The population of Massachusetts is by the last returns 701,331 souls. I rather think the proportion of women to men is very great.
An energetic and enterprising people are naturally anxious for an investigation into cause and effect, a search into which is, after all, nothing but curiosity well directed, and the most curious of all men is the philosopher. Curiosity, therefore, becomes a virtue or a small vice, according to the use made of it. The Americans are excessively curious, especially the mob: they cannot bear anything like a secret,— that's unconstitutional. It may be remembered, that the Catholic Convent near Boston, which had existed many years, was attacked by the mob and pulled down. I was enquiring into the cause of this outrage in a country where all forms of religion are tolerated; and an American gentleman told me, that although other reasons had been adduced for it, he fully believed, in his own mind, that the majority of the mob were influenced more by curiosity than any other feeling. The Convent was sealed to them, and they were determined to know what was in it. "Why, sir," continued he, "I will lay a wager that if the authorities were to nail together a dozen planks, and fix them up on the Common, with a caution to the public that they were not to go near or touch them, in twenty-four hours a mob would be raised to pull them down and ascertain what the planks contained." I mention this conversation, to shew in what a dexterous manner this American gentleman attempted to palliate one of the grossest outrages ever committed by his countrymen.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER SIX.
Crossed over to New Jersey, and took the railroad, to view the falls of the Passaic River, about fifteen miles from New York. This water-power has given birth to Patterson, a town with ten thousand inhabitants, where a variety of manufactures is carried on. A more beautiful wild spot can hardly be conceived; and to an European who has been accustomed to travel far in search of the picturesque, it appears singular that at so short a distance from a large city, he should at once find himself in the midst of such a strange combination of nature and art. Independent of their beauty, they are, perhaps, the most singular falls that are known to exist. The whole country is of trappe formation, and the black rocks rise up strictly vertical. The river, which at the Falls is about one hundred and twenty yards wide, pours over a bed of rock between hills covered with chestnut, walnut, pine, and sycamore, all mingled together, and descending to the edge of the bank; their bright and various foliage forming a lovely contrast to the clear rushing water. The bed of black rock over which the river runs, is, at the Fall, suddenly split in two, vertically, and across the whole width of the river. The fissure is about seventy feet deep, and not more than twelve feet wide at any part. Down into this chasm pour the whole waters of the river, escaping from it, at a right angle, into a deep basin, surrounded with perpendicular rocks from eighty to ninety feet high. You may therefore stand on the opposite side of the chasm, looking up the river, within a few feet of the Fall, and watch the roaring waters as they precipitate themselves below. In this position, with the swift, clear, but not deep waters before you, forcing their passage through the rocky bed, with the waving trees on each side, their branches feathering to the water's edge, or dipping and rising in the stream, you might imagine yourself far removed from your fellow-men, and you feel that in such a beauteous spot you could well turn anchorite, and commune with Nature alone. But turn round with your back to the Fall—look below, and all is changed: art in full activity—millions of reels whirling in their sockets—the bright polished cylinders incessantly turning, and never tiring. What formerly was the occupation of thousands of industrious females, who sat with their distaff at the cottage door, is now effected in a hundredth part of the time, and in every variety, by those compressed machines which require but the attendance of one child to several hundreds. But machinery cannot perform everything, and notwithstanding this reduction of labour, the romantic Falls of the Passaic find employment for the industry of thousands.
We walked up the banks of the river above the Fall, and met with about twenty or thirty urchins who were bathing at the mouth of the cut, made for the supply of the water-power to the manufactories below. The river is the property of an individual, and is very valuable: he receives six hundred dollars per annum for one square foot of water-power; ten years hence it will be rented at a much higher price.
We amused ourselves by throwing small pieces of money into the water, where it was about a fathom deep, for the boys to dive after; they gained them too easily; we went to another part in the cut, where it was much deeper, and threw in a dollar. The boys stood naked on the rocks, like so many cormorants, waiting to dart upon their prey; when the dollar had had time to sink to the bottom the word was given—they all dashed down like lightning and disappeared. About a minute elapsed ere there was any sign of their re-appearance, when they came up, one by one, breathless and flushed (like racers who had pulled up), and at last the victor appeared with the dollar between his teeth. We left these juvenile Sam Patches, and returned to the town. [Sam Patch, an American peripatetic, who used to amuse himself and astonish his countrymen by leaping down the different falls in America. He leaped down a portion of the Niagara without injury; but one fine day, having taken a drop too much, he took a leap too much. He went down the Genassee Fall, and since that time he has not been seen or heard of.]
There is no part of the world, perhaps, where you have more difficulty in obtaining permission to be alone, and indulge in a reverie, than in America. The Americans are as gregarious as school-boys, and think it an incivility to leave you by yourself. Every thing is done in crowds, and among a crowd. They even prefer a double bed to a single one, and I have often had the offer to sleep with me made out of real kindness. You must go "east of sun-rise" (or west of sun-set) if you would have solitude.
