in one word — NOTHING. Nothing during all this period has been done to raise the slave to the dignity of a rational and responsible being, or
220to mitigate the horrors of his servitude; nothing for the subversion of ignorant and degrading prejudice; nothing to remove from themselves and their posterity the reproach of a system which withers up all the better sympathies of our nature. The voice of justice and humanity has been raised in vain; and it may safely be predicted, that while the progress of intelligence is confessedly incompatible with slavery, its last stronghold will be found, not in Portugal — not in Turkey or Algiers — but in the United States.
It is true, indeed, that slavery has been abolished in many States of the Union, and that in others recently established it has never existed. Let the merit — whatever be its amount — of an enlightened appreciation of their own interests, be at once freely conceded to these States. Still it cannot be denied, that slavery has only ceased in those portions of the Union, in which it was practically found to be a burden on the industry and resources of the country. Wherever it was found profitable, there it has remained; there it is to be found at the present day, in all its pristine and unmitigated ferocity. Where its abolition
221involved no sacrifice, slavery has disappeared; but wherever justice was to be done at the expense of the pocket, the nuisance, so far from being abated, has gone on increasing, and has become rooted more widely and more deeply in the passions and prejudices of the people.
I have said that the abolition of slavery in the Northern, and some of the Central States, has involved no sacrifice. Let me explain this. When Pennsylvania, for instance, abolished slavery, she passed an act, that after a certain number of years all the slaves within her territory should be manumitted. What was the consequence? Why, that the great body of the slaves belonging to Pennsylvanian proprietors were in the meantime exported and sold in other States, and when the day of liberation came, those who actually profited by it, were something like the patients who visited the pool of Bethesda, — the blind, the halt, the maimed, the decrepid, whom it really required no great exercise of generosity to turn about their business, with an injunction to provide thereafter for their own maintenance.
I admit that the question of the abolition of slavery
222in the United States, is involved in peculiar difficulties, nor do I pretend to suggest any project by which it may be safely, and even remotely effected. But there are some crying evils on which immediate legislation is imperiously demanded. The first of these is undoubtedly the slave trade.
When I speak of the slave trade, I do not allude to the importation of slaves from abroad, but to the internal traffic which is carried on between the different States. Some of these, in which the climate is healthy, and the cultivation of the soil easy, are slave-breeders, not for their own consumption only, but for that of others, in which the climate is deadly and the labour severe. The cultivation of sugar in Louisiana, for instance, is carried on at an enormous expense of human life. Planters must buy to keep up their stock, and this supply principally comes from Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. On my return from New Orleans by the coast, I met a whole drove of these miserable creatures, chained together like felons, and driven on like brute beasts by the lash. In God's name let this unhallowed traffic be put a stop to. Let not men's eyes be
223shocked by sights so atrocious. Let not one State furnish materials for the cruelties of another, and by a system of wise legislation let humanity be made the interest, as it is the duty, of all.
It would be difficult to decide whether slavery is most to be lamented for the injustice perpetrated towards those who are its victims, or for its depraving influence on the class by whom that injustice is inflicted. The question must be decided by nicer casuists than I pretend to be. But sure I am that the evils of this detestable system cannot be exaggerated by the most fervid imagination. It will scarcely be believed, that in the United States it is common for fathers to sell their children, for sons to sell their brothers and their sisters; and that atrocities so heinous are unvisited by public indignation or contempt. And yet it is so. The smallest infusion of negro blood is held to abrogate not only the charities of life, but the ties of nature. I will not enlarge on this subject. It is too hateful and too odious. But in the name of consistency and common sense, either let such enormities cease to be perpetrated in the United States, or let the word morality
224be at once erased from the American vocabulary.
I did intend to have made some observations on the savage character of the slave codes of the different States, but I write for the British public, and the task has become unnecessary. Still I would earnestly call on every Englishman who has partaken in the delusion that the abolition, or even the mitigation of slavery, may be safely trusted to the humanity of those whose immediate interests are connected with its continuance, to look to the condition of the slaves in the United States. I again repeat that I do not charge it as a reproach on the inhabitants that slavery should still exist in their territory, but I own I do consider it as involving national disgrace, that during half a century no steps have been taken, I will not say for its abolition, but even for its mitigation. At the present hour slavery is seen in the United States decked out in every horrible attribute with which the imagination of man ever invested it. And, after all, it is perhaps better for the ultimate interests of humanity that it should be so. It is better that the front
225of the image should be of brass, while its feet are of clay. To suppose that slavery can long continue in this country when other nations shall have freed themselves from the foulest stain which has ever polluted their humanity, is to contemplate a period when the United States will become a nuisance upon earth, and an object of hatred and derision to the whole world.
It is only fair to state that during the whole course of my tour, I never conversed with any American on the subject of slavery without his at once admitting the magnitude of the evil. The planters uniformly speak of it as a noxious exhalation by which their whole atmosphere is poisoned. "Yet what is to be done?" they ask. "You express yourself shocked by the existence of slavery; have you formed any plan for its abolition? Can you see even a glimmering of light through the darkness by which this awful subject is surrounded? At all events, do not suppose that we maintain slavery in our territory from choice. Far from it. We regard those States where this curse is unknown with envy. We would gladly become as they are, but cannot. We are slave-holders
226by compulsion alone. As such, let us be treated with candour and fairness. If you can suggest any remedy, we shall be glad to hear it; if you cannot, cease to inveigh against an inevitable evil, for which the collective wisdom of mankind has yet discovered no cure."
There is much that is reasonable in all this, mixed up with a little misrepresentation, and as few men travel about with a plan for the abolition of American slavery, cut and dry in their pocket, it no doubt acts in conversation as a convenient stopper on a great deal of froth which might otherwise be discharged on so tempting a subject. But though it be unquestionably true that the slave-holders are in favour of abolition, it is abolition of a peculiar kind, which must be at once cheap and profitable; which shall peril no interest, and offend no prejudice; and which, in liberating the slave, shall enrich his master. It is needless to say, that the dream of Alnaschar, in the Arabian Nights, pictured nothing more visionary than such an abolition. Let slavery be abolished when it will, and how it will, by slow degrees, or by one sweeping and decisive measure of emancipation,
227the immediate interests of the planters must be injuriously affected. By no process can the injustice of centuries be repaired without sacrifice; and the longer this reparation is delayed, the sacrifice demanded will be greater.
The cessation of slavery must put a stop to the cultivation both of sugar and rice in the United States, and the compulsion of which the planters speak is the compulsion of money. Large tracts of the Southern States will be thrown out of cultivation. Two-thirds of their population will probably migrate to the West, since the cultivation of cotton, the great staple, must of course be limited by the demands of the market, which can only receive considerable increase from improvements in the process of manufacture.
That the United States, as a nation, would be prodigiously benefited by the abolition of slavery, there can be no doubt; but that the pecuniary interests of the planters is decidedly opposed to it, is at least equally clear. How long these men can hold out against nature, religion, and the common sympathies of mankind, it is impossible to foresee.
228My own conviction is, that slavery in this country can only be eradicated by some great and terrible convulsion. The sword is evidently suspended; it will fall at last.
From New Orleans I made a pleasant excursion to a sugar plantation about eight or ten miles distant. The road lay along the margin of the river, which is prevented from inundating the country by embankment. Through this barrier, however, it often forces its way, by what are called crevasses, or small fissures, generally occasioned, I believe, by the burrowing of crawfish or water-rats. These fissures, by the pressure of the water, soon become formidable outlets; and the whole country, for miles, is sometimes overflowed to a depth of several feet. The Mississippi, too, occasionally overflows its banks though not often, I believe, to such extent as to occasion serious damage to the neighbouring plantations.
The country is in general cultivated to the distance of about half a mile from the river, and on these rich alluvial bottoms are the sugar plantations. That which I visited, though not one of the largest,
229was extensive. The family were of French origin, and few of its members could speak English. The proprietor took me over the sugar works, and I looked in to the huts of his negroes who were then in the field. He gave me full details of the whole process of sugar cultivation, which he confessed was only carried on at an appalling sacrifice of life. At the season when the canes are cut and the boilers at work, the slaves are compelled to undergo incessant labour for about six weeks. The fatigue is so great that nothing but the severest application of the lash can stimulate the human frame to endure it, and the sugar season is uniformly followed by a great increase of mortality among the slaves.
The climate of Louisiana is not happily adapted for sugar cultivation. It is too variable, and frosts often come on in November which destroy the whole saccharine matter of the canes. This had happened the season before my visit, and I saw the canes of nearly half the estate rotting on the ground. The crop in Louisiana is never considered safe till it is in the mill, and the consequence is, that when cutting once begins, the slaves are taxed beyond
230their strength, and are goaded to labour until nature absolutely sinks under the effort.
The poverty of the planters, too, generally prevents there being a sufficient stock of slaves on the estates; and where a plantation which requires two hundred and fifty slaves, is cultivated only by two hundred, it is very evident that the necessary work will not only be done worse, but that it will be done at a greatly increased expenditure of human life. Thus the tendency of the slave population in Louisiana is to diminish, and, but for importations from the northern slave States, would, under the present system, become extinct.
I passed a day and night with my hospitable entertainers, to whose kindness I felt much indebted. It is the fashion in this country to appoint a servant to attend upon the guests. When I retired for the night, I observed a very nice-looking black boy, who, after setting down my candle and adjusting the pillows of the bed, still remained standing right opposite to me when I began to undress. I bade him good-night, but he still showed no inclination to move. I then asked why he remained, and
231gathered from his reply that it is by no means usual in this country for a white person to perform any office for himself which can be performed by deputy. The boy said he thought I should like someone to assist me to undress, but I assured him I had no occasion for his services in any capacity except that of brushing my clothes in the morning. He then took leave, though evidently not without some surprise that a white gentleman should, under any circumstances, condescend to pull off his own stockings, and put on his nightcap. It must certainly be ranked among the minor evils of slavery, that it destroys all personal independence, and attaches something of disgrace to the discharge of the most ordinary functions.
Before quitting New Orleans I made a trip to visit the Delta of the Mississippi, in one of the steamers employed in towing vessels to and from the mouth of the river. Though with three large vessels attached, our bark made good way under the co-operative influences of steam and stream. About seven miles below the city is the field of battle. It is a plain about half a mile in breadth, bounded
232by the Mississippi on one side, and the forest on the other. Below is a bend of the river, which, from what reason I know not, is called "The English Turn." Plantations continue at intervals for about forty miles, when cultivation entirely ceases.
Below this, nature is to be seen only in her dreariest and most desolate aspect. At first there are forests springing in rank luxuriance from swamps, impassable even by the foot of the Indian hunter. But these soon pass, and nothing but interminable cane brakes are to be seen on either side. From the shrouds of the steam-boat, though the range of vision probably extended for many leagues, no other objects were discernible but the broad muddy river, with its vast masses of drift wood, and the wilderness of gigantic bulrushes shaking in the wind.
There are four passes or outlets by which the Mississippi discharges its mighty burden into the Gulf of Mexico. Two of these are navigable, but changes are ever taking place, and the passage formerly preferred by the pilots, is now rarely attempted even by vessels of the smallest class. On approaching the Gulf, verdure appears only at
233intervals, and the eye rests on tracts of mere mud, formed by the deposit of the river on the drift wood which some obstacle has arrested in its passage to the ocean. It is by this process that land is formed, and it may be traced in every step of its progress, from the island resting on a few logs, up to the huge tract in whose bosom are embedded many millions. Encountering no obstacle, the river sends out arms in every direction, which, after winding through the half-formed region in a thousand fantastic flexures, are again united to the main branches.
It would be difficult to convey an idea by words, of the effect which this most dismal scene produces on the heart and imagination of the spectator. It seems as if the process of creation were incomplete, and the earth yet undivided from the waters, for he beholds only an indeterminate mass which admits of being absolutely assigned to neither element. He feels that he has forsaken the regions of the habitable world. Above, beneath, around, there is nothing to excite his sympathies, and probably for the first time in his life he becomes conscious of the full sublimity of desolation.
The steamer having towed her burden safely across the bar, took up several inward bound vessels, and commenced her voyage back to the city. I felt it absolutely a relief when my eye again rested on the deep shadows of the forest. Then came the dwellings of man. Never had the smoke, which rose in spiral wreaths above the masses of foliage, appeared so beautiful. Even New Orleans seemed to have lost something of its dinginess, when, after a three days' voyage, I found myself comfortably seated at the French restaurateur's, and saw the waiter enter with a most tempting dish of beccaficas, or some bird very much like them, and very nearly as good.
ON the evening of the 10th of April, I bade farewell to New Orleans, and embarked on the canal which connects the city with the Bayou St John. These bayous are sluggish creeks which alternately supply nourishment to the Mississippi, and ease it of its load. When the river is in flood, the bayous which intersect the whole country, act as safety-valves, and prevent a general inundation. When it is low, they restore a portion of their waters, and thus contribute to equalize the volume of the river at different seasons.
The Bayou St John has all the appearance of a canal. Its course leads through a swamp covered with cedars, and other trees which delight in exuberant
236moisture. It was dark when we reached Lake Pontchartrain, and the steamer lay at anchor at some distance from the shore. As it did not sail till, the following morning, I should probably have slept at the inn had its appearance been at all inviting. But there was a large party carousing at the bar, and its pretensions were simply those of a pot-house. I therefore determined to embark immediately, though the night was dark, and the wind unusually high.
It may appear ridiculous to talk of a storm on a lake some forty or fifty miles long, and not more than two or three in breadth. But the tempestas in matula — if so it must be called — was exceedingly disagreeable, and before we reached the vessel, our boat was nearly full of water. Both the constitution and equanimity of a traveller should be robust enough to stand an occasional drenching without injury or disturbance; but to have your whole baggage saturated with water, — your books, papers, and other perishable valuables, seriously damaged, if not entirely destroyed, is apt to produce an elongation of visage in a more philosophical tourist than myself.
At all events it was in such pickle that I reached the steam-boat. The more immediate and personal consequences of the misfortune were obviated by the exhibition of a cigar, and a glass of the truly American catholicon, brandy and water; and on the following morning my whole chattels were spread out to dry on the deck, apparently to the great satisfaction of several curious passengers who not only subjected the state of my wardrobe to a rigid inspection, but attempted to read my papers, a compliment which I begged leave to decline.
From Lake Pontchartrain we passed into Lake Borgne, a basin of similar character, and equally devoid of beauty. Both are surrounded by vast marshes, and the view on every side is dreary and monotonous. On a projection at the narrow pass by which these lakes are united, is a fort garrisoned by a company of the United States army. A more wretched place it is impossible to conceive. The climate is among the most villainous in the world; and an officer who happened to be a passenger, and bad once for three years enjoyed the pleasures of
238this charming station, assured me that the mosquitoes are so numerous that it is absolutely necessary to live nine months of the year under gauze.
It was pitch-dark when we reached a place called Passamagoula, where our voyage terminated. It here became necessary to cross the lake, about half a mile broad, on a narrow and rickety bridge of planks. The exploit was achieved without accident, but it was really one of peril. To see was impossible, and to grope equally so, for the railing in many places had given way. At one point of our progress it was necessary to jump, and I remember plunging forward into the abyss with the delightful incertitude of whether, in the course of a second, I was not to find myself in the middle of Lake Borgne. The betting, I believe, would have been pretty equal between plank and water, bat luckily the former carried it, and in a few minutes I was safely housed in a dirty log tavern.
The landlord was particularly anxious that some of the party should remain till the following day to proceed by another coach, but having already
239secured places at New Orleans, I would by no means listen to the suggestion, and, accordingly, about one o'clock in the morning, I had the satisfaction of finding myself in the mail stage, moving slowly onward towards Mobile. Our road was what is expressively called a natural one, and lay through a continued pine forest. In the whole distance I observed only two houses, one of which was a tavern, where we stopped to sup about four in the morning. Our fare was cold venison and bacon, for which the charge was so enormous as to excite the indignation of the passengers, who said not a word until we drove off, when they united in declaring that their pockets had been picked.
This forest drive is imprinted on my memory by association with a scene of peculiar beauty. The wind had fallen, and the night was warm and misty. After leaving the tavern, the forest suddenly became illumined with myriads of fire-flies. The dark foliage of the pines shone resplendently in the multitude of tiny corruscations. But in an hour day dawned, and the "ineffectual fires" of these beautiful insects were soon extinguished in its radiance.
About nine in the morning of the 12th of April we reached Mobile, a town, as every Liverpool merchant well knows, of considerable importance. It was burned down some years ago, but few traces of the conflagration are now discernible. On enquiry, I found the steam-boat for Montgomery did not start for three days, and, therefore, I judged it advisable to take advantage of my letters. These were not less efficacious in procuring kindness at Mobile, than I had found them in other places.
My observations during this three days' residence afforded little to record. Mobile is a place of trade, and of nothing else. It is the great port of the cotton-growing State of Alabama. The quays were crowded with shipping, and in amount of exports it is inferior only to New Orleans. The wealth of the Mobile merchants must accumulate rapidly, for they certainly do not dissipate it in expenditure. There are no smart houses or equipages, nor indeed any demonstration of opulence, except huge warehouses and a crowded harbour. Of amusements of any kind I heard nothing.
My mornings were passed in wandering about the
241neighbouring forest, which is full of Indians. These men had evidently been debased by their intercourse with Europeans. It is only in the remote wilderness that they appear in their native dignity and independence. And yet something of their original grace and spirit seemed still to cling to them. They are poor, yet patient under suffering, and though subdued, are nobly submissive. During my walks I often attempted to converse with them, but their taciturnity was not to be overcome. I gave them money, but they received it rather with surprise than thankfulness. They were without experience in gratitude, and too manly to express that which they did not feel.