I never was in a more meditative humour, more anxious to be left to my own dreamings, than when I ascended the railroad car with my companion to return to Jersey city; we were the only two in that division of the car, and my friend, who understood me, had the complaisance to go fast asleep. I made sure that, for an hour or two, I could indulge in my own castle-buildings, and allow my fleeting thoughts to pass over my brain, like the scud over the moon. At our first stoppage a third party stepped in and seated himself between us. He looked at my companion, who was fast asleep. He turned to me, and I turned away my head. Once more was I standing at the Falls of the Passaic; once more were the waters rolling down before me, the trees gracefully waving their boughs to the breeze, and the spray cooling my heated brain; my brain was, like the camera-obscura, filled with the pleasing images, which I watched as they passed before me so vividly portrayed, all in life and motion, when I was interrupted by—
"I was born in the very heart of Cheshire, sir."
Confound the fellow! The river, falls, foliage, all vanished at once; and I found myself sitting in a railroad-car (which I had been unconscious of), with a heavy lump of humanity by my side. I wished one of the largest Cheshire cheeses down his throat.
"Indeed!" replied I, not looking at the man.
"Yes, sir—in the very heart of Cheshire."
"Would you had staid there!" thought I, turning away to the window without replying.
"Will you oblige me with a pinch of your snuff, sir? I left my box at New York."
I gave him the box, and, when he had helped himself, laid it down on the vacant seat opposite to him, that he might not have to apply again, and fell back and shut my eyes, as a hint to him that I did not wish to enter into conversation. A pause ensued, and I had hopes; but they were delusive.
"I have been eighteen years in this country, sir."
"You appear to be quite Americanised!" thought I; but I made him no answer.
"I went up to Patterson, sir," continued he (now turning round to me, and speaking in my ear), "thinking that I could get to Philadelphia by that route, and found that I had made a mistake; so I have come back. I am told there are some pretty falls there, sir."
"Would you were beneath them!" thought I; but I could not help laughing at the idea of a man going to Patterson, and returning without seeing the falls! By this time he had awakened his companion, who, being American himself, and finding that there was to be no more sleep, took him up, in the American fashion, and put to him successively the following questions, all of which were answered without hesitation:—"What is your name? where are you from? where are you going? what is your profession? how many dollars have you made? have you a wife and children?" All these being duly responded to, he asked my companion who I might be, and was told that I was an operative artist, and one of the first cotton spinners in the country.
This communication procured for me considerable deference from our new acquaintance during the remainder of our journey. He observed in the ear of my companion, that he thought I knew a thing or two. In a country like America the Utilitarian will always command respect.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER EIGHT.
The 4th of July, the sixty-first anniversary of American independence!
Pop—pop—bang—pop—pop—bang—bang bang! Mercy on us! how fortunate it is that anniversaries come only once a year. Well, the Americans may have great reason to be proud of this day, and of the deeds of their forefathers, but why do they get so confoundedly drunk? why, on this day of independence, should they become so dependent upon posts and rails for support? The day is at last over; my head aches, but there will be many more aching heads tomorrow morning!
What a combination of vowels and consonants have been put together! what strings of tropes, metaphors, and allegories, have been used on this day! what varieties and gradations of eloquence! There are at least fifty thousand cities, towns, villages, and hamlets, spread over the surface of America—in each the Declaration of Independence has been read; in all one, and in some two or three, orations have been delivered, with as much gunpowder in them as in the squibs and crackers. But let me describe what I actually saw.
The commemoration commenced, if the day did not, on the evening of the 3rd, by the municipal police going round and pasting up placards, informing the citizens of New York, that all persons letting off fireworks would be taken into custody, which notice was immediately followed up by the little boys proving their independence of the authorities, by letting off squibs, crackers, and bombs; and cannons, made out of shin bones, which flew in the face of every passenger, in the exact ratio that the little boys flew in the face of the authorities. This continued the whole night, and thus was ushered in the great and glorious day, illumined by a bright and glaring sun (as if bespoken on purpose by the mayor and corporation), with the thermometer at 90 degrees in the shade. The first sight which met the eye after sunrise, was the precipitate escape, from a city visited with the plague of gunpowder, of respectable or timorous people in coaches, carriages, waggons, and every variety of vehicle. "My kingdom for a horse!" was the general cry of all those who could not stand fire. In the mean while, the whole atmosphere was filled with independence. Such was the quantity of American flags which were hoisted on board of the vessels, hung out of windows, or carried about by little boys, that you saw more stars at noon-day than ever could be counted on the brightest night. On each side of the whole length of Broadway, were ranged booths and stands, similar to those at an English fair, and on which were displayed small plates of oysters, with a fork stuck in the board opposite to each plate; clams sweltering in the hot sun; pineapples, boiled hams, pies, puddings, barley-sugar, and many other indescribables. But what was most remarkable, Broadway being three miles long, and the booths lining each side of it, in every booth there was a roast pig, large or small, as the centre attraction. Six miles of roast pig! and that in New York city alone; and roast pig in every other city, town, hamlet, and village, in the Union. What association can there be between roast pig and independence? Let it not be supposed that there was any deficiency in the very necessary articks of potation on this auspicious day: no! the booths were loaded with porter, ale, cyder, mead, brandy, wine, ginger-beer, pop, soda-water, whiskey, rum, punch, gin slings, cocktails, mint julips, besides many other compounds, to name which nothing but the luxuriance of American-English could invent a word. Certainly the preparations in the refreshment way were most imposing, and gave you some idea of what had to be gone through on this auspicious day. Martial music sounded from a dozen quarters at once; and as you turned your head, you tacked to the first bars of a march from one band, the concluding bars of Yankee Doodle from another. At last the troops of militia and volunteers, who had been gathering in the park and other squares, made their appearance, well dressed and well equipped, and, in honour of the day, marching as independently as they well could. I did not see them go through many manoeuvres, but there was one which they appeared to excel in, and that was grounding arms and eating pies. I found that the current went towards Castle Garden, and away I went with it. There the troops were all collected on the green, shaded by the trees, and the effect was very beautiful. The artillery and infantry were drawn up in a line pointing to the water. The officers in their regimental dresses and long white feathers, generals and aides-de-camp, colonels, commandants, majors, all galloping up and down in front of the line,—white horses and long tails appearing the most fashionable and correct. The crowds assembled were, as American crowds usually are, quiet and well behaved. I recognised many of my literary friends turned into generals, and flourishing their swords instead of their pens. The scene was very animating; the shipping at the wharfs were loaded with star-spangled banners; steamers paddling in every direction, were covered with flags; the whole beautiful Sound was alive with boats and sailing vessels, all flaunting with pennants and streamers. It was, as Ducrow would call it, "A Grand Military and Aquatic Spectacle."
Then the troops marched up into town again, and so did I follow them as I used to do the reviews in England, when a boy. All creation appeared to be independent on this day; some of the horses particularly so, for they would not keep "in no line not no how." Some preferred going sideways like crabs, others went backwards, some would not go at all, others went a great deal too fast, and not a few parted company with their riders, whom they kicked off just to shew their independence; but let them go which way they would, they could not avoid the squibs and crackers. And the women were in the same predicament: they might dance right, or dance left, it was only out of the frying-pan into the fire, for it was pop, pop; bang, bang; fiz, pop, bang, so that you literally trod upon gunpowder.
When the troops marched up Broadway, louder even than the music were to be heard the screams of delight from the children at the crowded windows on each side. "Ma! ma! there's pa!" "Oh! there's John." "Look at uncle on his big horse."
The troops did not march in very good order, because, independently of their not knowing how, there was a great deal of independence to contend with. At one time an omnibus and four would drive in and cut off the general and his staff from his division; at another, a cart would roll in and insist upon following close upon the band of music; so that it was a mixed procession—Generals, omnibus and four, music, cart-loads of bricks, troops, omnibus and pair, artillery, hackney-coach, etcetera. etcetera. Notwithstanding all this, they at last arrived at the City Hall, when those who were old enough heard the Declaration of Independence read for the sixty-first time; and then it was—"Begone, brave army, and don't kick up a row."
I was invited to dine with the mayor and corporation at the City Hall. We sat down in the Hall of Justice, and certainly, great justice was done to the dinner, which (as the wife says to her husband after a party, where the second course follows the first with unusual celerity) "went off remarkably well." The crackers popped outside, and the champagne popped in. The celerity of the Americans at a public dinner is very commendable; they speak only now and then; and the toasts follow so fast, that you have just time to empty your glass, before you are requested to fill again. Thus the arranged toasts went off rapidly, and after them, any one might withdraw. I waited till the thirteenth toast, the last on the paper, to wit, the ladies of America; and, having previously, in a speech from the recorder, bolted Bunker's Hill and New Orleans, I thought I might as well bolt myself, as I wished to see the fireworks, which were to be very splendid.
Unless you are an amateur, there is no occasion to go to the various places of public amusement where the fireworks are let off, for they are sent up every where in such quantities that you hardly know which way to turn your eyes. It is, however, advisable to go into some place of safety, for the little boys and the big boys have all got their supply of rockets, which they fire off in the streets—some running horizontally up the pavement, and sticking into the back of a passenger; and others mounting slantingdicularly and Paul-Prying into the bed-room windows on the third floor or attics, just to see how things are going on there. Look in any point of the compass, and you will see a shower of rockets in the sky: turn from New York to Jersey City, from Jersey City to Brooklyn, and shower is answered by shower on either side of the water. Hoboken repeats the signal: and thus it is carried on to the east, the west, the north, and the south, from Rhode Island to the Missouri, from the Canada frontier to the Gulf of Mexico. At the various gardens the combinations were very beautiful, and exceeded anything that I had witnessed in London or Paris. What with sea-serpents, giant rockets scaling heaven, Bengal lights, Chinese fires, Italian suns, fairy bowers, crowns of Jupiter, exeranthemums, Tartar temples, Vesta's diadems, magic circles, morning glories, stars of Colombia, and temples of liberty, all America was in a blaze; and, in addition to this mode of manifesting its joy, all America was tipsy.
There is something grand in the idea of a national intoxication. In this world, vices on a grand scale dilate into virtues; he who murders one man, is strung up with ignominy; but he who murders twenty thousand has a statue to his memory, and is handed down to posterity as a hero. A staggering individual is a laughable and, sometimes, a disgusting spectacle; but the whole of a vast continent reeling, offering a holocaust of its brains for mercies vouchsafed, is an appropriate tribute of gratitude for the rights of equality and the levelling spirit of their institutions.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER NINE.
Once more flying up the noble Hudson. After you have passed West Point, the highlands, through which the river has forced its passage, gradually diminish, and as the shore becomes level, so does the country become more fertile.