I was strongly recommended to lay in a store of cogniac and biscuits at Mobile, being assured that in the country I was about to traverse, there would be found neither bread nor brandy. Though not particularly apprehensive of suffering by privation of either, I adopted the advice of my friends, and visited a Scotch baker, whom I directed to pack for me a small box of biscuits. My countrymen are accused of cherishing a certain indestructible sentiment
242of affinity. Whether this moved the baker and myself I know not, but we had a good deal of conversation on the subject of emigration. My compatriot was a native of Hamilton, and had courted fortune there without success. Regardless of Mailthus and his precepts, he had married, and unluckily his family increased quite as rapidly as his hope of supporting it diminished. Under these circumstances he turned his little moveables into money, and trusting his progeny for a season to God and their own industry, set off for America. On arriving at New York, he worked for some months as a journeyman, but learning from a friend that kneaders of dough were in greater request at Mobile, he there pitched his tabernacle and heated his oven. His family had since joined him, and he was now, he assured me, in the enjoyment of every comfort which the most prosperous baker could desire.
In conversation the man's mind seemed to be alternately influenced by attachment to his native land, and satisfaction in the enjoyment of those advantages which had resulted from his quitting it. At first he would talk of nothing but the beauties of the
243Clyde. "Oh, sir," said he, "are not the banks of the Clyde beautiful? Did you ever see a river like it? Does not the road from Hamilton to Lanark pass through a perfect paradise? I am sure the whole world has nothing equal to it."
I agreed in all his praises of the Clyde, and enquired whether he had not found, in the solid comforts of the New World, a sufficient compensation for the loss of those beauties which it delighted his imagination to recall. This question seemed to have the effect of diverting the whole current of the baker's ideas. He dilated on his present comforts told me he lived like a duke, — the man was redolent of broth, — had two slaves, could pay his debts any day in the week, and had lately been able, without inconvenience, to send a hundred dollars to his poor mother. In regard to emigration he expressed his opinions at great length. "In Scotland, sir," said this sagacious master of the rolls, "there is so much competition in every trade that a great many must be unsuccessful. Take my own case as an example: when I set up a shop in Hamilton, I was honest and industrious enough, and understood
244my business quite as well as any baker in the county; still I could get little custom. The trade was already full, and those only who had considerable capital could afford to wait till business came in by slow degrees. This would not do for me, whose whole stock in trade consisted only of fifty pounds, borrowed from my wife's uncle. I was obliged to sell my bread to pay for my flour, and finding that impossible, soon got into the Gazette. My story is that of thousands more; and surely these men had better come to this country, than continue struggling for a precarious subsistence at home. They may not get rich here, but they will be sure, if they are sober, industrious, and do not sufter from the climate, to escape from poverty. But it is not actual want of the necessaries of life, sir, which occasions the chief suffering of the poor tradesman in the old country. It is the cares and anxieties that continually press on him, that deprive his bread of its nourishment, and disturb his sleep by horrible dreams; it is these things that wear out both soul and body, and make him an old man before his time. In America a man may look to the future without more
245apprehension than what naturally arises from the common accidents to which we are liable in all countries. He need have no fears about his family, for he has plenty to give them in the meantime; and if they live, they will soon be able to provide for themselves.
"Still I would not advise any one who is in a steady way of business at home, however small, and who can make both ends meet by strict economy, to think of emigrating. It is a sore trial, sir; and if I had been a single man, with no one to provide for but myself, I never would have left bonny Scotland. Oh, sir, the rivers here are not to be compared to the Clyde; and had the worst come to the worst, I would still have continued to get both bite and sup; and I often think now that a mouthful in that country would do me more good than a whole bellyful in this. The man that comes here, sir, only exchanges one set of evils for another: he is obliged to mingle with a most profane and godless set. He cannot hear the gospel preached, as he has been accustomed to, and the profanation of the Sabbath is most awful. He cannot give his children a religious education,
246and bring them up in the fear of the Lord; and it is shocking to think of the sights of depravity to which they must become accustomed from their very infancy. I am not sure, sir, that poverty is not a slight evil when compared to this.
"Then there is slavery, sir; men are treated in this country far worse than brute beasts in Scotland, and surely this is dreadful. There is no getting any thing done here without slaves, for all white men think it a disgrace to labour. I was obliged to buy a slave with the first money I could spare, and I have now two, but I treat them just like free servants, and teach my children that, in the eye of God, they are as good as themselves. After all, it is a sore trial of patience, for the creatures are dirty, and have no sense or gumption. Then, the ways of the people here are not pleasant to one from the old country: they are not social and neighbourly, and are so keen about money, that I believe they would skin a flea for lucre of the hide and tallow. There is a great deal, sir, that should be well-weighed and considered before a man decides on leaving the land of his birth. I have never advised a friend of mine to
247do so, and when applied to, though I give all the information in my power, I advise nothing but caution."
So far as my memory would permit, I have embodied the oration of the baker in his own words. It struck me as being marked by an unusual degree of good sense, and may possibly be found useful. At all events his biscuits were excellent, and during my eight days' residence in the Creek country, I often thought of him with gratitude.
On the 15th of April I embarked on board of the steam-boat Isabella, bound up the Alabama river for Montgomery. As there were no ladies on board, my English friend and myself succeeded in getting possession of the cabin usually appropriated for their accommodation. Our apartment was immediately above that occupied by the gentlemen, and being surrounded by a balcony, it was impossible to desire any thing more agreeable. The party below seemed to consist almost exclusively of farmers, who, though exceedingly offensive both in habits and deportment, are yet a shade better than the inhabitants of towns. There is nothing rustic, however, about any American;
248nothing of that simplicity which distinguishes the peasantry of other countries. The eye is almost uniformly expressive of care and cunning; and often, as I looked on the furrowed and haggard countenances which surrounded the dinner table, have I asked myself, "Is it possible that these men make pretension to happiness?"
In my progress down the western waters, I had become accustomed to a table, loaded even to excess with provisions of all sorts. In the Southern States there is no such profusion. Our dinners on board the Isabella were scanty in quantity, and far from laudable on the score of quality. Plates, dishes, knives and forks, tablecloths, all were dirty and disgusting. But bating these disagreeables, our voyage was pleasant and prosperous. The Alabama is a river apparently about the size of the Hudson; and the scenery through which it led us, was very pleasing, though deficient in variety. Either bank presented a splendid mass of luxuriant foliage, and some of the noblest timber I had ever seen. Among the forest trees I remarked the plane, the cotton-tree, dogwood, oak of several varieties, magnolia
249grandiflora, maple, gum-tree, hackberry, &c. At night I was peculiarly struck with the beauty of the stars reflected in the pure waters of the river. The whole sky was mirrored with a vividness which exceeded every thing of the kind I have ever witnessed before or since.
In the evening we passed Claiborne, a petty village on a height, a short distance from the river. In a State so thinly peopled as Alabama, however, it is talked of as a considerable place; but from all I saw or heard of it, Claiborne is not increasing, nor is it likely to increase. On the morning following, we came to Portland, a miserable place, consisting of a store and a few wretched houses. This is what is called, in American phrase, "a great improvement." We called at every house in the place in search of milk, but could get none.
Our next stoppage was at Cahawba, which, a year or two back, was the seat of government of the State. It is a very poor collection of very poor houses, not, I should imagine, above twenty in number. The Court-house happening to be open, I entered, and found the Court engaged in the discharge of business. On an elevated platform, composed of rough
250unpainted boards, sat his honour, the judge, not better dressed, and apparently somewhat filthier in habits, than an English ploughman. The case concerned the payment of a doctor's bill: the counsel for defendant, a gentleman in a fustian jacket, was in the act of addressing the Court. He read an act of the legislature, enacting, that no practitioner of the healing art should recover for medical attendance, without having been previously licensed by a Board of Doctors, and called on the plaintiff, as a necessary preliminary, to produce his certificate.
This was evidently inconvenient, and the plaintiff's counsel, whose appearance seemed to indicate a combination of the trade of blacksmith with that of barrister, was somewhat taken aback by the demand. The learned gentleman, however, attempted with all his ingenuity, to get out of the scrape, and at the conclusion of every sentence, hitched up his corduroy breeches, which seemed in danger of dropping about his heels, with a grace peculiarly his own. Unfortunately I had not time to wait for the peroration of the speech. The steam-boat bell sounded, and no time was to he lost in getting on board.
251Shortly after dark we reached Selma, the most considerable settlement on the Alabama, between Mobile and Montgomery. There was no quay, and a good deal of the cargo was rolled out upon the bank without any one to receive it. I did not see Selma, for the night was cloudy and moonless, and the village stands at a short distance from the river.
On the fourth day, our voyage terminated. Montgomery is what is called "a considerable place," though its population does not exceed a few hundreds, and these exclusively of the poorer order. There is not one tolerable house, and nothing could be worse than the inn. In the way of dormitory, nothing was to be had but a room with three beds in it, all of which were destined to be occupied. What was still worse, the beds were full of vermin, and the mosquitoes more annoying than I had yet found them.
In such circumstances I was up with the lark, and set out on a long ramble through the neighbouring country. The soil is poor and light, but presents a prettily undulating surface. From one height I enjoyed a fine view of the river, which is truly,
252even at this distance from the sea, a noble object. After a walk of three hours I returned to the inn, having fortunately succeeded in throwing off by exercise, the fever and fatigue of a restless night.
In the Southern States, there is little of that stirring spirit of improvement so apparent in the regions of the West. The towns and villages are without appearance of business, and the number of dilapidated — if the word may be applied to structures of wood — houses, indicates a decreasing, rather than an augmenting population. In Montgomery, many houses had been deserted, and the Court-house seemed fast falling into decay.
At four o'clock P. M., we started in the mail stage for Fort Mitchell. There were unfavourable reports abroad of the state of the rivers, which were asserted to be impassable; but I had so often experienced that difficulties, formidable at a distance, become insignificant on nearer approach, that I determined to push on at all hazards. In the present case, my determination was unlucky, for it involved both my companion and myself in some little danger, and occasioned considerable detention.
We accomplished the first stage without difficulty of any kind, but with the second commenced the tug of war. Our first obstacle was a bayou of such depth, that in crossing it, the water was ankle-deep in the bottom of the carriage. Night had set in before we reached Lime Creek, which, though generally a slow and sluggish stream, was now swelled into a very formidable torrent. It requires experience to understand the full danger of crossing such a river, and, perhaps fortunately, I did not possess it. But both the passengers and coachman were under considerable alarm, and one of the former, a Louisianian planter, in broken English threatened the black ferryman with instant death in case of negligence or blunder. This caused some merriment; but Sambo, who was evidently under no alarm, took the matter very coolly. The coach was run into the ferry-boat, and by means of a hawser stretched across the river, we soon found ourselves in safety on the opposite bank.
We were now in the territory of the Creek Indians, and in consequence of the darkness, it was soon found impossible to proceed without
254torches. We tried in vain to procure them at several of the Indian encampments, but were at last fortunate enough to discover an axe in the coach, with which abundance were soon cut from the neighbouring pines. I have had occasion to say a great deal about roads in these volumes, but I pronounce that along which our route lay on the present occasion, to be positively, comparatively, and superlatively, the very worst I have ever travelled in the whole course of my peregrinations. The ruts were axle-deep, and huge crevices occasionally occurred, in which, but for great strategy on the part of the coachman, the vehicle must have been engulfed.
In such circumstances none of the passengers seemed ambitious of the dangerous distinction of keeping his seat. We all walked, each armed with a pine torch, and the party, to a spectator, must have had very much the aspect of a funeral procession. Nothing, however, could be more beautiful than the scene presented by the forest. The glare of our torches, as we continued slowly advancing amid the darkness; the fires of the Indian encampments seen at a distance through the trees, and the
255wild figures by which they were surrounded; the multitude of fire-flies which flickered everywhere among the foliage, — formed a combination of objects which more than compensated in picturesque beauty, for all the difficulties we had yet encountered.
We had to pass two swamps on a sort of pavement formed of logs of trees, or what is called in America, a "corduroy road." The operation, though one of some difficulty, was effected without accident. The country, as we advanced, presented greater inequalities of surface. Stumps of trees often came in contact with the wheels, and brought the whole machine to a standstill; trees which had been blown over by the wind sometimes lay directly across the road, and it was with difficulty that the united exertions of the passengers succeeded in removing them.
In spite of all obstacles, however, we reached an Indian tavern, where we changed horses and had supper. We were now beyond the region of bread, and our fare consisted of eggs, broiled venison, and cakes of Indian corn fried in some kind of oleaginous matter. The venison was tolerable, and with the
256biscuits of my friend, the Mobile baker, I bade defiance to fate in the way of eating.
On returning to the coach, we found the night had become one of rain. The clouds began discharging their contents in no very alarming profusion, but this soon changed, and the rain absolutely descended in torrents. The pine torches refused to burn; the wind roared loudly among the trees; streams came rushing down the gullies, and inundated the road, and in spite of greatcoats and waterproof cloaks, in less than an hour I found myself fairly drenched to the skin.
At length the horses, on getting half way up a hill, became fairly exhausted, and no application of the lash could induce them to proceed. The passengers all pushed most lustily, but the horses were obstinate, and gave us no assistance. In short, we were evidently hard and fast for the night, and resigning all hope of immediate extrication, the driver was despatched on one of the leaders to the next stage for assistance, while in doleful mood, and absolutely saturated with water, we reseated ourselves in the coach to await his reappearance.
It would not, in truth, be easy to conceive a set of men in more miserable pickle. The storm, instead of abating, continued to increase. The peals of thunder were tremendous. The lightning split a huge pine-tree within a few yards of us, and one of the passengers declared he was struck blind, and did not recover his sight for an hour or two. The rain beat in through the sides and covering of the carriage, as if in wantonness of triumph to drench men who, sooth to say, were quite wet enough already. In short,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard."
From one o'clock in the morning until seven did we continue in this comfortless condition, when we were somewhat cheered by the appearance of the driver, who, we afterwards discovered, had been sleeping very comfortably in an Indian cottage in the neighbourhood. He brought with him a couple of Negroes, but no additional horses, and of course it was quite preposterous to suppose that the poor
258animals, who had been standing all night without food, and exposed to the storm, could now perform a task to which they had formerly proved unequal. The attempt was made, however; and to lighten the coach, our baggage was tossed out upon the road. Neither the Negroes, horses, nor passengers, could move the coach one inch from its position. There it was, and there it was destined to remain. Our last hope of extrication had now failed us, and it became necessary to find shelter and hospitality as best we could.
Luckily an Indian cottage was discovered at no great distance, where, by the help of a blazing fire, we succeeded in drying our drenched garments. In the course of the day a bullock waggon was despatched for the mail-bags and luggage, and there was evidently nothing for it but roughing it with a good grace.
On the part of those on whose privacy we had intruded, our welcome was tranquil, but apparently sincere. Our host — one of the handsomest Indians I have ever seen — spread before us his whole store of eggs, venison, and Indian corn, with the air of a
259forest gentleman. His two wives, with greater advantages of toilet, would probably have been good-looking, but being unfortunately rather dirty, and clad only in a blanket and blue petticoat, the sum of their attractions was by no means overpowering. The children were nearly naked, yet graceful in all their motions. Their chief amusement seemed to consist in the exercise of the crossbow.
One of the passengers produced a musical snuffbox, which occasioned great excitement in the women and children. The men were too dignified or phlegmatic to betray either pleasure or astonishment. Our host, however, was evidently delighted with an air-gun with which several birds were killed for his amusement. He then asked permission to take a shot, and hit a dollar with great accuracy at about thirty yards.
It somewhat lowered the ideas of romance connected with these Indians, to find that they are many of them slave-owners. But slavery among this simple people assumes a very different aspect from any under which I had yet beheld it. The negroes speak English and generally act as dragomen in any
260intercourse with the whites. They struck me as being far handsomer than any I had yet seen, partly perhaps from being unhabituated to severe labour, and partly from some slight admixture of Indian blood. I conversed with several, who described their bondage as light, and spoke of their master and his family with affection. To the lash they are altogether unaccustomed, and when married, live in houses of their own, round which they cultivate a patch of ground. The Negro and Indian children are brought up together on a footing of perfect equality, and the government of the family seemed entirely patriarchal.
The weather had become fine, and the day passed more pleasantly than the night. The Indian territory being beyond the reach of American law, is sought as a place of refuge by criminals, and those to whom the restraints of civilized society are habitually irksome. These men intermarry with the natives, among whom they contribute to spread guilt and demoralization. In truth, the majority are ruffians, whose proneness to crime is here alike unchecked by principle, religion, public opinion, or dread of punishment.
Towards evening two of this class came in, and chose to pass the night in drinking. Nothing more offensive than their manners and conversation can readily be conceived. After bearing patiently with this annoyance for an hour or two, it at length became intolerable, and, in order to escape, I spread my cloak in a corner of the cabin and endeavoured to sleep. But this was impossible. The noise, the demands for liquor, the blasphemy, the wrangling, were unceasing. At length one of the men drew his dirk, and attempted to assassinate his opponent, who succeeded, however, in seizing him by the throat, and both rolled upon the floor. I immediately jumped up, and the alarm roused our host, who, with the assistance of a slave, barely succeeded in saving the life of one of the combatants. He was at first insensible. His mouth was wide open; his face and lips were livid; his eyes seemed bursting from their sockets, and on being raised, his head hung down upon his shoulder. His lungs, however, made a convulsive effort to regain their action. There was a loud and sudden gurgle, and he became better. The other man was prevailed on to depart; and towards
262four in the morning, silence, broken only by the snoring of some of its inmates, reigned in the cottage.
Sleep, however, was impossible, under the incessant attacks of a multitude of blood-suckers, which, flea for man, would have outnumbered the army of Xerxes. But morning came, and fortunately with it a coach intended to convey us on our journey. Our host could not be prevailed on to make any charge for our entertainment, but one of his wives received all we chose to offer, and appeared satisfied with its amount, Not an article of the baggage was found missing, and on departing I shook bands with the whole establishment — Negroes included — to the great scandal of the American passengers.
Even by daylight our way was beset by difficulties. First came Kilbeedy Creek, which we crossed by as awkward and rickety a bridge as can well be imagined. Then came Pessimmon's swamp which presented a delightful corduroy road, some parts of which had been entirely absorbed by the morass. At length we reached the inn kept by an American
263polygamist with three Indian wives. The breakfast was no better than might be expected in such an establishment. It consisted of bad coffee, rancid venison and corn cakes, no eggs, no milk, no butter. Our host apparently had no great taste in regard to wives. One was round as a hogshead; another skin and bone; of the third I saw, or at least remember, nothing.