We passed the manor of Albany, as it is called, being a Dutch grant of land, now in the possession of one person, a Mr Van Rensalaer, and equal to many a German principality, being twenty miles by forty-eight miles square. Mr Van Rensalaer still retains the old title of Patroon. It is generally supposed in England that, in America, all property must be divided between the children at the decease of the parent. This is not the case. The entailing of estates was abolished by an act of Congress in 1788, but a man may will away his property entirely to his eldest son if he pleases. This is, however, seldom done; public opinion is too strong against it, and the Americans fear public opinion beyond the grave. Indeed, were a man so to act, the other claimants would probably appeal to have the will set aside upon the grounds of lunacy, and the sympathy of an American jury would decree in their favour.
As you ascend to Albany City, the banks of the river are very fertile and beautiful, and the river is spotted with many very picturesque little islands. The country seats, which fringe the whole line of shore, are all built in the same, and very bad, style. Every house or tenement, be it a palace or a cottage, has its porticos and pillars—a string of petty Parthenons which tire you by their uniformity and pretence.
I had intended to stop at Hudson, that I might proceed from thence to New Lebanon to visit the Shaking Quakers; but, as I discovered that there was a community of them not five miles from Troy, I, to avoid a fatiguing journey, left Albany, and continued on to that city.
Albany is one of the oldest Dutch settlements, and among its inhabitants are to be found many of the descendants of the Dutch aristocracy. Indeed, it may even now be considered as a Dutch city. It is the capital of the state of New York, with a population of nearly 30,000. Its commerce is very extensive, as it is here that the Erie canal communications with the Far West, as well as the Eastern States, debouche into the Hudson.
We have here a singular proof, not only of the rapidity with which cities rise in America, but also how superior energy will overcome every disadvantage. Little more than twenty years ago, Albany stood by itself, a large and populous city without a rival, but its population was chiefly Dutch. The Yankees from the Eastern States came down and settled themselves at Troy, not five miles distant, in opposition to them. It would be supposed that Albany could have crushed this city in its birth, but it could not, and Troy is now a beautiful city, with its mayor, its corporation, and a population of 20,000 souls, and divides the commerce with Albany, from which most of the eastern trade has been ravished. The inhabitants of Albany are termed Albanians, those of Troy, Trojans! In one feature these cities are very similar, being both crowded with lumber and pretty girls.
I went out to see the Shakers at Niskayuna. So much has already been said about their tenets that I shall not repeat them, further than to observe that all their goods are in common, and that, although the sexes mix together, they profess the vows of celibacy and chastity. Their lands are in excellent order, and they are said to be very rich. [I should be very sorry to take away the character of any community, but, as I was a little sceptical as to the possibility of the vow of chastity being observed under circumstances above alluded to, I made some inquiries, and having met with one who had seceded from the fraternity, I discovered that my opinion of human nature was correct, and the conduct of the Shakers not altogether so. I must not enter into details, as they would be unfit for publication.]
We were admitted into a long room on the ground-floors where the Shakers were seated on forms, the men opposite to the women, and apart from each other. The men were in their waistcoats and shirt-sleeves, twiddling their thumbs, and looking awfully puritanical. The women were attired in dresses of very light striped cotton, which hung about them like full dressing-gowns, and concealed all shape and proportions. A plain mob cap on their heads, and a thick muslin handkerchief in many folds over their shoulders, completed their attire. They each held in their hands a pocket-handkerchief as large as a towel, and of almost the same substance. But the appearance of the women was melancholy and unnatural; I say unnatural because it required to be accounted for. They had all the advantages of exercise and labour in the open air, good food, and good clothing; they were not overworked, for they are not required to work more than they please; and yet there was something so pallid, so unearthly in their complexions, that it gave you the idea that they had been taken up from their coffins a few hours after their decease: not a hue of health, not a vestige of colour in any cheek or lip;—one cadaverous yellow tinge prevailed. And yet there were to be seen many faces very beautiful, as far as regarded outline, but they were the features of the beautiful in death. The men, on the contrary, were ruddy, strong, and vigorous. Why, then, this difference between the sexes, where they each performed the same duties, where none were taxed beyond their strength, and all were well fed and clothed?
After a silence of ten minutes, one of the men of the community, evidently a coarse illiterate person, rose and addressed a few words to the spectators, requesting them not to laugh at what they saw, but to behave themselves properly, etcetera, and then he sat down.
One of the leaders then burst out into a hymn, to a jigging sort of tune, and all the others joined chorus. After the hymn was sung they all rose, put away the forms on which they had been seated, and stood in lines, eight in a row, men and women separate, facing each other, and about ten feet apart—the ranks of men being flanked by the boys, and those of the women by the girls. They commenced their dancing by advancing in rows, just about as far as profane people do in L'ete when they dance quadrilles, and then retreated the same distance, all keeping regular time, and turning back to back after every third advance. The movement was rather quick, and they danced to their own singing of the following beautiful composition:—
Law, law, de lawdel law, Law, law, de law, Law, law, de lawdel law, Lawdel, lawdel, law—
keeping time also with the hands as well as feet, the former raised up to the chest, and hanging down like the fore-paws of a dancing bear. After a quarter of an hour they sat down again, and the women made use of their large towel pocket-handkerchiefs to wipe off the perspiration. Another hymn was sung, and then the same person addressed the spectators, requesting them not to laugh, and inquiring if any of them felt a wish to be saved—adding, "Not one of you, I don't think." He looked round at all of us with the most ineffable contempt, and then sat down; and they sang another hymn, the burden of which was—
"Our souls are saved, and we are free From vice and all in-i-qui-ty."
which was a very comfortable delusion, at all events.