The meal concluded, we again set forward. Our route lay through one continued pine forest. In the course of the day we passed many Indian wigwams, and a few houses of a better order, surrounded by small enclosures. The road by no means improved, and, in order to relieve the horses, we were compelled to walk. At one place it was completely obstructed by a huge fallen tree, which delayed our progress for at least two hours. About three o'clock we dined at the house of a half-caste Indian, on the usual fare, venison and Indian corn.
In the course of the evening we passed several heights which afforded extensive, if not fine, views of the neighbouring country. The road too became somewhat better, and being composed of sand without
264stones, though heavy for the horses, was not uncomfortable for the passengers. For myself, I never experienced greater fatigue. During the two preceding nights, I had never closed an eye, and when, at four in the morning, we reached a small tavern, where — owing to the desertion of the moon — it was found necessary to wait till daylight, I cast myself on the floor, and in a moment was asleep.
Daylight soon came, and I was again roused from my slumbers. We were yet fourteen miles from Fort Mitchell, and for the greater part of the distance were compelled to make progress on foot. The sun rose beautifully above the dark tops of the pine-trees, but he was never gazed on by more languid eyes. At ten o'clock we reached Fort Mitchell, having in twenty-four hours accomplished a distance of only ninety miles.
Fort Mitchell is garrisoned by a detachment of the United States army, in order to prevent aggression on the Georgian frontier by the Indians. Beyond the limits of the fort there are, — If I remember rightly, — only three houses, one of which is a tavern. Its accommodations were far from comfortable, but
265the landlord was civil, and evidently disposed to do his best in our behalf. Under such circumstances we made no complaint, though — judging from the scantiness of our meals — his larder must have rivalled in opulence the shop of the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet.
My first effort was to procure a place in the coach to Augusta, but in this I was disappointed. Fort Mitchell seemed a sort of trou de rat which it was difficult to get into, and still more difficult to get out of. I was detained there for nearly a week, and never did time pass more slowly. Had my sojourn been voluntary, I should probably have found a great deal to interest and amuse, but an enforced residence is never pleasant, and but for the privilege of grumbling, would be intolerable.
The officers of the garrison lived in the hotel, and took pleasure in showing kindness to a stranger. I rode with them through the neighbouring forest, and was indebted to them for much valuable information relative to the Indians. During my stay, there was a Ball Play, in which two neighbouring tribes
266contended for superiority. One of these was the Creeks, the other the Ewitches, a very small tribe which occupy a district in the Creek territory, and still retain all their peculiarities of language and custom.
On the appointed morning we repaired to the scene of action, where a considerable number of spectators — chiefly Indians — had already assembled. The players on each side soon appeared, and retired to the neighbouring thickets to adjust their toilet for the game. While thus engaged, either party endeavoured to daunt their opponents by loud and discordant cries. At length they emerged with their bodies entirely naked except the waist, which was encircled by a girdle. Their skin was besmeared with oil, and painted fantastically with different colours. Some wore tails, others necklaces made of the teeth of animals, and the object evidently was to look as ferocious as possible.
After a good deal of preliminary ceremony, the game began. The object of either party was to send the ball as far as possible into their adversary's ground, and then to make it pass between two
267poles, erected for the purpose of demarcation. I certainly never saw a finer display of agile movement. In figure the Creek Indians are tall and graceful. There is less volume of muscle than in Englishmen, but more activity and freedom of motion. Many of the players were handsome men, and one in particular might have stood as the model of an Apollo. His form and motions displayed more of the idéal than I had ever seen actually realized in a human figure. The Ewitches were by no means so good-looking as their competitors.
The game is accompanied with some danger, both to those engaged in it and to the spectators. It is quite necessary for the latter to keep clear of the mÄlée, for in following the ball, the whole body of the players sweep on like a hurricane, and a gouty or pursy gentleman could be safe only when perched on the boughs of a tree. At length the Creeks were victorious, and the air rang with savage shouts of triumph. The poor Ewitches, chop-fallen, quitted the field, declaring, however, that none but their worst players had taken part in the game. The victors danced about in all the madness of inordinate
268elation, and the evening terminated in a profuse jollification, to which I had the honour of contributing.
During my stay at Fort Mitchell I saw a good deal of the United States troops. The discipline is very lax, and being always separated in small detachments, they have no opportunity of being exercised in field movements. On Sunday there was a dress parade, which I attended. Little was done, but that little in the most slovenly manner. It is only justice to the officers to state, that they are quite aware of the deficiencies of the service to which they belong. "You will laugh," they said, "at our want of method and discipline, but the fault is not ours; we cannot help it. The service is unpopular, we receive no support from the government, and we have no means of maintaining proper subordination." A non-commissioned officer, who had formerly been in our service, and therefore understood what soldiers should be, in answering some questions, treated the whole affair as a joke. He entered the American service, he said, because there was easy work, and little trouble of any sort. He had no intention
269of remaining long in it, for he could do better in other ways. There was no steady and effective command kept over the soldiers, and yet there was a great deal of punishment. Even from the small detachment at Fort Mitchell desertions happened every week. Whenever a man became tired of his duty, off he went, bag and baggage, and pursuit was hopeless.
The truth is, that men accustomed to democracy can never be brought to submit patiently to the rigours of military discipline. The nation takes pride in their navy, but none in their army. The latter service is neglected; there is no encouragement for the display of zeal in the officers, and the stations are so remote as to remove the troops entirely from public observation. The people care nothing for a set of invisible beings mewed up in some petty forts on the vast frontier, who have no enemy to contend with, and are required to brave nothing but fever and mosquitoes. Then, when a case connected with the enforcement of discipline comes before the civil courts, the whole feeling is in favour of the prosecutor. I remember a curious instance of this, which
270was related to me by an officer of distinction in the United Service army. A soldier found guilty, by a court-martial, of repeated desertions, was sentenced to a certain period of imprisonment, and loss of pay. The man underwent the allotted punishment, and on being liberated, immediately brought actions against all the members of the court-martial. The ground taken up was this: — The articles of war state, that whoever is guilty of desertion, shall "suffer death, or such other punishment as, by a general court-martial, shall be awarded." It was maintained, that, by this clause, the court were empowered to inflict only one punishment, and that in passing sentence of imprisonment and stoppage of pay, they had inflicted two. The jury gave a verdict and high damages against the members of the court, who received no assistance nor protection of any kind from the government.
On leaving Fort Mitchell we crossed the Chatahouchy — a very considerable river, of which I had never heard — and entered the State of Georgia. Our road still continued to lie through an almost unbroken pine forest, and the roads were mere sand, in which
271the wheels sank half up to the axles. The heat was very great. We travelled all night, and on the evening of the following day reached Macon, the most considerable place I had seen since leaving Mobile. We dined there, and again set forward. About ten at night we reached Milledgeville, where I was obliged to remain through illness, though still nearly two days' journey from Augusta, to which I had secured places.
I passed a restless and uncomfortable night, and finding the fever still increase, sent for a doctor. I asked him whether he apprehended my complaint to be fever? He answered, he certainly feared that I was suffering under the commencement of a fever of some sort, but with regard to its character or probable termination, could pronounce no opinion. In spite of the doctor's medicines, I continued to get worse. The weather was intensely hot, and I began to calculate that Milledgeville would prove the termination of my travels. But during the third night, a profuse perspiration came on, and in the morning I had the satisfaction to find that the fever was gone.
Unfortunately my strength was gone with it. I
272could only walk with the greatest difficulty, and required assistance to reach the veranda. Luckily, there was a good-natured black cook, who sent me up a boiled chicken, the first food I tasted since leaving Macon. This acted as a restorative. On the day following, I could creep about the city, of which, being the metropolis of a State, it may be well to say a few words.
Milledgeville has seen better days, and presents the appearance, not of a decayed gentleman, but of a starving mechanic. Many houses have already gone to decay, and others are fast following. It stands on the Oconee river, which, unfortunately, is every year becoming shallower, to the great injury both of trade and agriculture. The country round Milledgeville is undulating, and has been tolerably cleared. At first the soil was considered excellent, but wherever the forest has disappeared, the rains and torrents from the hills have swept off the earth from the declivities, and left nothing but gravel.
It is chiefly to these causes, I believe, that the decline of population and prosperity may be attributed.
The Georgian Legislature was not sitting, but
273I visited the State House. It is a brick building, which some blockhead of an architect has recently thought proper to Gothicize. The accommodation within is plain, but sufficient. There is a portrait of General Oglethorpe, who first received a grant of the settlement from the British Crown. He is a fine-looking old martinet, with a countenance full of talent, and an air of high breeding. I was invited to visit the State prison, but felt not the smallest curiosity.
The second night after my recovery, I left Milledgeville, in the mail stage. My friend, the doctor, was a worthy and kind hearted man, who forgave me for having disappointed his prognosis. We had had a good deal of conversation during his visits, and when he came to see me off in the coach, showed more feeling on the occasion than I deserved. He squeezed me heartily by the hand, and said, "Sir, I shall never see you again, but you have my very best wishes that health and happiness may attend you." To meet with kindness unexpectedly is always pleasant, and should these pages ever meet the eye of the worthy son of Galen — whose name,
274unfortunately, has escaped my memory — I beg him to receive this public and grateful acknowledgment of his warm-hearted attentions to a stranger.
A journey through Georgia presents little to record. The inhabitants bear a bad character in other parts of the Union. They are, perhaps, a little savage and ferocious; and, in regard to morals, one is tempted occasionally to regret that the gibbet is not abroad in Georgia as well as the schoolmaster. From Fort Mitchell I travelled with three attorneys, two store-keepers, two cotton-planters, and a slave-dealer. My notions of the sort of conversation prevalent in Newgate may not be very accurate, but I much doubt whether it would be found to indicate such utter debasement, both of thought and principle, as that to which I was condemned to listen during this journey.
Georgia receives large accessions of population in the offscourings of other slave States. The restraints of law are little felt, and it is the only State in the Union in which I heard it publicly asserted that justice is not purely administered. A Georgian, with whom I conversed a great deal about his native
275State, declared, that, with plenty of money, he could, with facility, escape punishment for any offence, however heinous. I enquired the mode by which so tempting an impunity was to be realized. He would, first, he said, have a touch at the sheriff, bribe the prosecutor's counsel to keep back evidence, or leave some flaw by which the proceedings might be vitiated; then, the jury — it would be odd indeed if he could not gain over some of them; but even should all fail, there was the gaoler — a sure card. In Georgia, he assured me, there was really no danger to be apprehended from law by a gentleman with heavy pockets, who carried his wits about with him.
A great part of the journey to Augusta was performed in the night. I saw enough, however, to convince me that there was no change in the general character of the scenery which I have so often described. Our supper-house was in a village called Sparta, but the landlord had gone to bed, and nothing was to be had except brandy. On the following evening we reached Augusta.
Soon after our arrival, I took a walk through the
276town. It stands on the Savannah river, and is the great depot for the cotton grown in the surrounding country, which is there shipped for Savannah or Charleston. The main street is broad, and of considerable length. There is a handsome bridge across the river, and the place altogether formed a pleasing contrast to those I had seen since the commencement of my voyage up the Alabama.
My illness at Milledgeville had left a good deal of debility, and I determined on resting a day or two- at Augusta. I had brought several letters, which I despatched, and was rather surprised to find that one of them was addressed to the landlord of the tavern in which I had taken up my abode. The best introduction to people of this class is generally a well-filled pocket; but it is only fair to state, that my letter did for me, what money most probably would not. Mine host was in the highest degree civil, placed me at dinner on his right hand, was particularly attentive to the condition of my plate, and when I ordered wine, gave me, I do believe, one of the very best bottles in his cellar. He likewise conveyed me in his carriage to visit
277a military station in the neighbourhood, and from the respect paid him by the officers, I concluded that he of the Red Lion was a topping man in the place.
From Augusta, I should have gone down the river to Savannah, but the steamer was not to sail for five days, and I determined on proceeding by coach direct to Charleston. We had not advanced above a few miles, when a dreadful storm came on. The thunder was very loud, and the rain very heavy, but in the course of an hour or two the sky was again clear, and we at least enjoyed the benefit of travelling without dust. Our route lay through a succession of swamps and pine forests. Here and there was a rice or cotton plantation, which scarcely contributed to diminish the dreariness of the prospect.
We travelled all night, and at two o'clock on the following day reached the Ashley river, within sight of Charleston. Unfortunately, the wind was too high for crossing, and till nine at night we were forced to remain in the ferry-house, where seventeen of us were crammed together in one miserable apartment.
278What we should do for the night became matter of puzzle, but luckily the wind lulled, and the appearance of the ferry-boat put an end to our perplexities.
Every Englishman who visits Charleston will, if he be wise, direct his baggage to be conveyed to Jones's hotel. It is a small house, but every thing is well managed, and the apartments are good. Our party at dinner did not exceed ten, and there was no bolting or scrambling. Jones is a black man, and must have prospered in the world, for I learned he was laid up with gout, — the disease of a gentleman.
The pleasure of getting into such a house, — of revisiting the glimpses of clean tablecloths and silver forks, — of exchanging salt pork and greasy corn cakes, for a table furnished with luxuries of all sorts, — was very great. For a day or two, I experienced a certain impulse to voracity, by no means philosophical; and, sooth to say, after the privations of a journey from New Orleans, the luxury of Jones's iced claret might have converted even Diogenes into a gourmet.
Except New Orleans, Charleston is the only place I saw in the Southern States, which at all realizes our English ideas of a city. It was quite a relief, after the miserable towns I had lately passed through, to get into one bearing the impress of what — in the United States at least — may be called respectable antiquity. The public buildings are very good; and though the streets, separately taken, had nothing handsome about them, the city presents an appearance of bustle and animation which tends to redeem minor defects. The greater part of the houses are of brick, and there are many buildings of pretensions equal to any in the Union. A considerable number of the better houses are decorated by gardens, stocked with orange-trees, the pride of India, and a variety of flowering shrubs.
The city stands on an isthmus formed by two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, The interior abounds in pestilential marshes, which are found to be happily adapted for the cultivation of rice, and the soil, in drier situations, produces excellent cotton. These articles constitute the staples of South Carolina, and the expenditure of human life in their
280cultivation is very great. The miasma generated by the rice grounds is peculiarly fatal. The slaves are forced to brave it, but at the expense of health and strength. They die — fortunately, perhaps — before their time, and yet "so slowly that the world cannot call it murder."
In point of climate, I believe Charleston is fully worse than New Orleans. In the latter, Creoles are entirely exempt from the ravages of the prevailing endemic. But in Charleston, there is no impunity for any class. Even native Carolinians die of fever as well as their neighbours. The chances are that if a person from the country, however acclimated, sleeps in Charleston even for a night, at a certain season of the year, he catches the fever. Should a person living in the city pass a day with his friend in the country, there is not a doctor in the place, who, on his return, would not consider him in a state of peril. In short, the people of Charleston pass their lives in endeavouring to escape from a pursuer who is sure to overtake the fugitive at last. At one season, the town is unhealthy; and all who can afford it, fly to their estates. At another, the country
281is unhealthy, and they take up their abode in the pine barrens. From the pine barrens, they venture back into the town, from which, in a short time, they are again expelled.
In New Orleans, a man runs a certain risk, and has done with it. If he live, he continues to eat crawfish in a variety of savoury preparations. If he die, the crawfish eat him without cookery of any sort. He has no fear of dining with his friend in the country at any season of the year. But in Charleston, a man must be continually on the alert; for, go where he may, there is fever at his heels. This continual dodging with death strikes me as very disagreeable; and if compelled to fix my residence in either city, I should certainly choose New Orleans in preference. This, however, is mere matter of taste.
I was unfortunate in the time of my visit to Charleston. On the day after my arrival, I sent round a considerable number of letters, but found almost every body out of town. Of the society of Charleston, therefore, I can say little from personal observation.
But I have been assured from various quarters that it is very agreeable, and have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statement.
Finding Charleston in this deserted state, I at once determined on returning to New York, It had been my intention to perform the journey by land, but I was assured there was no object which would repay the inconveniences of the journey. The scenery was precisely similar to that of which I had already seen so much; the people not materially different; and I confess I had become sick to the very soul, of stagecoach travelling in the south.
My plans, however, were yet undecided, when, walking along one of the quays, I saw the blue Peter flying from the topmast head of a New York packet. The temptation was irresistible. I went on board, secured berths, and in less than an hour bade farewell to Charleston from the deck of the Saluda.
During my hurried progress through the Southern States, I was rarely brought into contact with men of opulence and intelligence. Indeed I much question whether Alabama and Georgia possess any considerable class of gentlemen, in the sense in which
283that term is applicable to the better order of the inhabitants of the northern cities. But in South Carolina it is otherwise. There is a large body of landed proprietors, who are men of education and comparative refinement; and who, though publicly advocating the broadest principles of democracy, are in private life aristocratic and exclusive. Like the Virginians, they are of blood purely English, and disposed to relinquish no claim, which a descent from several generations of respectable ancestors can be understood to confer.
The poles are not more diametrically opposed, than a native of the States south of the Potomac, and a New-Englander. They differ in every thing of thought, feeling, and opinion. The latter is a man of regular and decorous habits, shrewd, intelligent, and persevering; phlegmatic in temperament, devoted to the pursuits of gain, and envious of those who are more successful than himself. The former — I speak of the opulent and educated — is distinguished by a high-mindednesa, generosity, and hospitality, by no means predicable of his more eastern neighbours. He values money only for the enjoyments it can
284procure, is fond of gaiety, given to social pleasures, somewhat touchy and choleric, and as eager to avenge an insult as to show a kindness. To fight a duel in the New England States would, under almost any circumstances, be disgraceful. To refuse a challenge, to tolerate even an insinuation derogatory from personal honour, would be considered equally so in the South.
In point of manner, the Southern gentlemen are decidedly superior to all others of the Union. Being more dependent on social intercourse, they are at greater pains perhaps to render it agreeable. There is more spirit and vivacity about them, and far less of that prudent caution, which, however advantageous on the exchange, is by no means prepossessing at the dinner-table, or in the drawing-room. When at Washington, I was a good deal thrown into the society of members from the South, and left it armed, by their kindness, with a multitude of letters, of which I regret that my hurried progress did not permit me to avail myself. Many of them were men of much accomplishment, and I think it probable that Englishmen
285unconnected with business would generally prefer the society of gentlemen of this portion of the Union to any other which the country affords.
In passing the bar, the Saluda unfortunately ran aground, but was soon floated by the returning tide. No other accident occurred. Our voyage was prosperous, and the pleasure of inhaling the pure sea-breeze, instead of an atmosphere poisoned by marsh exhalations, very great. In six days, I had the satisfaction of again finding myself at New York.
IN one respect New York was somewhat different from what I remembered it. The gay season had passed. There were no routs, no balls, few parties of any sort; all was gravity and family seclusion. Some families had removed to the country; others were preparing for a trip to Canada or Boston. Still I had the good fortune to encounter many of my former friends, with whom I enjoyed the pleasure of renewing my intercourse.
I believe this pleasure, unsupported by reasons of greater cogency, made me imagine a fortnight's breathing time to be necessary, between the journey just accomplished, and that which I yet meditated to Niagara and Quebec. Nothing of any consequence,
287however, occurred during this interval; and as I always found the flight of time to be unusually rapid at New York, the period fixed for departure soon came.
On the 30th of May I ran up the Hudson to West Point, about fifty miles from New York. The scenery, now clad in all the verdure of summer, certainly transcended every thing I had ever seen on a scale so extensive. What struck me as chiefly admirable, was the fine proportion of the different features of the landscape. Taken separately, they were not much. Every one has seen finer rocks and loftier mountains, and greater magnificence of forest scenery, but the charm lay in the combination, in that exquisite harmony of detail which produces — if I may so write — a synthetic beauty of the highest order.
But the joint force, and full result of all."
The Hudson, in truth, is one of nature's felicities. Every thing is in its proper place, and of the dimensions most proper to contribute to the general effect. Add elevation to the mountains, and the consequence
288of the river would be diminished. Increase the expanse of the river, and you impair the grandeur of the mountains. As it is, there is perfect subordination of parts, and the result is something on which the eye loves to gaze, and the heart to meditate, which tinges our dreams with beauty, and often in distant lands will recur, unbidden, to the imagination.
At West Point is a national establishment for the education of young men destined for the army. I had letters to Colonel Thayer, the commandant, a clever and intelligent officer, who has made it his pleasure, as well as his business, to acquire an intimate knowledge of tactic in all its branches. By him, I was conducted over the establishment, and in the system of discipline and education found much to approve. The cadets wear uniform, and are habitually inured to the disagreeables — so I remember I used to think them — of garrison duty. In the evening the young gentlemen displayed their proficiency in practical gunnery, and with some light pieces made several good shots at a target across the river. The distance, I believe, was about eight hundred yards. The guns, however, were not served in
289a military manner, nor with that speed and regularity which are essential to the practical efficiency of the arm.
I may also observe, that the carriage of the cadets was less soldier-like than might be wished. In most of them, I remarked a certain slouch about the shoulders, which demanded the judicious application of back boards and dumb bells. But, in truth, the remark is applicable to the whole population. Colonel Thayer himself is almost the only man whom I chanced to encounter in my travels, who appeared to me to possess any thing of the true military bearing. In him it was perfect. I believe he might brave the criticism of a Sergeant-Major of the Guards.
Having passed a pleasant day at West Point, I proceeded to Dr Hosack's, about thirty miles distant. I had before visited Hyde Park in the depth of winter, I now beheld its fine scenery adorned by the richest luxuriance of verdure. Poet or painter could desire nothing more beautiful. There are several villas in the neighbourhood tenanted by very agreeable families, and had it been necessary to eat lotus
290in the United States, I should certainly have selected Hyde Park as the scene of my repast. But I had determined on returning to England in the course of the summer, and was therefore anxious to proceed on my journey. On the third day, I bade farewell to my kind friends — for so I trust they will permit me to call them — and again embarked on the Hudson.
The scenery above Hyde Park assumes a new character. The river leads through a gently undulating country, and its banks present a succession of agreeable villas. I passed the Catskill mountains with regret. Their aspect is fine and commanding, and I was assured the views from the summit are very splendid. I was yet undecided whether I should visit them, when a summons to dinner occasioned an adjournment of the debate. When I returned to the deck, we had passed the Catskill landing-place, and I continued my route to Albany.
Albany is the capital of the State of New York. It is finely situated on the brow of a hill which rises from the margin of the river. On the summit stands the State-house, grandiloquently called the
291Capitol, a building of some extent but no beauty. None of the public buildings present any thing remarkable, but the town has an antique appearance, rare in this country, and contains some of the primitive and picturesque buildings erected by the Dutch settlers. The streets struck me as being particularly clean, and the general aspect of the place is pleasing.
I had heard much of a Shaker village in the neighbourhood, and the day following being Sunday, I drove to it with the view of seeing their form of worship. The name of this peaceful settlement is Niskayuma, and its inhabitants possess a valuable estate of about two thousand acres, which their labour has brought into high cultivation. These simple enthusiasts hold every thing in common, and their tenets, so far as I could understand them, are curious enough.
Anne Lee, a woman who came to America many years ago, and brought with her the gift of tongues and of prophecy, is the object of peculiar veneration. With such evidences of inspiration, she of course became the founder of a sect. Though herself
292the wife of an honest blacksmith, Mrs Lee inculcated the indispensable necessity of absolute and entire celibacy, which, on spiritual grounds, she maintained to be essential to salvation. Sensual enjoyment of every kind was expressly forbidden, and though such tenets were little calculated to allure the fair or the young, Mother Anne contrived to gather about her a society of disappointed maidens and withered bachelors, — of all, in short, who, having survived the age of passion, were content to make a merit of resigning pleasures in which they could no longer participate. The number of her followers was increased by the accession of a few less antiquated enthusiasts, and an occasional accouchement among the fair sisterhood affords matter of jest to the profane. Mother Anne has long gone the way of all flesh, but her memory is yet "green in the souls" of her followers, who speak of her as a pure incarnation of the Divine Spirit.
When I arrived, public worship had already commenced, and the congregation were engaged in singing. The music was monotonous, and the words nonsense, or something nearly approaching it. The
293men were drawn up on one side of the chapel and the women on the other. The latter were the veriest scarecrows I had ever seen in the female form. They were old and cadaverous, with the exception of one bright-eyed girl, whose expression bespoke a temperament little fitted for the ascetic abstinence of her sect. The men were poor-looking creatures enough, but their appearance, on the whole, was a little better than that of the women.
Both, however, were critically clean. The men were without coats, but rejoiced in snuff-coloured waistcoats and unimaginables, and white neckcloths. The charms of the women were displayed in grey gowns, and white muslin handkerchiefs, and caps nicely plaited.
The singing concluded, we had something like a sermon. One of the brethren advanced to the centre of the room or chapel, and commenced in a calm deliberate tone, as follows: —
"We can do nothing of ourselves. Every thing good in us is the gift of God. Yet man is very fond of relying on himself and his own efforts, and almost all those who have been distinguished by spiritual
294gifts, through all the ages of the world, have had this grand defect in their character. But the truth is, my brethren, we are all helpless without the gift of grace, and if we, who have separated ourselves from the world, retiring from its temptations, and renouncing its pomps and vices, find ground for spiritual pride in this devotion of ourselves to the service of God, we are guilty of a very great sin, and a sin more unpardonable in us than others, because our light is greater. I would impress this on you, therefore, not to be vainglorious on account of the favour you have found in the sight of God, but to go on steadily, humbly, gratefully, and submissively, looking neither to the right hand nor the left, remembering always that your kingdom is not of this world, but of another and a better. Thank God for all his mercies, my brethren, but be not therefore puffed up."
After this we had another song, quite as nonsensical as the former, which was followed by a second discourse. The preacher on this occasion was a fat jolly-looking man, whose comfortable plight formed something of a contrast with the mummy-like aspect of his brethren. The only remarkable portion of
295the discourse was the peroration, in which he addressed himself particularly to those, who, like myself, had visited the meeting from motives of mere curiosity.
"Strangers, I would address myself to you. What motives brought you to this place of worship, I know not. Some may have come to join in our devotions, but the greater part of you, I fear, have come only to see the peculiarities of our worship. To this we do not object. We court no concealment in any thing we do, but we demand of you in return, that you offer no indecent interruption to our religious solemnities. I beseech you to remember that we are Christians like yourselves — that we are engaged in offering adoration to the great God who fashioned us all as we are. If you do not respect us, respect yourselves; and however ridiculous our forms may appear to you, we entreat that you will at least not interrupt our devotional exercises by any demonstration of contempt."
After such an appeal it became impossible for the most graceless spectator to offer any thing like insult to these simple fanatics. During the dance which
296followed, however, I confess I had a good deal of difficulty in maintaining due composure. On a given signal the whole congregation began singing and dancing with all their vigour. I observed that the more youthful and active introduced a few supererogatory gyrations, which were not attempted by the senior members; and one boy in particular signalized himself by a series of spirited saltations, not very dissimilar to the Highland fling. My attention, too, was attracted by the two preachers, who, though somewhat fallen into "the sere, the yellow leaf," kept capering about with the lightness and grace of cart-horses, till the very end of the performance.
The dance lasted for about a quarter of an hour, and I could not help sympathizing with the suffering performers. The weather was intensely hot, and the whole corps de ballet were thrown by their movements into a state of the most profuse perspiration. This circumstance produced a change in the condition of the atmosphere by no means pleasant, and, without waiting the conclusion of the service, I took my departure.
From the Shaker settlement I drove to the
297Cohoes Falls, about five miles distant. The Mohawk, a river about as large as the Severn, comes foaming down, throws itself over a precipice of about seventy feet with great majesty, and then flows calmly onward to its confluence with the Hudson. The eight was very noble, and after enjoying it about half an hour, I set out on my return to Albany.
The junction of the Champlain and Erie canals, near Troy, is considered a sight to which the admiration of travellers is justly due. Why, I know not. To my ignorant vision there seemed nothing remarkable. The canals are united, and there is an end of it. Of the amount of difficulties overcome I do not pretend to be qualified to judge.
A little above Troy I observed a crowd collected on the river, and found they were attracted by the ceremony of baptism, which two Baptist clergymen were performing on sundry proselytes. The first subject of immersion was an old lady, whose cold and shivering appearance excited my compassion. She was led in by one of the clergymen till the water reached her middle, when they both — somewhat rudely, I thought — seized the dowager
298by the shoulders, and throwing her hack with a sudden jerk, soused her over head and ears in the water before she seemed aware of their intentions. Luckily, the poor woman escaped absolute suffocation, and with an aspect something like that of a drowned rat, was supported to the shore. Her sufferings, however, did not terminate here. The word snuff was written on the nose of one of the clergymen so legibly, that he who ran might read. I observed that immediately after employing his pocket-handkerchief in its most appropriate function, he applied it to the eyes of the patient matron! This was even worse than the ducking.
At Albany a traveller has the choice of proceeding by stage-coach or canal I preferred the former, and accordingly secured places for Utica. The coach was full, and the heat so excessive, that till we reached Schenectady, I do not know that I ever experienced greater suffering. There, however, our fellow-travellers embarked on the canal, and the rest of the journey was performed in comparative comfort. The road — one of the roughest I ever travelled — winds along the banks of the Mohawk, through
299a country which presents many noble features. In point of cultivation, however, it appeared very inferior to what might be expected in so populous a district. The greater part of the journey was performed by night, yet not in darkness, for we had the light of a brilliant moon, which softened without obscuring the landscape.
About eleven o'clock on the following morning, we reached Utica, a handsome and flourishing town, which exhibits every external mark of prosperity. After dinner I engaged what is called an "extra exclusive" to convey me to Trenton Falls, a distance of fifteen miles. We did not reach Trenton till after nightfall, and I was obliged to delay the gratification of my curiosity till the following morning. The inn, however, was very comfortable, and after the jolting of the previous night, the attractions of clean sheets and a well-stuffed mattrass were by no means inconsiderable. After breakfast on the following morning, I sallied forth to visit the falls. They are formed by the West Canada creek in its passage through a glen or ravine about two miles in length, in the course of which it descends about three
300hundred feet. As may be supposed in such circumstances, the stream rushes onward with great violence. There are several falls, none of which are without beauty, and the whole scenery struck me as bearing strong resemblance to that of Roslin glen, to which, except in romantic associations, it is in nothing inferior.
The fall which pleased me most is one in which the torrent takes a double leap, the last of which is about forty feet. The surrounding rocks are grand and precipitous, and their crevices afford nourishment to trees which are writhed into a thousand fantastic forms. There is one sad drawback, however. At precisely the most beautiful point of the scene there has been erected — what, good reader? — but you will never guess — a dram shop!
How utterly so wild and beautiful a scene is degraded by the presence of a drinking shop may readily be conceived; and the outrage on taste; and even decency, is the more gratuitous, since the spot on which the building is erected is not above a mile from the hotel.
On such occasions one is betrayed unawares into
301writing strongly. But cui bono? A writer may appeal to a moral sense, but he cannot create one; and assuredly the man whose imagination turns to the brandy bottle, even when gazing on the noble scenery of Trenton, will think of it in the death-agony. Being still sore from the jolting of the stage-coach, I determined to proceed by the canal, and at two o'clock on the following day went on board the passage-boat. There were about forty passengers; the heat of the cabin was intolerable. Driven from within, I took a seat on deck, but without diminution of suffering. I found myself exposed to the full fervour of the sun, and the boards were literally burning to the feet. Add to this the nuisance of the numerous bridges, the arches of which are barely high enough to admit the passage of the boat, and leave to the passengers only the option of descending every time they approach one, or of being swept off by a more summary process.
The country through which we passed consisted chiefly of marshy forest, such as I had traversed for many a weary league in the south. Every here and there a town had sprung up in the wilderness, but
302with nothing to interest the spectator, who sees everywhere but one process and one result. He looks for the picturesque, and finds the profitable, and wishes from the bottom of his heart they had been found compatible.
The Americans are dilettanti in nomenclature. In following the course of the Erie Canal, a traveller will pass through Troy, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Manlius, Syracuse, Canton, Jordan, Port Byron, Montezuma, Rome, Smith's, Dumkin's, Carthage, Salina, Rochester, Ogden, Gecldes, and Palmyra. The Eternal City here dwindles into "a half-shire town, which contains a court-house and gaol, and is pleasantly situated on the old canal!" So says the guide-book. Amsterdam is more fortunate, for it boasts "a post-office, a church, and about fifty houses or stores." Palmyra is charmingly located on Mud Creek. Carthage derived its consequence from a bridge which "fell under the pressure of its own weight." The maxim, delenda est Carthago, therefore, is likely to be realized in the new world as well as in the old.
Such absurdities are fair game, for they have their
303origin in vanity. To adorn their cities by monuments of art is an expensive indulgence, from which Americans are content to abstain. But pretension of name costs nothing, and is found everywhere.
During the day the number of passengers increased to about sixty, including twenty ladies; and where this large party were to be stowed for the night, it was not easy to anticipate. In the cabin there was no appearance of sleeping berths by day, but at night ranges of shelves were put up, and the chairs, benches, and tables, were all converted into beds. The portion of the cabin destined for the use of the ladies was obscured from observation by a curtain. In order to prevent partiality, there was a sort of lottery, in which each person drew forth a number which determined his position for the night. Fortune fixed me on the table, and there I lay with the knee of one man thrust directly into my stomach, and with my feet resting upon the head of another. The sheets were offensively dirty, and the blankets not much better.
The Americans dread the circulation of pure air; and those in the vicinity of a window insisted on its
304being closed. Under these circumstances, the atmosphere became not only hot, but poisonous, and the act of inhalation was performed with disgust. Then there were legions of mosquitoes, whose carnival, from the use they made of it, seemed to have been preceded by a lent; and to crown all, at least a dozen noses were snoring bass to an unmelodious treble which proceeded from the ladies' division of the cabin.
One night of this kind was enough; and so, at Montezuma, being anxious to see something of the smaller lakes, of whose beauty I had heard a great deal, I removed into another packet-boat, and diverging into a branch canal which communicates with the Seneca lake, at night found myself in Geneva. The town makes a handsome display on an eminence near the northern extremity of the lake. It contains some three or four thousand inhabitants, several churches, and a school dignified by the name of a college. Near to the lake are a few pretty villas, and in the town a considerable number of respectable houses, built of brick or stone. Geneva is the depot of the produce of the neighbouring country. It comes by
305the lake, and is then embarked on the canal for New York.
Seneca is a fine sheet of water undoubtedly, but its scenery — so far as I saw it — presents nothing of remarkable beauty. It is about forty miles long, with a mean breadth of three or four. It is navigated by a steam-boat, in which, had the weather been cooler, I should probably have made a trip. As it was, the temptations of an arm-chair and a cool veranda were irresistible.
The banks of the Seneca, like those of the Gareloch, have been the chosen seat of miracles. Some years ago, a woman called Jemima Wilson, announced herself as the Saviour of the world, and attracted a few followers somewhat more mad than herself. While her miraculous endowments were displayed only in the jabbering of unknown tongues, and unintelligible predictions, she stood on safe ground, but unluckily her ambition pointed to the honour of more palpable miracles. "Near Rapelyeas ferry," says the Northern Tourist, "the frame is still standing which Jemima constructed to try the faith of her followers. Having approached within a few
306hundred yards of the shore, she alighted from an elegant carriage, and the road being strewed by her followers with white handkerchiefs, she walked to the platform, and having announced her intention of walking across the lake on the water, she stepped ankle-deep into the clear element, when suddenly pausing, she addressed the multitude, enquiring whether they had faith that she could pass over, for if otherwise, she could not; and on receiving an affirmative answer, returned to her carriage, declaring, that as they believed in her power, it was unnecessary to display it." Miss Campbell, I believe, with similar pretensions, has been equally prudent in putting them to the proof.