They then rose again, put away the forms as before, and danced in another fashion. Instead of L'ete, it was Grande ronde. About ten men and women stood in two lines in the centre of the room, as a vocal band of music, while all the others, two and two, women first and men following, promenaded round, with a short quick step, to the tune chaunted in the centre. As they went round and round, shaking their paws up and down before them, the scene was very absurd, and I could have laughed had I not felt disgusted at such a degradation of rational and immortal beings. This dance lasted a long while, until the music turned to croaking, and the perspiration was abundant; they stopped at last, and then announced that their exercise was finished. I waited a little while after the main body had dispersed, to speak with one of the elders. "I will be with you directly," replied he, walking hastily away; but he never came back.
I never heard the principle upon which they dance. David danced before the ark; but it is to be presumed that David danced as well as he sung. At least he thought so; for when his wife Michal laughed at him, he made her conduct a ground of divorce.
Every community which works in common, and is provided for in the mass, must become rich, especially when it has no children to maintain. It is like receiving a person's labour in exchange for victuals and clothing only, and this is all I can perceive that can be said in favour of these people. Suffice it to say, I have a very bad opinion of them: and were I disposed to dilate on the subject, I should feel no inclination to treat them with the lenity shewn to them by other travellers.
From this mockery, I went to see what had a real tendency to make you feel religious—the Falls of the Mohawk, about three miles from Troy. Picturesque and beautiful as all falling water is, to describe it is extremely difficult, unless, indeed by a forced simile; the flow of language is too tame for the flow of water; but if the reader can imagine a ledge of black rocks, about sixty or seventy feet high, and that over this ledge was poured simultaneously the milk of some millions of cows, he will then have some idea of the beauty of the creaming Falls of the Mohawk, imbedded as they are in their wild and luxuriant scenery.
Close to the Falls, I perceived a few small wooden shealings, appearing, under the majestic trees which overshadowed them, more like dog-kennels than the habitations of men: they were tenanted by Irish emigrants, who had taken work at the new locks forming on the Erie canal. I went up to them. In a tenement about fourteen feet by ten, lived an Irishman, his wife, and family, and seven boys as he called them, young men from twenty to thirty years of age, who boarded with him. There was but one bed, on which slept the man, his wife, and family. Above the bed were some planks, extending half way the length of the shealing, and there slept the seven boys, without any mattress, or even straw, to lie upon. I entered into conversation with them: they complained bitterly of the times, saying that their pay was not 2 shillings 6 pence of our money per day, and that they could not live upon it. This was true, but the distress had been communicated to all parts, and they were fortunate in finding work at all, as most of the public works had been discontinued. I mentioned to them that the price of labour in Ohio, Illinois, and the West, was said to be two dollars a-day, and asked them, why they did not go there? They replied, that such were the price quoted, to induce people to go, but that they never could find it when they arrived; that the clearing of new lands was attended with ague and fever; and that if once down with these diseases there was no one to help them to rise again. I looked for the pig, and there he was, sure enough, under the bed.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER TEN.
Troy, like a modern academy, is classical, as well as commercial, having Mount Olympus on one side, and Mount Ida in its rear. The panorama from the summit of the latter is splendid. A few years back a portion of Mount Ida made a slip, and the avalanche destroyed several cottages and five or six individuals. The avalanche took place on a dark night and in a heavy snow storm. Two brick kilns were lighted at the time, and, as the mountain swept them away, the blaze of the disturbed fires called out the fire engines, otherwise more lives would have been lost. Houses, stables, and sheds, were all hurled away together. Horses, children, and women, rolled together in confusion. One child had a very strange escape. It had been forced out of its bed, and was found on the top of a huge mass of clay, weighing forty or fifty tons; he was crying, and asking who had put him there. Had all the inhabitants of the cottages been within, at least forty must have perished; but notwithstanding the severity of the weather, the day being Sunday, they had all gone to evening meeting, and thus, being good Christians, they were for once rewarded for it on this side of the grave.
As I surveyed the busy scene below me, the gentleman who accompanied me to the summit of the mountain, informed me that forty-three years ago his father was the first settler, and that then there was but his one hut in the place where now stood the splendid town.
But signs of the times were manifest here also. Commerce had stopped for the present, and a long line of canal boats was laid up for want of employment.
I remained two hours perched upon the top of the mountain. I should not have staid so long, perhaps, had they not brought me a basket of cherries, so that I could gratify more senses than one. I felt becomingly classical whilst sitting on the precise birth-place of Jupiter, attended by Pomona, with Troy at my feet, and Mount Olympus in the distance; but I was obliged to descend to lumber and gin-slings, and I set off for Albany, where I had an engagement, having been invited to attend at the examination of the young ladies at the seminary.