On the night following, I left Geneva, by the Rochester stage. By day-dawn, we reached Canandaigua, which stands at the northern extremity of a beautiful lake, of which I caught a few glimpses in the moonshine. Canandaigua is a pretty village, and certainly the situation has a good deal of charm. More attention seems to have been paid here than elsewhere, to external decoration. The better houses are surrounded by ornamental trees, and the
307number of these is so considerable as to give a character to the place. In general, however, I have not been struck with, what in this country are called, "beautiful villages." These consist almost uniformly of rows of white framework houses, with green blinds and shutters; but they are flimsy in point of material, and the colours are too glaring to harmonize with the surrounding scenery.
We reached Rochester under the influence of a burning sun. The hotel was excellent, and the luxury of cold baths, and the civility of the landlord, induced me to delay progress till the following day. In the cool of the evening, I strolled out to see the falls of the Genesee. The height of the uppermost is considerable, being about ninety feet, and the water rushes over it gracefully enough, but the vicinity of sundry saw and corn mills has destroyed the romantic interest which invested it in the days when "the cataract blew his trumpet from the steep," amid the stillness of the surrounding forest.
The old proverb de gustibus, &c. receives illustration in every country. An eccentric man, called Sam Patch, having an aversion to honest industry,
308made it his profession to jump over all the waterfalls in the country. Niagara was too much for him, but he sprang from a lofty rock, some distance below the Horse-shoe fall, with impunity. His last jump was at the fall I have just described of the Genesee, in the autumn of 1829. From a scaffold elevated twenty-five feet above the table rock, making a descent altogether of a hundred and twenty-five feet, he fearlessly plunged into the boiling cauldron beneath. From the moment of his immersion, he was seen no more. His body was not discovered for many months, and was at length found at the mouth of the river, six miles below.
Rochester is a place worth seeing. Twenty years ago there was not a house in the neighbourhood, and now there is a town, containing thirteen thousand good Americans and true, with churches, banks, theatres, and all other oppidan appurtenances to match. Such growth is more like forcing in a hotbed, than the natural progress of human vegetation. For a great deal of its prosperity, Rochester is indebted to the Erie canal, which brought its advantageous proximity to Lake Ontario into full play.
The canal runs through the centre of the town, and crosses the Genesee by an aqueduct which, according to the Northern Tourist, "cost rising of 80,000 dollars," whatever sum that may amount to. There are several streets in Rochester which might be backed at reasonable odds against any in Hull or Newcastle, to say nothing of Cork, Falmouth, or Berwick-upon-Tweed. The appearance of the shops indicates the prevalence of respectable opulence. Those of the jewellers display a stock of Paris trinkets and silver snuff-boxes. There are silks and Leghorn bonnets for the seduction of the ladies, and the windows of the tailors are adorned by coloured prints of gentlemen in tight fitting, swallow tails, with the epigraph, "New York fashions for May."
After passing a comfortable day and night in the Eagle tavern, which I strongly recommend to all future travellers, I took my departure from Rochester in the Lockport stage. We travelled by the "ridge road," which is composed of hard sand, and extends along what has evidently in former times been the embankment of Ontario. This ridge road, therefore, is entirely of nature's making, and I
310shall die in the belief that it is the very best in the United States. The coach rolled on as smoothly as it could have done between London and St Albans, and I began to think of reading, to have attempted which, in other portions of my peregrination, would have been strongly indicative of insanity.
I am aware of little which merits record in the journey to Lockport, except the unwonted luxury in which it was performed. Towards evening, we passed a camp meeting, to which several of the passengers directed their steps, and which, under other circumstances, I should have been glad to visit. We passed also several parties of what were called Mormonites, going to join a settlement established by their founder, in Ohio. Relative to this sect, of which I had never before heard, I gleaned the following particulars from one of the passengers. A bankrupt store-keeper, whose name I think was Smith, had an extraordinary dream. It directed him to go alone to a particular spot, distinctly indicated, where he was to dig to a certain depth. This dream was of course treated as a mere delusion, and, as is usual in such cases, was thrice repeated,
311with denunciation of heavy punishment in case of disobedience.
In this emergency, Smith judged it more prudent to shoulder his spade, than by further obstinacy to excite the vengeance of some unearthly intelligence. Having dug to the requisite depth in the place commanded, he found a book with golden clasps and cover, and a pair of elegantly mounted spectacles, somewhat old-fashioned to be sure, but astonishing magnifiers, and possessing qualities which it might puzzle Sir David Brewster to explain on optical principles.
Smith had some difficulty in undoing the clasps of this precious volume, but on opening it, though his eyes were good, it appeared to contain nothing but blank paper. It then occurred to him to fit on his spectacles, when, lo! The whole volume was filled with certain figures and pot-hooks to him unintelligible. Delighted with his good fortune, Smith trudged home with the volume in his pocket and the spectacles on his nose, happy as bibliomaniac who has been lucky enough to purchase some rare Edilio Princeps "clog cheap" from the ignorant proprietor
312of an obscure bookstall. On reaching his own house, his first care was to secure his miraculous treasures from profane observation; his second, to copy out a page or two of the characters, and look about for an interpreter. His search was long fruitless, but at length he hit on precisely the two individuals who were qualified conjointly for the office. One of these gentlemen possessed the faculty of reading the hieroglyphics, and the other of interpreting them. It then appeared that the volume in question was entitled the book of Mormon, a converted Rabbi, who flourished in the days of our Saviour, or shortly after, and who, by the aid of divine inspiration, wrote the treatise in question in elucidation of all the dark points of religion which, to the present day, continue to puzzle theologians.
Smith's worldly prospects now brightened. With this invaluable treatise in his strong box, he commenced business afresh, under the firm of Mormon, Smith, and Co, and appears to possess an unlimited credit on the credulity of his followers. He has set up an establishment something similar to that of Mr
313Owen, and already boasts a considerable number of opulent believers.
We slept at Lockport, in a dirty and uncomfortable tavern. In the morning we were again in motion. At Lewiston, a village on the frontier, I quitted the stage, and despatched a messenger across the river to secure an extra exclusive for Niagara. The delay occasioned by breakfast to an impatient traveller is generally not great, and entering the ferry-boat, I soon found myself once more on British ground. At Queenston, judging from their accent, the majority of the inhabitants are Scotch; and certainly to my ear the Doric of my country never sounded so musical before. About a mile from the landing place, are the heights of Queenston, which, during the late war, were gallantly and successfully, defended by a small body of British, under Sir Isaac Brock, against an American force nearly ten times their number. The latter, however, consisted chiefly of militia; and had the achievement not unfortunately been rendered memorable by the death of the British leader, it would probably, like most other events
314of the war, have been forgotten. Its memory, however, has been perpetuated by the erection of a trophy column on the summit of the height. It is composed of freestone, and about a hundred-and-twenty feet high. I am not sure that in point of architecture it is quite faultless. The shaft struck me as wanting height in proportion to its diameter, and the general outline somewhat resembles that of an apothecary's phial. Were it surmounted by a statue, the effect would undoubtedly be improved.
The Niagara at Queenston is about a quarter of a mile broad; the current is rapid, and the depth very great, — not less, I believe, than two hundred feet. The colour of the water is a nondescript and very beautiful shade between azure and green. The banks for several miles are high and precipitous, and covered with the primeval forest.
Having reached Queenston, horses were immediately harnessed to a light open carriage, and we rattled off. The distance is about seven miles, and the road very tolerable. As we advanced, both eye and ear were awake to detect indication of our increasing proximity to the Falls. At length a cloud
315of white vapour, rising high above the foliage of the distant forest, announced the situation of the great cataract. Shortly after, I could detect a hollow rumbling sound like that of thunder; but though the distance was every instant diminishing, it did not proportionately increase in loudness or intensity.
About twelve o'clock I found myself in Forsyth's hotel, a large and not uncomfortable house, about half-a-mile distant from the Great Horse-shoe Fall. It stands upon a high level of table land, and from the upper balcony the Falls are distinctly visible. To a stranger visiting Niagara for the first time, I do not know that this circumstance is very desirable, and I confess the view did in my own case carry with it something of disappointment. The truth is, that from Forsyth's you see the upper portion of the Fall; but at least one half of the descent, the boiling cauldron below, and the impenetrable mass of vapour with which it is sublimely and mysteriously encanopied, you do not see.
No sooner had I reached the hotel, than the morning, which had been louring with dark and threatening clouds, set in with an absolute tempest of wind
316and rain. It was impossible to rest, however, before gazing on the great wonder which I had travelled so far to behold; so throwing on my cloak, I sallied forth, bidding defiance to the elements. The banks which descend to the bed of the river were very steep, and so slippery, that I encountered more than one tumble in my progress. But this was nothing; and most amply was I repaid for all the troubles of my journey, when in a few minutes I found myself standing on the very brink of this tremendous yet most beautiful cataract.
The spot from which I first beheld it was the Table rock, and of the effect produced by the overwhelming sublimity of the spectacle, it is not possible to embody in words any adequate description. The spectator at first feels as if stricken with catalepsy. His blood ceases to flow, or rather is sent back in overpowering pressure on the heart. He gasps, "like a drowning man," to catch a mouthful of breath. "All elements of soul and sense" are absorbed in the magnitude and glory of one single object. The past and future are obliterated, and he stands mute and powerless, in the presence
317of that scene of awful splendour on which his gaze is riveted.
In attempting to convey to those who have never visited the Falls, any notion of the impression which they produce, I believe it impossible to escape the charge of exaggeration. The penalty is one which I am prepared to pay. But the objects presented by Niagara are undoubtedly among those which exercise a permanent influence on the imagination of the spectator. The day — the hour — the minute — when his eye first rested on the Great Horse-shoe Fall, is an epoch in the life of any man. He gazes on a scene of splendour and sublimity far greater than the unaided fancy of poet or painter ever pictured. He has received an impression which time cannot diminish, and death only can efface. The results of that single moment will extend through a lifetime, enlarge the sphere of thought, and influence the whole tissue of his moral being.
I remained on the Table rock till drenched to the skin, and still lingered in the hope that some flash of the lightning — which had become very vivid — might disclose the secrets of the cloudy and mysterious
318cauldron, into which the eye vainly endeavoured to penetrate. But I was disappointed. Far overhead the fearful revelry of the elements still continued; but the lightning seemed to shun all approach to an object of sublimity equal to its own.
My window in the hotel commanded a view of the Falls, and their deep and hollow roar was at all times distinctly audible. I mention this, because, during the whole period of my stay, the circumstance was accompanied by serious annoyance. At night it was impossible to enjoy any thing which could be called sleep. Whenever I closed my eyes, there was a torrent foaming before them. Amid the darkness of midnight I was still gazing on the Horse-shoe, and the noise of the cataract, mingling with these visions of a perturbed imagination, contributed to keep up the delusion. My dreams were of rapids and waterfalls, and the exhaustion produced by this state of continual fever became so great, that by day I often wandered to the quiet recesses of the forest, where, undisturbed by the din of waters, I might enjoy a comfortable nap.
On the day after my arrival, the weather having
319fortunately become fine, my hours were devoted to the Horse-shoe, which I viewed from every favourable point. About half a mile below, there is a shantee or log tavern, where brandy is attainable by gentlemen of sluggish temperament, who, surrounded by such objects, still require the stimulus of alcohol. From this tavern there is a circular wooden stair which leads down into the bed of the river, and on descending, I found myself at once immersed in a region of eternal moisture. By dint of scrambling along the debris of the overhanging rocks, I contrived to approach within a short distance of the Fall; and so powerful is the impression here produced, that a considerable time elapses before the spectator can command his faculties in a sufficient degree to examine its details. He stands amid a whirlwind of spray, and the gloom of the abyss, the dark firmament of rock which threatens destruction to the intruder, the terrors of the descending torrent, the deep thunder of its roar, and the fearful convulsion of the waters into which it falls, constitute the features of a scene, the sublimity of which undoubtedly extends to the very verge of horror.
The epithet of "the Horse-shoe" is no longer applicable to the greater Fall. In the progress of those changes which are continually taking place from the attrition of the cataract, it has assumed a form which I should describe as that of a semi-hexagon. The vast body of water in the centre of this figure, descends in one unbroken sheet of vivid green, and contrasts finely with the awful perturbation of the cauldron. But towards either extremity it is different. The water there, at the very commencement of its descent, is shivered into particles inconceivably minute, and assumes a thousand beautiful forms of spires and pinnacles, radiant with prismatic colours.
In the vast receptacle beneath, the water is so comminuted, and blended with air carried down by the cascade — probably to the depth of many hundred feet — that none but substances of the greatest buoyancy could possibly float on it. The appearance of the surface is very remarkable. It is that of finely triturated silver, in which, though the particles are in close proximity, there is no amalgamation. The whole mass is in convulsive and furious agitation,
321and continues so until, having receded to a considerable distance, the commotion gradually diminishes, and the water reassumes its ordinary appearance.
It is possible to advance to a considerable distance behind the cascade, and I determined to accomplish the achievement. Having marshalled my energies for the undertaking, I continued to advance, but the tempest of dense spray became suddenly so violent as apparently to preclude the possibility of further progress. I was driven back several yards, half suffocated and entirely blinded. But the guide encouraged me to proceed, and accordingly, Teucro duce, I made another and more successful effort. Having penetrated behind the Fall, the only footing was a ledge of rock about two feet broad, which was occasionally narrowed by projections in the face of the cliff. But even under these circumstances the undertaking is one of difficulty, rather than of danger. A great portion of the air carried down by the cataract is immediately disengaged, and the consequence is, that an intruder has to encounter a strong breeze which blows upwards from the cauldron, and sometimes even dashes him with unpleasant
322violence against the rock along which he is scrambling. As a practical illustration of this, our conductor plunged fearlessly down the precipitous rock to the very edge of the gulf, and was immediately blown back, with little effort of his own, to our narrow pathway.
At length, having advanced about fifty yards, the guide informed me that further progress was impossible. I had certainly no objection to retrace my steps, for my lungs played with extreme difficulty, and the hurricane of wind and spray seemed to threaten utter extinction of sight. It was impossible, however, to depart without gazing on the wonder I had visited. Far overhead was a canopy of rock; behind the perpendicular cliff. In front, the cascade — a glorious curtain — seemed to hang between us and the world. One's feelings were those of a prisoner. But never, surely, was there so magnificent a dungeon!
The noise of the great cataract is certainly far less than might be expected. Even at its very brink, conversation may be carried on without any considerable elevation of the voice. The sound
323is that of thunder in its greatest intensity, deep, unbroken, and unchanging. There is no hissing nor splashing; nothing which breaks sharply on the ear; nothing which comes in any degree into collision with the sounds of earth or air. Nothing extrinsic can either add to, or diminish its volume. It mingles with no other voice, and it absorbs none. It would be heard amid the roaring of a volcano, and yet does not drown the chirping of a sparrow.
Visitors generally wish, however, for a greater crash on the tympanum, for something to stun and stupify, and return home complaining that Niagara is less noisy than Trenton or the Cohoes. This is a mistake. The volume of sound produced by the Horse-shoe Fall, is far greater than they ever heard before, or probably will ever hear again. When the atmosphere is in a condition favourable to act as a conductor of sound, it may be heard at a distance of fifteen, and even twenty miles. A passenger in the coach, who lived six miles beyond Lewiston, assured me, that in particular states of the barometer, the noise was there distinctly perceptible. But it should be remembered that the
324great body of sound is generated in a cavern far below the level of the surrounding country, and fenced in on three sides by walls of perpendicular rock. The noise vibrates from side to side of this sunless cavity, and only a small portion escapes into the upper air, through the dense canopy of spray and vapour by which it is overhung. As an experiment, I employed a man to fire a musket below, while I stood on the Table rock. The report was certainly audible, but scarcely louder than that of a popgun.
Having devoted three days to the Horse-shoe, I rode up the river to survey its course above the Falls. Shortly after issuing from Lake Erie, the Niagara is divided by a huge island about seven miles in length. Lower is another island, of smaller dimensions, and having passed these, the river is about two miles in breadth, and tranquil as a lake. At Chippewa, about three miles above the Falls, navigation terminates. A short distance below, the stream evidently begins to accelerate its motion. There are no waves, however, nor is there any violent agitation of the current; nothing, in short,
325which seems to presage the scene of terrific agitation so soon to ensue. Further down is Goat Island, which divides the river into two branches, and forms the separation between the Falls. It is at the higher extremity of this island, that the rapids commence.
The grandeur of these rapids is worthy of the cataracts in which they terminate. In the greater branch, the river comes foaming down with prodigious impetuosity, and presents a surface of agitated billows, dashing wildly through the rocks and islands. This scene of commotion continues till within about thirty yards of the Fall. There the great body of the stream resumes its tranquillity, and in solemn grandeur descends into the cloudy and unfathomable abyss. Never was there a nobler prelude to a sublime catastrophe!
I at length crossed to the American side. If there were no Horse-shoe Fall, the American would be the wonder of the world. Seen from below it is very noble. The whole body of water is at once shattered into foam, and comes down in a thousand feathery and fantastic shapes, which, in a bright sunshine — as I beheld them — were resplendently beautiful.
But the form of the American fall is unfortunate. A straight line is never favourable to beauty, and the cataract descends, not into a dark abyss of convulsed and fathomless waters, but amid fragments of rock, from which it again rushes onward to the main bed of the river. In short, a traveller from the Canadian side has very little disposable admiration to lavish on this splendid object, and generally regards it with a cold and negligent eye.
In order to reach Goat Island, it is necessary to cross two bridges. One of these certainly is a very remarkable work. It leads across a rapid of tremendous velocity, and does honour to the engineer by whom it was constructed. Goat Island is covered with wood, and by the public spirit of its proprietor, General Porter, has been intersected with walks, trending to the different points from which the finest views may be commanded. From this island, a bridge — or rather pier — has been erected, which leads the spectator to a point where the frail structure on which he stands is directly over the great abyss of the Horse-shoe. As a trial of nerve, this is very well. The man, assuredly, has strong ones, who,
327from the extremity of this platform, can look beneath without quivering in every muscle. The prevailing feeling is that of horror, and a spectator partial to inordinate excitement, may here get enough of it. But his eye can rest only on a small portion of the Fall, and the position is decidedly unfavourable for pictorial effect.
The bridge is but a fragile structure, and vibrates with every motion, especially at the extremity where it is necessarily without support. I stood there for about a quarter of an hour, and should probably have remained longer, but the near approach of a gentleman, whose dimensions indicated a weight of twenty stone, induced me to retrace my steps with all convenient speed.
In the neighbourhood of the Falls, one can think of nothing else. They affect all thoughts and impulses, the waking reverie, and the midnight dream. Every day of my stay it was the same. Scarcely was breakfast concluded, when, putting a book in my pocket, I sallied down to the river, to lose and neglect the creeping hours of time, in the neighbourhood of the Horse-shoe. About a quarter of a mile
328above, the stream had deposited a number of huge trees, and I employed several men to launch them successively into the stream, while I stood on the extreme point of the Table rock to observe their descent. One by one, the vast masses — each fit for the mast of "some high ammiral" — came floating down, sometimes engulfed in the foaming eddies, sometimes driven with fury against the rocks, and then rushing onward with increased velocity, till, reaching the smooth water, the forest giants were floated slowly onward to the brink of the precipice, when they were seen no more.
Nothing which enters the awful cauldron of the Fall, is ever seen to emerge from it. Of three gunboats which, some years after the termination of the war, were sent over the Falls, one fragment only, about a foot in length, ever was discovered. It was found near Kingston, about a month after the descent of the vessels.
The country around Niagara is picturesque, and in a fine state of cultivation. English habits of agriculture evidently prevail. There is a greater appearance of neatness than I have seen anywhere in the United States. The fences are in excellent order,
330and the fields are not disfigured by stumps of decaying timber. The farms are in general large; many contain two hundred acres of cleared land, and their owners are reputed wealthy. I dined with one of these gentlemen, and found comfort combined with hospitality. But of the lower orders in the Upper Province, it is impossible to speak favourably. They have all the disagreeable qualities of the Americans, with none of that energy, and spirit of enterprise, which often convert a bad man into a useful citizen. They are sluggish, obstinate, ignorant, offensive in manner, and depraved in morals, without loyalty and without religion. Of course, in a country to which the tide of emigration sets in so strongly, and
331a mass of imported principle and intelligence is annually mingled with that of native growth, such observations must necessarily be limited in their application. I would be understood, therefore, as speaking chiefly of the older settlers, who consisted in a great measure of the refuse of disbanded regiments, and of adventurers who brought with them neither capital nor character. Of late years Canada has been enriched by the addition of a number of naval and military officers, whom these piping times of peace have left without professional employment. Men of property and enterprise have likewise embarked large sums in the improvement of this fertile region; the expenditure of the British government has enriched the province with works of great splendour and utility; industry is unfettered, taxation almost unknown; and with such elements of prosperity, Canada may now safely be trusted to her own resources.
HAVING passed a week at Niagara, and seen the Falls under every aspect, in cloud and sunshine, in storm and calm, by star and moonlight, I took my departure. About four miles below is a very remarkable whirlpool, which I visited on my way to Fort George. This whirlpool is caused by the protrusion of a bed of rock across the rectilinear course of the river. The stream comes down with great impetuosity, and, when driven back by this obstacle, the current whirls round the basin with prodigious violence, and at length escapes in a direction nearly at right angles with its former course. The water has the appearance of molten lead, and the people in the
333neighbourhood declare that from the eddies of this vortex nothing living can escape. Even boats have been absorbed by them, and, when this happens, there is no possibility of help from the shore. The boat upsets, and the men are drowned; or if not, the boat is kept whirling round with the stream for perhaps a fortnight together, and the men are starved. Such were stated to be the horns of the dilemma.
Fort George is a military station at the mouth of the river, and the works, originally built of turf, have been suffered to go to decay. It is better it should be so, for it would be easy at any time to throw up others, and all immediate expense is avoided. On the opposite side is the American Fort Niagara, which, though built of stone, does not present an aspect much more formidable than its British rival. The latter was garrisoned by a party of the 79th regiment, and I own the pleasure with which I saw, in this remote district, our national flag and uniform, was very great. I no longer felt as a stranger in the land, and caught myself almost unconsciously doing the honours to a very pleasant party of Americans
334whom I accompanied in a ramble through the ruinous entrenchments and dismantled works.
A steam-boat starts daily from Fort George, for York, the capital of Upper Canada. I certainly never made a trip in a more comfortable vessel. It was commanded by a half-pay officer of the navy, and in point of cleanliness and nicety of arrangement, formed a strong contrast to the larger and more splendid vessels of the United States. Our steamer started about twelve o'clock. In five hours we had crossed the extremity of Lake Ontario, and were safely landed in York. In a body of water so extensive, one does not see a great deal of the scenery on shore. I saw enough, however, to convince me that the shores of Ontario are flat and devoid of beauty.
York has few objects to interest a traveller. It stands in a level and marshy country, and contains about five thousand inhabitants. It was once — I believe twice — taken by the Americans during the war, and is in truth a place scarcely capable of defence. There is no commanding point for the erection of a fort or battery; and the only one
335at present existing, could afford very inadequate protection in case of attack. The place, however, is prosperous, and the price of building ground struck me as very high. The Government house is of wood — rather a singular circumstance, since brick is a common building material in the town.
There is a college at York, which seems to be conducted on judicious principles. The public buildings are just what they ought to be, plain and substantial. In passing through the streets, I was rather surprised to observe an affiche intimating that ice creams were to be had within. The weather being hot, I entered, and found the master of the establishment to be an Italian. I never eat better ice at Grange's.
Having passed a day at York, I sailed in a very noble steamer, called the Great Britain, to Prescott, at the northern extremity of the lake. Our day's voyage presented nothing remarkable, but at night it came on to blow very hard, and our vessel, though one of the largest class, kept pitching very disagreeably. In the morning no land was visible, the waves were very high, and Ontario — not unsuccessfully
336— seemed to ape the Atlantic. Towards the middle of the lake the water is of a deep blue colour.
We stopped for an hour at Kingston, a place of considerable population, and certainly far better adapted than York to become the capital of the province. Its situation is so strong, as to afford complete security from a coup de main, and there is a fort which completely commands both town and harbour. In the dockyard there are two seventy-fours on the stocks, the building of which was arrested by the peace.
During the war, Kingston, from its fine harbour, and other natural advantages, was a place of much consequence. Sacketts harbour, the rival American port, is altogether inferior. The manner in which the lake warfare was conducted, affords a fine specimen of the folly and ignorance of a British Government. Frigates were sent out in frame to a country covered with the finest timber, and the mere expense of conveying these from Montreal to Kingston, was far greater than similar vessels could have been built for on the spot. The Navy Board were
337particularly careful that the armaments should not suffer from a deficiency of water-casks, though it was only necessary to drop a bucket to procure water of the finest quality from the lake; and to crown the absurdity, an apparatus for distilling sea water was supplied for each vessel!
Having passed Kingston, we were fairly in the St Lawrence, and the scenery became very striking. Towards evening we passed through that portion of the river called the Lake of the Thousand Isles. Nothing could be more beautiful, when seen in the light of a brilliant sunset. The islands are of all sizes — some only a few yards in extent, others upwards of a mile. One could fancy many of them to be — what they are not — the retreat of innocence and peace. Their number has never been correctly ascertained, but is generally estimated to be near two thousand.
The voyage terminated at a miserable village called Prescott, where we supped, slept, and breakfasted. I had been fortunate in meeting a detachment of the 71st regiment on board the Great Britain,
338who were about to descend the St Lawrence in batteaux to Montreal. The officers obligingly invited me to join their party — an arrangement too agreeable to be declined. The detachment consisted of about fifty men and three officers, and four boats were provided for their accommodation. One of these, intended for the officers, was fitted up with an awning, and by a judicious arrangement of the cloaks and portmanteaus, the whole party were comfortably provided with seats.
About ten o'clock we started. The boatmen were all natives of the Lower province, and spoke English with difficulty. A merrier set of beings it is scarcely possible to imagine. The buoyancy of their spirits was continally finding vent in song or laughter, unless when we approached a rapid, or our commander, tired of the incessant noise, thought proper to enjoin silence.
The rapids of the St Lawrence rank in the first order of sublimities. They are caused by a great contraction and sudden descent in the bed of the river, and are generally accompanied by numerous islands and rocks in the middle of the stream.
The river, thus pent up and obstructed, is thrown into violent perturbation, and rushes onward with tremendous fury, roaring, dashing, and foaming in a manner truly formidable to weak nerves. When one looks at the turbulence of the waters, and the terrific eddies and whirlpools into which they are thrown by the conflict of opposing currents, it at first seems impossible that a boat can escape being dashed to pieces, and in truth it is only by the most skilful pilotage that such a consummation is avoided. The life or death of a party is often decided by a single touch of the helm, and it is occasionally necessary to pass even within a yard or two of a spot where keel never crossed without instant destruction.
On approaching any formidable rapid, all is silent on board. The conductor is at the helm, and each of the crew at his post. All eyes are stead fastly fixed on the countenance of the helmsman, whose commands seldom require to be expressed in words. Every look is understood and obeyed, with the promptitude of men who know their peril. Accidents rarely occur, and in truth the danger is just imminent enough to create a pleasant degree of excitement
340in the voyager. He knows that he is not safe, and that his chances of life depend on the skill and steadiness of the boatmen. The probability of safety, however, greatly preponderates; and the risk of being dashed to mummy on the rocks, though sufficiently strong to excite his imagination, wants power to perturb it.
A few hours after leaving Prescott, we entered the first rapid. It is called the Long Sault, and extends for about nine miles. We did the whole distance in little more than twenty minutes, and at some places our motion seemed rapid as that of a bird. One portion of the rapid, called the Big Pitch, is particularly formidable. The river is there divided by an island into two arms of nearly equal dimensions, and the descent must be very great, for the stream dashes through the rocks with fearful violence, and sends up pyramids of spray.
The chief point of danger, however, is where the branches, having passed the island, are again united. Men may talk of the charge of hostile armies, and no doubt a poet may spin very pretty, and even sublime verses out of such matter. But the charge
341of hostile torrents is altogether a more magnificent affair, and who shall describe the "dreadful revelry" of their conflict? At the Big Pitch, the two arms of the St Lawrence rush against each other with a thundering roar, and are shivered into spray by the violence of the concussion. The whole surface of the river boils like a cauldron, and the water on either side is driven back from the centre to the margin in a multitude of eddies and whirlpools. It is only by slow degrees that the commotion ceases, and the ordinary aspect of the river is restored.
In passing the scene of this alarming struggle, the boat for about a minute reeled and staggered very disagreeably, and two or three waves burst over us. Before we had time, however, to clear the water from our eyes, the Big Pitch was past, and we were borne forward on water comparatively smooth.
We slept at a poor village, the name of which I forget. Our boatmen, who had all day been pulling at the oars, like true Canadians, instead of going to bed, got up a dance with the village girls, and the ball was only stopped by the re-embarkation of the party on the following morning. The whole crew
342were drunk, with the exception of the conductor, but the appearance of the first rapid sobered them in an instant.
Our course now lay through Lake St Francis. There was not a breath of wind, and the assistance received from the current was very trifling. The lake is nearly thirty miles long, and about ten or twelve in breadth. At its lower extremity is the village of St Regis, where the boundary line of the United States leaving the St Lawrence, the fiver becomes exclusively Canadian.
We breakfasted at Coteau du Lac, and shot through another rapid with the speed of an arrow. In order to facilitate the communication between the provinces, canals have been made, by which these rapids may be avoided. The shores of the St Lawrence are chequered with patches of cultivation, but not so much so as materially to affect the general character of the scenery. Among rivers of first-rate magnitude, I imagine the palm of beauty must be yielded to the St Lawrence. In its aspect there is no dulness, no monotony. It is continually changing from the rapid to the lake, from excessive
343velocity of current to still and tranquil water, on which, but for sail and oar, the motion of the boat would be imperceptible.
Perhaps no two rivers afford a stronger contrast than the Mississippi and the St Lawrence. The scenery of the former is flat and unchanging; of the latter, infinitely diversified. The water of the Mississippi is ever dark and turbid; the St Lawrence is beautifully clear. The Mississippi traverses a continent, and enlarges gradually from a mountain rivulet into a mighty river. The St Lawrence is an Adam at its birth. It knows no childhood, and attains at once to maturity. The current of the Mississippi is smooth and equable; that of the St Lawrence rapid and impetuous. The volume of the Mississippi is continually influenced by the vicissitudes of season; it annually overflows its banks, and spreads a deluge over the surrounding region. The St Lawrence is the same at all seasons; rains neither augment its volume, nor do droughts perceptibly diminish it. The channel of the St Lawrence leads through a succession of lakes. There are no lakes connected with the Mississippi. The
344St Lawrence, on approaching the termination of its course, gradually expands into a noble bay; and amid a region bounded by forest and mountain, mingles almost imperceptibly with the ocean. The Mississippi pours its flood into the Gulf of Mexico by a number of branches flowing through a delta formed by the diluvium of its own waters.
Nor is their effect on the spectator less different. The one is grand and beautiful; the other awful and sublime. The St Lawrence delights the imagination; the Mississippi overwhelms it.
I shall not linger on the voyage. We passed the Cedar rapids and the Cascades, both of which are considered more dangerous than the Long Sault. But their character is the same, and I shall spare the reader the trouble of perusing certain long descriptions which I find in my journal. Suffice it to say, that at nightfall our voyage terminated at La Chine, a village nine miles from Montreal.
The inn was tolerable, but it must be confessed that
345the Canadian hotels are inferior to those of the United States, while the charges are considerably higher. There is no arrangement, no zeal to oblige, and the amount of civility at the disposal of a traveller is very limited. In the United States, an Englishman becomes accustomed to indifference, and has rarely to encounter insolence. In a country like Canada, subject to the British crown, he is apt to expect more, and the chances are that he will find less.
On the day following, I drove to Montreal, and was certainly agreeably surprised by the appearance of the city. It stands on an island, about thirty miles long, and at a short distance from the mountain whose name it bears. The houses are entirely constructed of stone; and the neatness of the buildings, and the general air of solidity and compactness, have a very pleasing effect to an eye accustomed to the trashy clap-board edifices of an American town. It is the fashion in Montreal to cover the roofs of the houses with tin, so that in looking down on it from the neighbouring heights, the city glitters with a mirror-like brightness. In the higher part of the town are some handsome streets, and the public buildings are
346in the best taste — plain, substantial, and without pretension of any sort. The suburbs are embellished by a number of tasteful residences, which are often surrounded by pleasure-grounds of considerable beauty. The inhabitants are hospitable; and the establishments of the more wealthy combine elegance with comfort.
The population of Montreal is about 30,000. The great majority of the mercantile class are English; but the lower orders, both in language and appearance, decidedly French. Their dress is at once primitive and peculiar. Like the Spaniards, they wear a sash of coloured worsted round the waist, a jacket, generally of blue or brown, and shoes fashioned after the Indian, mocassin. The natives of the Montreal and Quebec districts are distinguished by the colour of their caps. The former wear the bonnet bleu; the latter, the bonnet rouge.
The prevailing religion is the Catholic; and the Cathedral does honour to the taste and spirit of the inhabitants. It is built of a bluish limestone, and of a fabric so substantial, that it bids fair to outlast
347every church now extant in the United States. The style of architecture is Gothic; and the only defects which struck me, are a bareness of ornament, — attributable, I imagine, to a deficiency of funds, — and a glare of light, which injures the effect of the interior.
There are several convents in Montreal, one of which I visited, in company with an eminent merchant of the city. The building is commodious and extensive, and the establishment consists of a mere superieure, and twenty-four nuns. Its funds, which are considerable, are devoted to purposes of charity; and I saw a little troop of orphans, whom they support and educate. There is likewise a hospital for the insane and incurable, which I declined visiting. I saw several of the sisters, — pale, unearthly-looking beings, — who, accustomed to the ministrations of the sickbed, flit about with noiseless steps, and speak in a low and subdued tone. Their garb is peculiar. It consists of a gown of light drab, plain muslin cap, black hood, a sort of tippet of white linen, and the usual adjuncts of rosary and crucifix.
The interest excited by this pious and benevolent
348institution was certainly not diminished by the communications of my companion. "It is impossible," he said, "that I can look on this establishment, without feelings of the deepest gratitude. Thirty-five years ago, I came to this city a penniless and friendless boy; and I had not one friend or connection in the colony from whom I might expect kindness. Shortly after my arrival, I fell sick. I could not work, and was utterly destitute of the means of subsistence. In this situation, these charitable nuns received me into this house, nursed me with tenderness, through a long and grievous illness, and supplied me with the means of support, until, by my own labour, I was enabled to rid them of the burden. By God's providence, I have prospered in the world. I am now rich, but never do I pass the gates of this institution without a silent blessing on its humble and pious inmates."
Lord and Lady Aylmer were in Montreal, and their presence rendered it at once the scene of gaiety and hospitality. I passed a week there, with great pleasure, and then embarked in one of those magnificent steamers which ply on the St Lawrence for
349Quebec. The distance between the cities is a hundred and eighty miles, which is generally accomplished in about twenty hours.
As we approached Quebec, the scenery became more wild and mountainous. Cultivation rarely extends beyond a mile or two from the river, and agriculture appears to be conducted by the Canadians of the Lower Province on the worst principles. To me, they appeared a light-hearted and amiable people, who brave the chances of life, with apathy to its sufferings, and a keen sensation of its enjoyments. No contrast in human character can be greater than that exhibited by the inhabitants of Lower Canada and the United States. The one, averse from all innovation, content to live as his fathers have done before him, sluggish, inert, and animated by strong local attachment to the spot of his nativity. The other, active and speculating, never satisfied with his present condition, emigrating wherever interest may direct, and influenced in every circumstance by the great principle of turning the penny. The Canadian is undoubtedly the more
350interesting; but, on the standard of utility, I fear Jean Baptiste must yield the pas to Jonathan.