Here again is a rivalry between Albany and Troy, each of them glorying in possessing the largest seminary for the education of young ladies, who are sent from every State of the Union, to be finished off at one or the other of them. Here, and indeed in many other establishments, the young ladies now quitting it have diplomas given, to them, if they pass their examinations satisfactorily. They are educated upon a system which would satisfy even Miss Martineau, and prepared to exercise the rights of which she complains that women have been so unjustly deprived. Conceive three hundred modern Portias, who regularly take their degrees, and emerge from the portico of the seminary full of algebra, equality, and the theory of the constitution! The quantity and variety crammed into them is beyond all calculation. The examination takes place yearly, to prove to the parents that the preceptors have, done their duty, and is in itself very innocent, as it only causes the young ladies to blush a little.
This afternoon they were examined in algebra, and their performance was very creditable. Under a certain age girls are certainly much quicker than boys, and I presume would retain what they learnt if it were not for their subsequent duties in making puddings, and nursing babies. Yet there are affairs which must be performed by one sex or the other, and of what use can algebra and other abstruse matters be to a woman in her present state of domestic thraldom.
The theory of the American constitution was the next subject on which they were examined; by their replies, this appeared to be to them more abstruse than algebra: but the fact is, women are born tories, and admit no other than petticoat government as legitimate.
The next day we again repaired to the hall, and French was the language in which they were to be examined, and the examination afforded us much amusement.
The young ladies sat down in rows on one side of the room. In the centre, towards the end, was an easel, on which was placed a large black board on which they worked with chalk the questions in algebra, etcetera,—a towel hanging to it, that they might wipe out and correct. The French preceptor, an old Emigre Count, sat down with the examiners before the board, the visitors (chiefly composed of anxious papas and mammas) being seated on benches behind them. As it happened, I had taken my seat close to the examining board, and at some little distance from the other persons who were deputed or invited to attend. I don't knew how I came there. I believe I had come in too late; but there I was, within three feet of every young lady who came up to the board.
"Now, messieurs, have the kindness to ask any question you please," said the old Count. "Mademoiselle, you will have the goodness to step forward." A question was proposed in English, which the young lady had to write down in French. The very first went wrong: I perceived it, and without looking at her, pronounced the right word, so that she could hear it. She caught it, rubbed out the wrong word with the towel, and rectified it. This was carried on through the whole sentence, and then she retreated from the board that her work might be examined. "Very well, very well, indeed, Miss, c'est parfaitement bien;" and the young lady sat down blushing. Thus were they all called up, and one after another prompted by me; and the old Count was delighted at the success of his pupils.
Now, what amused me in this was the little bit of human nature; the tact displayed by the sex, which appears to be innate, and which never deserts them. Had I prompted a boy, he would most likely have turned his head round towards me, and thus have revealed what I was about; but not one of the whole class was guilty of such indiscretion. They heard me, rubbed out, corrected, waited for the word when they did not know it, but never by any look or sign made it appear that there was any understanding between us. Their eyes were constantly fixed on the board, and they appeared not to know that I was in the room. It was really beautiful. When the examination was over, I received a look from them all, half comic, half serious, which amply repaid me for my assistance.
As young ladies are assembled here from every State of the Union, it was a fair criterion of American beauty, and it must be acknowledged that the American women are the prettiest in the whole world.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER ELEVEN.
Saratoga Springs.—Watering places all over the world are much alike: they must be well filled with company, and full of bustle, and then they answer the purpose for which they are intended—a general muster, under the banner of folly, to drive care and common sense out of the field. Like assembly-rooms, unless lighted up and full of people, they look desolate and forlorn: so it was with Saratoga: a beautiful spot, beautiful hotels, and beautiful water; but all these beauties were thrown away, and the water ran away unheeded, because the place was empty. People's pockets were empty, and Saratoga was to let. The consequence was that I remained a week there, and should have remained much longer had I not been warned, by repeated arrivals, that the visitors were increasing, and that I should be no longer alone.
The weariness of solitude, as described by Alexander Selkirk and the Anti-Zimmermanns, can surely not be equal to the misery of never being alone; of feeling that your thoughts and ideas, rapidly accumulating, are in a state of chaos and confusion, and that you have not a moment to put them into any lucid order; of finding yourself, against your will, continually in society, bandied from one person to the other, to make the same bows, extend the same hand to be grasped, and reply to the same eternal questions; until, like a man borne down by sleep after long vigils, and at each moment roused to reply, you either are not aware of what you do say, or are dead beat into an unmeaning smile. Since I have been in this country, I have suffered this to such a degree as at last to become quite nervous on the subject; and I might reply in the words of the spirit summoned by Lochiel—
"Now my weary lips I close; Leave, oh! leave me to repose."
It would be a strange account, had it been possible to keep one, of the number of introductions which I have had since I came into this country. Mr A introduces Mr B and C, Mr B and C introduce Mr D, E, F, and G. Messrs. D, E, F, and G introduce Messrs. H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, and so it goes on, ad infinitum during the whole of the day; and this to me who never could remember either a face or a name.
At introduction it is invariably the custom to shake hands; and thus you go on shaking hands here, there, and everywhere, and with everybody; for it is impossible to know who is who, in this land of equality.