Quebec bears on its front the impress of nobility. By the most obtuse traveller, it cannot be mistaken for a mere commonplace and vulgar city. It towers with an air of pride and of menace — the menace not of a bully, but of an armed Paladin prepared for battle. No city in the world stands amid nobler scenery. The heights bristling with works; the splendid and impregnable citadel frowning on Cape Diamond; the river emerging in the distance from the dark pine forest, with its broad expanse covered with shipping; the Isle of Orleans reposing in tranquil beauty amid its waters; and the colossal ranges of mountains which close the prospect; — constitute an assemblage of splendid features, which may be equalled, but can scarcely be surpassed.
Till I landed from the steam-boat, Quebec was to me a mere abstraction, which it pleased my imagination to invest with attributes of grandeur. But the first aspect of the lower town contributed to dissipate the charm. It extends over a narrow ledge at the foot of the precipice. The streets are dirty
351and narrow — the trottoirs so much so, that two people can scarcely pass without jostling. It is in this quarter that merchants most do congregate; and here are the exchange, the custom-house, the banks, and all the filth and circumstance of inglorious commerce.
The pomp of war is displayed in a loftier region, which is approached by a very steep street leading upward through a natural cleft in the brow of the mountain. In the higher town are the court and the camp, the Castle of St Louis on its lofty pedestal of rock, with a formidable array of towering ramparts for their defence. In this quarter no sign of traffic is discernible, and the sound of military music, the number of soldiers in the streets, the sentinels in their solitary walk along the ramparts, and the vociferous revelry of young and idle officers, strike with pleasing novelty on the senses of a traveller from the United States.
The fortnight I passed at Quebec is associated with pleasant memories. By the officers of the 32d regiment I was admitted an honorary member of their mess; and I request these gentlemen to accept
352my thanks for the many agreeable hours spent in their society. I enjoyed the pleasure, too, of encountering an old military friend, with whom I had long served in the same corps. More recently, we had travelled together on the continent of Europe, and now, by one of those unanticipated chances which occasionally brighten life, we were again thrown together, with what feelings it is unnecessary to describe
At Montreal, Lord Aylmer had obligingly furnished me with a letter of introduction to Colonel Cockburn, the commandant of artillery; and the advantages I derived from it were very great. Colonel Cockburn is an accomplished artist, with a delicate perception, and fine feeling of the beauties of nature; and it was under his guidance, and generally in his company, that I visited the surrounding scenery.
My first excursion was to the falls of Montmorenci, about eight miles from the city. On emerging from the city gate, we crossed the St Charles, and then pursued our course through a pleasant and well-cultivated country, interspersed with villages. It was
353a holyday of some sort, and the inhabitants were all abroad clad in their best, and gay as the more fortunate inhabitants of less wintry regions. The heights of Montmorenci are interesting as having been the scene of Wolfe's first attack on Montcalm. It was unsuccessful. The French occupied an entrenched position on the summit, from which it was found impossible to dislodge them. About six hundred of Wolfe's army fell in the attempt.
The falls are very fine, but have unfortunately been disfigured by the erection of a mill on the very summit of the precipice; but the view from a platform adjoining this building is magnificent. The entire height of the fall is two hundred and forty feet, and though the body of water is — in summer, at least — of no great magnitude, it thunders down the steep with astonishing majesty, and makes glorious turmoil in a huge basin surrounded on three sides by precipitous cliffs. About a mile above is a geological curiosity called "the natural steps," which appear to have been worn in the rock by the attrition of the stream. These are so regular as to make it
354difficult to believe that art has had no share in their formation.
Close to the city are the Plains of Abraham. Traces of field works are yet visible, and an oval block of granite marks the spot on which Wolfe expired. About a mile higher is Wolfe's Cove, where he landed during the night, and the fearful cliff up which he led his followers to victory. A redoubt on the summit was carried by escalade, and by daydawn the army was formed in order of battle on the heights. Montcalm instantly quitted his entrenchments at Beaufort to meet him. By ten o'clock the armies were engaged, and in two hours the power of France on the American continent was annihilated.
Wolfe died young, and his name bears something of a melancholy charm to the ear of every Englishman. Yet there appear no grounds for attributing to him the qualities of a great general. His first attempt was a failure, and the second was successful only from the blunder of his opponent. In accepting battle, Montcalm gave up all his advantages. Had he retired into the city, Quebec never could
355have been taken. Winter was rapidly approaching, (the battle took place on the 12th of September,) and siege was impossible.
A monument has been erected to the memory of these brave men. It is an obelisk copied from some of those in Rome, and bears two Latin inscriptions, which to ninety-nine out of every hundred who look on it are unintelligible. There is nonsense and pedantry in this. The inscriptions should have been in French and English.
The citadel has been strengthened and rebuilt at an enormous expense. It perfectly commands both the city and the river, and is so strong, that in all human probability it will ever remain a virgin fortress. At all events, those who have skill, courage, and energy to wrest it from the grasp of British soldiers, will deserve to keep it. Assuredly their national annals will record no more brilliant achievement.
The chateau of St Louis is now converted into the residence of the Governor. It stands on the verge of a precipitous rock, down which it seems in danger of tumbling. In point of architecture it has nothing
356to boast. There is a total want of massiveness and grandeur.
The other public buildings are principally religious. The convents, which are numerous, I did not visit. The cathedral is a massive stone edifice, without ornament of any sort. The walls in the interior display a good many pictures, which I had not patience to examine The grand altar is as magnificent as waxen virgins and gilt angels can make it.
New York and the Canadas are the chosen regions of waterfalls. Their opulence in this noble feature is unrivalled. I had already seen many, but there were still many to be seen. I confess my appetite for cataracts had become rather squeamish, yet I walked nine miles under a burning sun to see that of the Chaudiere. It is still embosomed in the forest, whose echoes for many thousand years it has awakened. The wild commotion of the river contrasts finely with the deathlike quietude of all other objects. It was June, yet there were no birds pouring melody through these dismal woodlands. How different are the Canadian forests from the woods of Old England!
357Living nature was silent; inanimate spoke only in that voice
Who dwelt in Patmos, for his Saviour's sake,
The crowd of many waters."
The Chaudiere is about the size of the Tweed. The perpendicular height of the fall is upwards of a hundred feet. The finest view is from a ledge of rock projecting into the river about fifty yards below. The water in the basin, or, as it is called, the Pot, boils as water never did in pot before. It then dashes down a succession of rapids, and continues to fume, and toss, and tumble, until finally swallowed up by the St Lawrence. The sight is fine and impressive. No traveller should leave Quebec without visiting the Chaudiere.
The village of Loretto is a melancholy sight. It contains the last and only remains of the once powerful tribe of Huron Indians. Brandy and gunpowder have done their work, and about two hundred of this once noble people are all that survive. They have adopted the religion, and speak the language, of the Canadians. There is a church in the village, and a priest who mingles with his flock, and is beloved
358by them. Christianity is the only benefit for which the red man is indebted to the white. The latter cheats, robs, corrupts, and ruins him in this world, and then makes a merit of saving him in the next. The benefit is pure, but these poor Indians may reasonably distrust the gift, when there is blood on the hand by which it is bestowed.
The legislative bodies were not sitting, and I know nothing of Canadian politics. There is a Mr Papineau, however, who plays with great spirit the part of a colonial O'Connell. The field is not large, but he makes the most of it, and enjoys the dignity of being a thorn in the side of each successive governor. Mr Papineau and his party are continually grumbling at being subject to British dominion; but what would they have? They pay no taxes. John Bull spends his money pretty freely among them, as they may see by the works on Cape Diamond, and the Rideau Canal. The latter must be of immediate and great benefit to both provinces; but had the Canadians been left to their own resources, it could never have existed. What would they have? The Lower Province, at least, will not join the United
359States; and it is too poor, and too helpless, to set up for itself. Withdraw British capital from the colony, and what would remain? Rags, poverty, and empty harbours.
With regard to the Upper Province, the time is fast approaching when it will join the United States. Every thing tends towards this consummation. The canals which connect the vast chain of lakes with the Ohio and the Hudson, must accelerate its advent. The Canadian farmer already has easier access to the markets of New York and New Orleans than he has to that of Quebec. The mass of the people are republicans in politics, and anarchists in morals. Let them go. The loss to England will be trifling. The eagle does not droop his wing for the loss of a feather.
It is well, however, that British statesmen should steadily contemplate this event, and direct their policy accordingly. Let them not hope to conciliate this people by concession. "The mighty stream of tendency" cannot be arrested in its progress. But it will become a matter of grave consideration whether a province so circumstanced should be
360enriched by any further expenditure of British revenue — whether England is still to lavish millions in building fortresses and constructing canals — and whether it be not, on the whole, more consonant to political wisdom, to leave the improvement of this vast region to individual enterprise, and the results of an unshackled industry.
The Canadians may rely on it, that whenever a considerable majority of the people become hostile to the continuance of British connexion, they will find little difficulty in achieving their independence. England could hold them in subjection by the bayonet; but she will not use it. She will bid them farewell; give them her blessing, and leave them to follow their own course. Whether they will be happier or more prosperous, is a question which another century must probably determine.
When Lower Canada first came into the possession of Great Britain, the latter committed a great error in not insisting that her language should be adopted in all public instruments. The consequence is, that eighty years have passed, and the people are still French. The tie of community of literature
361does not exist, and the only channel by which moral influence can be asserted or maintained has been wantonly closed. The people read — when they read any thing — French books; French authorities are quoted in the law courts; the French language is spoken in the streets; French habits, French feelings, French prejudices, abound everywhere. The lapse of three generations has witnessed no advancement, moral or intellectual, in the Canadians of the Lower Province. They are now precisely what they were at the period of the conquest.
Another decided blunder was the separation of Canada into two provinces. This has prevented any general amalgamation of the population. One province is decidedly French; the other no less exclusively English, or American. The latter enjoys a milder climate, and more fertile soil, and increases in wealth and population far more rapidly than its rival. It is to the Upper Province that the whole tide of emigration is directed. It is with the produce of the Upper Province that the ships navigating the St Lawrence are freighted; Lower Canada exports little but lumber.
The French Canadians, therefore, oppose every improvement by which the rival province may be benefited, and, with such feelings, collision on a thousand points is unavoidable. Internal improvement is impeded, for there could be no agreement as to the proportion of contribution to be furnished by each province. The breach instead of healing, is annually widened, and Upper Canada is thrown into an intercourse with the United States, the result of which I have already ventured to predict.
The government of Canada may in one sense be called a bed of roses, for it is full of thorns. Every governor must find it so. He has to deal with men of mean minds and selfish passions; to maintain the necessary privileges of the Crown; to prevent the rational freedom of a limited monarchy from degenerating into the unbridled license of democracy. He is beset by clamour, and assailed by faction, and must either become the leader of one party, or offend both. His difficulties and embarrassments increase. He appeals for support to his government, and receives a letter of thanks and his recall.
Such has been the story of many governors of these troublesome provinces, and will probably be
363that of many more. But if any man be calculated to conciliate all the passions and prejudices of the Canadians, it is Lord Aylmer. His amiable character, his kind yet dignified manners, his practical good sense, his experience of business, and extensive knowledge of the world, can scarcely fail to exert a salutary influence in soothing the asperities of party, and exposing the motives of turbulence, by depriving it of excuse. At the period of my visit to Canada, I rejoice to say it was so. In every society, I heard the new governor spoken of with respect, and even the "sweet voices" of the populace were in his favour.
The travels of the Schoolmaster have not yet led him to these wintry regions. Few of the lower order of Canadians can read, and the education even of the more wealthy is very defective. The ladies resemble those of the United States, and are subject to the same prematurity of decay. But they are pleasing and amiable, though given to commit sad slaughter among sensitive and romantic subalterns. The older stagers are generally charm-proof, and the marriage of a major is an event as remarkable in the colony as the appearance of a comet.
I LEFT Quebec with regret, for it was necessary to bid farewell to an agreeable circle, and an old friend. The voyage to Montreal presented nothing remarkable, and, after passing a few days in that city, I prepared to return to the United States.
After crossing the St Lawrence to Longueuil, it was discovered that a portmanteau had been left at Montreal. My servant accordingly returned in the steam-boat, while I was forced to wait several hours for his reappearance in a very miserable tavern. After all, this compulsory arrangement was not unfortunate. The heat was intense, and travelling, if not impossible, would have been very
disagreeable. In order to pass the time, I bathed in the river, read all the old newspapers the house could afford, and, finally — discovering that the luxury of sofas was unknown at Longueuil — went to bed.
Why this dirty and paltry village should be more tormented by flies than other places, I know not. Every room in the tavern absolutely swarmed with them. Myriads of these detestable insects, duly officered by blue-bottles, kept hovering around, and perched in whole battalions at every favourable opportunity on the face and hands of the victim. Under these circumstances, a siesta was impossible, and, on descending to dinner, I could at first discern nothing but four dishes of flies. The sight was not calculated to increase appetite, and during the meal a woman with a large fan was obliged to defend the table from their approach. It was not till evening that my servant returned with the portmanteau, and having procured a carriage, I lost not a moment in escaping from a village which appeared to suffer under a plague, unparalleled since the days of Pharaoh.
The road to Chambly was execrable, and the journey both tedious and disagreeable. I passed the
366night there, and on the following morning proceeded to St John's. The road follows the course of the Sorell, which at St John's is somewhat more than a mile in breadth. A steam-heat, fortunately, was about to sail for Whitehall, at the southern extremity of Lake Champlain, and in ten minutes I was on board. From St John's, the river gradually widens, till it reaches Isle Aux Noix, a post of some strength, which is occupied by a British garrison. Here the traveller bids farewell to Canada, and enters the territory of the United States.
Lake Champlain is a beautiful sheet of water, about 140 miles long, with a mean breadth of about five or six. The surrounding country is undulating, and in most places yet unredeemed from a state of nature. It was the theatre of many interesting events in the early history of the colonies. Traces of the forts at Ticonderago and Crown Point are still visible.
We passed Plattsburg, the scene of the unfortunate naval action in 1814. I was then serving in the colonies, and had a good deal of correspondence with Commodore Sir James Yeo, relative to the
367charges he afterwards exhibited against Sir George Prevost.
On the following morning I quitted the steamboat,
368and, procuring a cart for the conveyance of my goods and chattels, walked across the mountains to Lake George. The scenery of this lake is celebrated, and though I visited it with high expectations, they were not disappointed. Lake George is thirty-six miles long, but rarely more than five broad. In form, it resembles Windermere, but its features are bolder and more decided. The country, in general, is yet unreclaimed, and the sides of the mountains are clothed with wood to the summit. Embosomed in the lake are many beautiful islands, only one of which appeared to be inhabited. Here and there the shore was diversified by cultivation, and occasionally, near some quiet and retired haven, stood a log cottage, with which the fancy delighted to connect a thousand pleasing associations.
The steam-boat which conveyed us through this beautiful region was somewhat old and rickety, and her progress slow. For the first time in my life I considered this an advantage. It was pleasant to linger in such a scene, to resign the spirit to its tranquil influence, to people the memory with fresh
369images of beauty, and at leisure to behold those objects on which the eye was destined to gaze but once.
The voyage terminated at Caldwell, a small village at the southern extremity of the lake. The inn was comfortable, and in the evening, having nothing better to do, I took a ramble in the neighbourhood. About half a mile distant are the remains of a British fort, called Fort William Henry. It was erected in 1755, by Sir William Johnson, and attacked in the same year by a French force under Baron Dieskau. The assailants were repulsed with great slaughter, and the loss of their general. In the following year, however, it was invested by Montcalm, at the head of 10,000 men. Colonel Munro, the governor, made a gallant defence, but was at length forced to capitulate. The whole garrison were afterwards treacherously attacked and massacred by the Indians attached to Montcalm's army. The fort was destroyed, and has never since been rebuilt.
On the following morning, I left Caldwell in the stage for Saratoga Springs, the Cheltenham of the United States. The road lay through a country of
380the apothecary became so extensive, that he was obliged to employ assistant manipulators.
After breakfast, the favourite place of resort was a lake about three miles distant, where the company drove in carriages to fish. There was a platform erected for the accommodation of the fishers, from which about fifty rods were simultaneously protruded. The scene was ludicrous enough. The rapture of a young lady or an elderly gentleman on securing a fish, apparently of the minnow species, would have made admirable matter for Matthews. There were two or three men whose sole occupation it was to bait hooks. During my stay none of the party had occasion for a landing net.
A few days of Saratoga were agreeable enough, but the scene was too monotonous to maintain its attraction long. I became tired of it, and moved on to Ballston Spa, about seven miles distant. The hotel at Ballston is excellent, but the waters are considered inferior to those of Saratoga, and the place has been of late years comparatively deserted. Near the hotel is the house inhabited by Moreau during his residence in the United States. He
381quitted it to join the allied army, and his fate is matter of history. With every allowance for his situation, one cannot but feel that his fame would have rested on a firmer foundation, had he declined to bear arms against his country.
If Saratoga was dull, Ballston was stupid. There was nothing to be seen, and nothing to be done, except loitering in the neighbouring woods, which, being intersected by a river called the Kayaderoseras, presented some pretty scenery. The party in the hotel was not numerous, and two days of Ballston were enough. On the third morning I departed for Albany.
Albany presents, I believe, the only instance of feudal tenure in the United States. At the first settlement of New York by the Dutch, a gentleman, named Von Ransellaer, received from the High and Mighty Lords a grant of the land on which Albany now stands, with the adjacent territory to the distance of twelve Dutch miles on every side. By far the greater portion of this princely domain has been disposed of on perpetual leases, with due reservation of all manorial privileges of tolls, quitrents, right of
382minerals, proprietorship of mills, &c;c. &c;c. The present possessor still retains the title of Patroon, and is one of the richest citizens of the Union. His family are treated with a sort of prescriptive respect, which it will probably require another half century to eradicate. They are likewise the objects of some jealousy. From every civic office in Albany they are rigidly excluded.