But one shake of the hand will not do; if twenty times during the same day you meet a person to whom you have been introduced, the hand is every where extended with—"Well, captain, how do you find yourself by this time?" and, in their good-will, when they seize your hand, they follow the apothecary's advice—"When taken, to be well shaken." As for the constant query—"How do you like our country?"—that is natural enough. I should ask the same of an American in England, but to reply to it is not the less tedious. It is all well meant, all kindness, but it really requires fortitude and patience to endure it. Every one throws in his voluntary tribute of compliments and good-will, but the accumulated mass is too great for any one individual to bear. How I long for the ocean prairies, or the wild forests. Subsequently, I begged hard to be shut up for six months in the Penitentiary at Philadelphia, but Sammy Wood said it was against the regulations. He comforted me with a tete-a-tete dinner, which was so agreeable, that at the time I quite forgot I wished to be alone.
When I left Saratoga, I found no one, as I thought, in the car, who knew me; and I determined, if possible, they should, in the Indian phrase, lose my trail. I arrived at Schenectady, and was put down there. I amused myself until the train started for Utica, which was to be in a few hours, in walking about the engine-house, and examining the locomotives; and having satisfied myself, set out for a solitary walk in the country. There was no name on my luggage, and I had not given my name when I took my ticket for the railroad. "At last," said I to myself, "I am incog." I had walked out of the engine-house, looked round the compass, and resolved in which direction I would bend my steps, when a young man came up to me, and very politely taking off his hat, said, "I believe I have the pleasure of speaking to Captain M—-." Had he known my indignation when he mentioned my name, poor fellow! but there was no help for it, and I replied in the affirmative. After apologising, he introduced himself, and then requested the liberty of introducing his friend. "Well, if ever," thought I; and, "no never," followed afterwards as a matter of course, and as a matter of course his friend was introduced. It reminded me of old times, when, midshipmen at balls, we used to introduce each other to ladies we had none of us seen before in our lives. Well, there I was, between two overpowering civilities, but they meant it kindly, and I could not be angry. These were students of Schenectady College: would I like to see it? a beautiful location, not half a mile off. I requested to know if there was any thing to be seen there, as I did not like to take a hot walk for nothing, instead of the shady one I had proposed for myself. "Yes, there was Professor Nott"—I had of course heard of Professor Nott.— Professor Nott, who governed by moral influence and paternal sway, and who had written so largely on stones and anthracite coal. I had never before heard of moral influence, stones, or anthracite coal. Then there were more professors, and a cabinet of minerals—the last was an inducement, and I went.
I saw Professor Nott, but not the cabinet of minerals, for Professor Savage had the key. With Professor Nott I had rather a hot argument about anthracite coal, and then escaped before he was cool again. The students walked back with me to the hotel, and, with many apologies for leaving me, informed me that dinner was ready. I would not tax their politeness any longer, and they departed.
Schenectady College, like most of the buildings in America, was commenced on a grand scale, but has never been finished; the two wings are finished, and the centre is lithographed, which looks very imposing in the plate. There is a peculiarity in this college: it is called the Botany Bay, from its receiving young men who have been expelled from other colleges, and who are kept in order by moral influence and paternal sway, the only means certainly by which wild young men are to be reclaimed. Seriously speaking Professor Nott is a very clever man, and I suspect this college will turn out more clever men than any other in the Union. It differs from the other colleges in another point. It upholds no peculiar sect of religion, which almost all the rest do. For instance, Yule [Yale], William's Town, and Amherst Colleges, are under presbyterian influence; Washington episcopal; Cambridge, in Massachusets, unitarian.
There is one disadvantage generally attending railroads. Travellers proceed more rapidly, but they lose all the beauty of the country. Railroads of course run through the most level portions of the States; and the levels, except they happen to be on the banks of a river, are invariably uninteresting. The road from Schenectady to Utica is one of the exceptions to this rule: there is not perhaps a more beautiful variety of scenery to be found anywhere. You run the whole way through the lovely valley of the Mohawk, on the banks of the Mohawk river. It was really delightful, but the motion was so rapid that you lamented passing by so fast. The Utica railroad is one of the best in America; the eighty miles are performed in four hours and a-half, stoppages for taking in water, passengers, and refreshments, included. The locomotive was of great power, and as it snorted along with a train of carriages of half a mile long in tow, it threw out such showers of fire, that we were constantly in danger of conflagration. The weather was too warm to admit of the windows being closed, and the ladies, assisted by the gentlemen, were constantly employed in putting out the sparks which settled on their clothes—the first time I ever heard ladies complain of having too many sparks about them. As the evening closed in we actually were whirled along through a stream of fiery threads—a beautiful, although humble imitation of the tail of a comet.
I had not been recognised in the rail car, and I again flattered myself that I was unknown. I proceeded, on my arrival at Utica, to the hotel, and asking at the bar for a bed, the book was handed to me, and I was requested to write my name. Wherever you stop in America, they generally produce a book and demand your name, not on account of any police regulations, but merely because they will not allow secrets in America, and because they choose to know who you may be. Of course, you may frustrate this espionage by putting down any name you please; and I had the pen in my hand, and was just thinking whether I should be Mr Snooks or Mr Smith, when I received a slap on the shoulder, accompanied with—"Well, captain, how are you by this time?" In despair I let the pen drop out of my hand, and instead of my name I left on the book a large blot. It was an old acquaintance from Albany, and before I had been ten minutes in the hotel, I was recognised by at least ten more. The Americans are such locomotives themselves, that it is useless to attempt the incognito in any part except the west side of the Missisippi, or the Rocky Mountains. Once known at New York, and you are known every where, for in every place you will meet with some one whom you have met walking in Broadway.