For the last time, I embarked on the beautiful Hudson. I had many friends in New York, and my pleasure in returning to it was tinged with melancholy at the thought that I was so soon to part with them for ever. During my absence a change had come over the appearance of the city. I now saw it under the influence of a burning sun. The gay and the wealthy had deserted it; the busy only remained. By day the temperature was oppressive, and there was no moving out before evening. The theatres were open, but who could enter them with the thermometer at ninety? There was a mimic Vauxhall, in the cool recesses of which one might eat ice in comfort, and an excellent French Cafe, which afforded all manner of refreshment to
383an overheated pedestrian. In spite of the season, many of my friends were in town, or at their villas in the neighbourhood. Hospitable doors were still open, as I had always found them. There was little gaiety, but abundance of society. The former I did not want, the latter I enjoyed.
It was at this period that I became acquainted with a young artist, who promises to occupy a high rank in his profession. His name is Weir. Like Harding, he is full of talent and enthusiasm, and if I do not mistake, his name is yet destined to become familiar to English ears. Mr Weir has enjoyed the advantage of passing several years in Italy, and has returned to his native city with a taste formed on the great masterpieces of ancient art, and a power of execution unusual in any country, to claim that patronage which genius too often demands in vain.
I was much gratified by many of his pictures. He displays a fine sense of beauty in them all; but I was particularly struck with one which represents a dying Greek. He has been wounded in the battle, and his limbs have with difficulty borne him to the presence of his mistress. His life-blood is fast
384ebbing, and his face is deadly pale. His head reclines on her arm, but the approach of death is indicated in the general relaxation of muscle, and we know not whether he be yet conscious of its pressure. The countenance which gazes downward with irrepressible agony on his, is animated by no gleam of hope. There is no convulsion of the features, because intense grief is uniformly calm. It is minor emotion alone which finds relief in tears.
The composition is harmonious. A tower surmounted by a flag, a few palm-trees, the battlements of a city in the second distance, and the setting sun, which sheds a melancholy radiance on the scene, complete this simple but impressive picture. The sketches of Mr Weir are perhaps even finer than the more elaborate productions of his pencil, — a circumstance which I am apt to consider as a test of power. I have the good fortune to possess one which I value very highly, and which has been admired by many first-rate judges of art.
Of the public press I have not yet spoken, and I have something to say on it, though not a great deal. Every Englishman must be struck with the great
385inferiority of American newspapers to those of his own country. In order to form a fair estimate of their merit, I read newspapers from all parts of the Union, and found them utterly contemptible in point of talent, and dealing in abuse so virulent, as to excite a feeling of disgust not only with the writers, but with the public which afforded them support. Tried by this standard — and I know not how it can be objected to — the moral feeling of this people must be estimated lower than in any deductions from other circumstances I have ventured to rate it. Public men would appear to be proof against all charges which are not naturally connected with the penitentiary or the gibbet. The war of politics seems not the contest of opinion supported by appeal to enlightened argument, and acknowledged principles, but the squabble of greedy and abusive partisans, appealing to the vilest passions of the populace, and utterly unscrupulous as to their instruments of attack.
I assert this deliberately, and with a full recollection of the unwarrantable lengths to which political
386hostility in England is too often carried. Our newspaper and periodical press is bad enough. Its sins against propriety cannot be justified, and ought not to be defended. But its violence is meekness, its liberty restraint, and even its atrocities are virtues, when compared with that system of brutal and ferocious outrage which distinguishes the press in America. In England, even an insinuation against personal honour is intolerable. A hint — a breath — the contemplation even of a possibility of tarnish — such things are sufficient to poison the tranquillity, and, unless met by prompt vindication, to ruin the character of a public man; but in America, it is thought necessary to have recourse to other weapons. The strongest epithets of a ruffian vocabulary are put in requisition. No villainy is too gross or improbable to be attributed to a statesman in this intelligent community. An editor knows the swallow of his readers, and of course deals out nothing which he considers likely to stick in their gullet. He knows the fineness of their moral feelings, and his own interest leads, him to keep within the limits of democratic propriety.
The opponents of a candidate for office are generally not content with denouncing his principles, or deducing from the tenor of his political life, grounds for questioning the purity of his motives. They accuse him boldly of burglary or arson, or, at the very least, of petty larceny. Time, place, and circumstance, are all stated. The candidate for Congress or the Presidency is broadly asserted to have picked pockets or pocketed silver spoons, or to have been guilty of something equally mean and contemptible. Two instances of this occur at this moment to my memory. In one newspaper, a member of Congress was denounced as having feloniously broken open a scrutoire, and having thence stolen certain bills and bank-notes; another was charged with selling franks at twopence apiece, and thus coppering his pocket at the expense of the public.
It may be that such charges obtain little credit with the majority of the people, and I am willing to believe that in ninety nine cases out of a hundred they are exaggerated, or even absolutely false: yet they evidently obtain credit somewhere, or they would not be made. However unfounded, the paper loses no
388support from having advanced them; and where so much mud is thrown, the chances are, that some portion of it will stick. At all events, the tarnish left by the filthy and offensive missile cannot be obliterated. In such a case, innocence is no protection. The object of calumny feels in his inmost soul that he has suffered degradation. He cannot cherish the delusion that the purity of his character has placed him above suspicion; and those who have studied human nature most deeply, are aware how often "things outward do draw the inward quality after them," and the opinion of the world works its own accomplishment. In general, suspected integrity rests on a frail foundation. Public confidence is the corner-stone of public honour; and the man who is compelled to brave suspicion, is already half prepared to encounter disgrace.
The circumstances to which I have alluded admit of easy explanation. Newspapers are so cheap in the United States, that the generality even of the lowest order can afford to purchase them. They therefore depend for support on the most ignorant class of the people. Every thing they contain must
389be accommodated to the taste and apprehension of men who labour daily for their bread, and are of course indifferent to refinement either of language or reasoning. With such readers, whoever "peppers the highest is surest to please." Strong words take place of strong arguments, and every vulgar booby who can call names, and procure a set of types upon credit, may set up as an editor, with a fair prospect of success.
In England, it is fortunately still different. Newspapers being expensive, the great body of their supporters are to be found among people of comparative wealth and intelligence, though they practically circulate among the poorer classes in abundance sufficient for all purposes of information. The public, whose taste they are obliged to consult, is, therefore, of a higher order; and the consequence of this arrangement is apparent in the vast superiority of talent they display, and in the wider range of knowledge and argument which they bring to bear on all questions of public interest.
How long this may continue it is impossible to predict, but I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer
390will weigh well the consequences, before he ventures to take off, or even materially to diminish, the tax on newspapers. He may rely on it, that, bad as the state of the public press may be, it cannot be improved by any legislative measure. Remove the stamp duty, and the consequence will inevitably be, that there will be two sets of newspapers, one for the rich and educated, the other for the poor and ignorant. England, like America, will be inundated by productions contemptible in point of talent, but not the less mischievous on that account. The check of enlightened opinion — the only efficient one — on the press will be annihilated. The standard of knowledge and morals will be lowered; and let it above all be remembered, that this tax, if removed, can never after be imposed. Once abolished, be the consequences what they may, it is abolished for ever. The duty on advertisements is undoubtedly impolitic, and should be given up so soon as the necessities of the revenue will admit of it; but I am confidently persuaded that the government which shall permit political journals to circulate in England without restraint, will inflict an evil on the country, the
391consequences of which will extend far beyond the present generation.
In America, the warfare of statesmen is no less virulent than that of journals, and is conducted with the same weapons. When discord lights her torch in the cabinet of Washington, it blazes with unexampled violence. It was about this period that the cabinet of General Jackson suddenly exploded like a rocket, and the country found itself without a ministry. This catastrophe was not produced by any external assault. All had gone smoothly in Congress, and never was any ministry apparently more firmly seated. Had the cabinet been composed of bachelors, there is no saying how long or how prosperously they might have conducted the affairs of the country. Unfortunately they were married men. One minister's lady did not choose to visit the lady of another; and General Jackson, finding his talent as a pacificator inadequate to the crisis, determined on making a clear deck, and organizing an administration whose policy might be less influenced by conjugal cabals.
The members of the dismissed cabinet had now
392full liberty and leisure for crimination and abuse. A newspaper correspondence commenced between Major Eaton, the Secretary for the War Department, and Mr Ingham, the Secretary of the Treasury. The decent courtesies of life were thrown aside; the coarsest epithets were employed by both parties, the most atrocious charges were advanced, and even female character was not spared in this ferocious controversy. Nor is this a solitary instance. Nearly at the same period the newspapers contained letters of Mr Crawford, formerly a member of the Cabinet, assailing the character of Mr Calhoun, the Vice-President, in the same spirit, and with the same weapons.
The truth is, that in all controversies of public men, the only tribunal of appeal is the people, in the broadest acceptation of the term. An American statesman must secure the support of a numerical majority of the population, or his schemes of ambition at once fall to the ground. Give him the support of the vulgar, and he may despise the opinion of the enlightened, the honourable, and the high-minded. He can only profess motives palpable to
393the gross perceptions of the mean and ignorant. He adapts his language, therefore, not only to their understandings, but to their taste; in short, he must stoop to conquer, and having done so, can never resume the proud bearing and unbending attitude of independence.
In regard to religion, it is difficult, in a community presenting such diversity of character as the United States, to offer any observation which shall be universally or even generally true. A stranger is evidently debarred from that intimate and extensive knowledge of character and motive, which could alone warrant his entering very deeply into the subject. On the matter of religion, therefore, I have but little to say, and that little shall be said as briefly as possible.
Of these disgusting extravagances, recorded by other travellers, I was not witness, because I was not anxious to be so. But of the prevalence of such things as camp-meetings and revivals, and of the ignorant fanaticism in which they have their origin, there can be no doubt. It is easy to lavish ridicule on such exhibitions, and demonstrate how utterly
394inconsistent they are with rational and enlightened piety. Still, it should be remembered, that in a thinly-peopled country, any regular ministration of religion is frequently impossible; and if by any process religion can be made to exercise a strong and permanent influence on the character of those so situated, a great benefit has been conferred on society. Where the choice lies between fanaticism and profligacy, we cannot hesitate in preferring the former.
In a free community, the follies of the fanatic are harmless. The points on which he differs from those around him, are rarely of a nature to produce injurious effects on his conduct as a citizen. But the man without religion acknowledges no restraint but human laws; and the dungeon and the gibbet are necessary to secure the rights and interests of his fellow-citizens from violation. There can be no doubt, therefore, that in a newly settled country, the strong effect produced by these camp-meetings and revivals, is on the whole beneficial. The restraints of public opinion and penal legislation are little felt in the wilderness; and, in such circumstances, the higher principle of action, communicated
395by religion, is a new and additional security to society.
Throughout the whole Union, I am assured, that the Methodists have acquired a powerful influence. The preachers of that sect are generally well adapted, by character and training, for the duties they are appointed to discharge. They perfectly understand the habits, feelings, and prejudices of those whom they address. They mingle in the social circles of the people, and thus acquire knowledge of the secrets of families, which is found eminently available in increasing their influence. Through their means, religion becomes mingled with the pursuits, and even the innocent amusements of life. Young ladies chant hymns, instead of Irish melodies; and the profane chorus gives place to rhythmical doxologies. Grog parties commence with prayer, and terminate with benediction. Devout smokers say grace over a cigar, and chewers of the Nicotian weed insert a fresh quid with an expression of pious gratitude.
This may appear ludicrous in description; yet it ought not to be so. The sentiment of devotion, the
396love, the hope, the gratitude, the strong and ruling desire to conform our conduct to the Divine will, the continual recognition of God's mercy, even in our most trifling enjoyments, are among the most valuable fruits of true religion. If these are debased by irrational superstition, and the occasional ravings of a disturbed imagination, let us not reject the gold on account of the alloy, nor think only of the sediment, which defiles the waters by which a whole country is fertilized.
In the larger cities, there is no apparent deficiency of religion. The number of churches is as great as in England; the habits of the people are moral and decorous; the domestic sanctities are rarely violated; and vice pays at least the homage to virtue of assuming its deportment The clergy in those cities are men of respectable acquirements, and, I believe, not inferior to those of other countries in zeal and piety. If the amount of encouragement afforded to Sunday Schools, Missionary and Bible Societies, be assumed as the test of religious zeal, no deficiency will be discovered in the Northern States. These establishments flourish as luxuriantly as in England,
397when the differences of wealth and population are taken into account. Among the higher classes, I could detect no appearance of religious jealousies or antipathies. Those who, in the pursuits of politics or money, are vehement and intolerant of opposition, exhibit in matters of religion a spirit more tranquil and philosophical.
In the country, however, this is not the case. There differences of religious opinion rend society into shreds and patches, varying in every thing of colour, form, and texture. In a village, the population of which is barely sufficient to fill one church, and support one clergyman, the inhabitants are either forced to want religious ministration altogether, or the followers of different sects must agree on some compromise, by which each yields up some portion of his creed to satisfy the objections of his neighbour. This breeds argument, dispute, and bitterness of feeling. The Socinian will not object to an Arian clergyman, but declines having any thing to do with a supporter of the Trinity. The Calvinist will consent to tolerate the doctrine of free agency, if combined with that of absolute and irrespective
398decrees. The Baptist may give up the assertion of some favourite dogmas, but clings to adult baptism as a sine qua non. And thus with other sects. But who is to inculcate such a jumble of discrepant and irreconcilable doctrine? No one can shape his doctrine according to the anomalous and piebald creed prescribed by such a congregation, and the practical result is, that some one sect becomes victorious for a time; jealousies deepen into antipathies, and what is called an opposition church probably springs up in the village. Still harmony is not restored. The rival clergymen attack each other from the pulpit; newspapers are enlisted on either side; and religious warfare is waged with the bitterness, if not the learning which has distinguished the controversies of abler polemics.
In the New England, and many of the Western States, compliance with religious observances is classed among the moral proprieties demanded by public opinion. In the former, indeed, religion has been for ages hereditary, and, like an entailed estate, has descended, in unbroken succession, from the Pilgrim fathers to the present generation. But
399nowhere does it appear in a garb less attractive, and nowhere are its warm charities and milder graces less apparent to a stranger.
In the larger cities, I have already stated that the clergy are in general men competent, from talent and education, to impart religious instruction to their fellow-citizens. But in the country it is different. The clergymen with whom I had an opportunity of conversing during my different journeys, were unlettered, and ignorant of theology, in a degree often scarcely credible. Some of them seemed to have changed their tenets as they do their coats. One told me that he had commenced his clerical life as a Calvinist; he then became a Baptist; then a Universalist; and was, when I met him, a Unitarian!
There is one advantage of an established church, which only those, perhaps, who have visited the United States can duly appreciate. In England, a large body of highly educated gentlemen annually issue from the Universities to discharge the duties of the clerical office throughout the kingdom. By this means, a certain stability is given to religious
400opinion; and even those who dissent from the church, are led to judge of their pastors by a higher standard, and to demand a greater amount of qualification than is ever thought of in a country like the United States. This result is undoubtedly of the highest benefit to the community. The light of the established church penetrates to the chapel of the dissenter, and there is a moral check on religious extravagance, the operation of which is not the less efficacious, because it is silent and unperceived by those on whom its influence is exerted.
Religion is not one of those articles, the supply of which may be left to be regulated by the demand. The necessity for it is precisely greatest when the demand is least; and a government neglects its first and highest duty, which fails to provide for the spiritual as well as temporal wants of its subjects. But on the question of religious establishments, I cannot enter. I only wish to record my conviction, that those who adduce the state of religion in the United States as affording illustration of the inutility of an established church, are either bad reasoners, or ignorant men.
I have now done. I fear it will be collected from these volumes, that my impressions of the moral and political condition of the Americans are on the whole unfavourable. I regret this, but cannot help it. If opinion depended on will, mine would be different. I returned to England with a strong feeling of gratitude for the hospitality I experienced in all parts of the Union; and I can truly declare, that no pride or pertinacity of judgment will prevent my cherishing the sincere wish, that all the evils which appear to me to impend over the future destinies of this rising country may be averted, and that the United States may afford a great and lasting example of freedom and prosperity.
Let enlightened Americans who visit England write of her institutions in the same spirit of freedom which I have used in discussing the advantages of theirs. It is for the benefit of both nations that their errors and inconsistencies should be rigorously and unsparingly detected. A blunder exposed ceases to be injurious, and instead of a dangerous precedent, becomes a useful beacon. When a writer has to deal with fallacies affecting
402the welfare of a community, he should express himself boldly. There should he no mincing of word or argument — no equivocation of dissent — no dalliance with falsehood — no vailing the dignity of a good cause. Truth should never strike her topsails in compliment to ignorance or sophistry, and if the battle be fought yard-arm to yard-arm, however her cause may occasionally suffer from the weakness of its champions, it is sure to prove ultimately victorious.
On the 20th of July, I sailed in the Birmingham for Liverpool; and, on the 12th of August, had the satisfaction of again planting my foot on the soil of Old England.
With regard to the time which a traveller should give to the Falls, it is impossible to fix on any definite period. The imagination requires some time to expand itself, in order to take in the vastness of the objects. At first, the agitation of nerve is too great. A spectator can only gaze — he cannot contemplate. For some days the impression of their glory and magnitude will increase; and so long as this is the case, let him remain. His time could not be better spent. He is hoarding up a store of sublime memories for his whole future life. But intimacy — such is our nature — soon degenerates into familiarity. He will at length begin to gaze on the scene around him with a listless eye. His imagination, in short, is palled with excess of excitement. Let him watch for this crisis, and whenever he perceives it, pack up his portmanteau and depart. Niagara can do nothing more for him, and it should be his object to bear with him the deepest and most intense impression of its glories. Let him dream of these, but return to them no more. A second visit could only tend to unsettle and efface the impression of the first. Were I within a mile of Niagara, I should turu my steps in the opposite direction. Every passing year diminishes our susceptibility, and who would voluntarily bring to such objects a cold heart, and faded imagination?
In addition, it is only necessary to add, that the fort was of mud, that its garrison was only 3000 militia, while the retreating army consisted of 10,000 of the finest troops in the world. To heighten the disgrace, there was considerable sacrifice of stores and ammunition! It is deeply to be lamented, that the death of Sir George Prevost, shortly after his recall, prevented the investigation of his conduct before a court-martial.