A tremendous thunder-storm, with torrents of rain, prevented my leaving Utica for Trenton Falls until late in the afternoon. The roads, ploughed up by the rain, were any thing but democratic; there was no level in them; and we were jolted and shaken like peas in a rattle, until we were silent from absolute suffering.
I rose the next morning at four o'clock. There was a heavy fog in the air, and you could not distinguish more than one hundred yards before you. I followed the path pointed out to me the night before, through a forest of majestic trees, and descending a long flight of steps found myself below the Falls. The scene impressed you with awe—the waters roared through deep chasms, between two walls of rock, one hundred and fifty feet high, perpendicular on each side, and the width between the two varying from forty to fifty feet. The high rocks were of black carbonate of lime in perfectly horizontal strata, so equally divided that they appeared like solid masonry. For fifty or sixty feet above the rushing waters they were smooth and bare; above that line vegetation commenced with small bushes, until you arrived at their summits, which were crowned with splendid forest trees, some of them inclining over the chasm, as if they would peep into the abyss below and witness the wild tumult of the waters.
From the narrowness of the pass, the height of the rocks, and the superadded towering of the trees above, but a small portion of the heavens was to be seen, and this was not blue, but of a misty murky grey. The first sensation was that of dizziness and confusion, from the unusual absence of the sky above, and the dashing frantic speed of the angry boiling waters. The rocks on each side have been blasted so as to form a path by which you may walk up to the first fall; but this path was at times very narrow and you have to cling to the chain which is let into the rock. The heavy storm of the day before had swelled the torrent so that it rose nearly a foot above this path; and before I had proceeded far, I found that the flood swept between my legs with a force which would have taken some people off their feet. The rapids below the Falls are much grander than the Falls themselves; there was one down in a chasm between two riven rocks which it was painful to look long upon, and watch with what a deep plunge—what irresistible force—the waters dashed down and then returned to their own surface, as if struggling and out of breath. As I stood over them in their wild career, listening to their roaring as if in anger, and watching the madness of their speed, I felt a sensation of awe—an inward acknowledgment of the tremendous power of Nature; and, after a time, I departed with feelings of gladness to escape from thought which became painful when so near to danger.
I gained the lower falls, which now covered the whole width of the rock, which they seldom do except during the freshets. They were extraordinary from their variety. On the side where I stood, poured down a rapid column of water about one-half of the width of the fall; on the other, it was running over a clear thin stream, as gentle and amiable as water could be. That part of the fall reminded me of ladies' hair in flowing ringlets, and the one nearest me of the Lord Chancellor Eldon, in all the pomposity and frowning dignity of his full-bottomed wig. And then I thought of the lion and the lamb, not lying down, but falling down together; and then I thought that I was wet through, which was a fact; so I climbed up a ladder, and came to a wooden bridge above the fall, which conveyed me to the other side. The bridge posses over a staircase of little falls, sometimes diagonally, sometimes at right angles with the sites, and is very picturesque. On the other side you climb up a ladder of one hundred feet, and arrive at a little building with a portico, where travellers are refreshed. Here you have a view of all the upper falls, but these seem tame after witnessing the savage impetuosity of the rapids below. You ascend another ladder of one hundred feet, and you arrive at a path pointed out to you by the broad chips of the woodman's axe. Follow the chips and you will arrive four or five hundred feet above both the bridge and the level of the upper fall. This scene is splendid. The black perpendicular rocks on the other side; the succession of falls; the rapids roaring below; the forest trees rising to the clouds and spreading with their majestic boughs the vapour ascending from the falling waters; together with the occasional glimpses of the skies here and there—all this induces you to wander with your eyes from one point of view to another, never tiring with its beauty, wildness, and vastness: and, if you do not exclaim with the Mussulman, God is great! you feel it through every sense, and at every pulsation of the heart.
The mountain was still above me, and I continued my ascent; but the chips now disappeared, and, like Tom Thumb, I lost my way. I attempted to retreat, but in vain; I was no longer amongst forest trees, but in a maze of young mountain ash, from which I could not extricate myself: so I stood still to think what I should do. I recollected that the usual course of proceeding on such occasions, was either to sit down and cry, or attempt to get out of your scrape. Tom Thumb did both; but I had no time to indulge in the former luxury, so I pushed and pushed, till I pushed myself out of my scrape, and found myself in a more respectable part of the woods. I then stopped to take breath. I heard a rustling behind me, and made sure it was a panther:—it was a beautiful little palm squirrel, who came close to me, as if to say "Who are you?" I took off my hat and told him my name, when, very contemptuously, as I thought, he turned short round, cocked his tail over his back, and skipped away. "Free, but not enlightened," thought I; "hasn't a soul above nuts." I also beat a retreat, and on my arrival at the hotel, found that, although I had no guides to pay, Nature had made a very considerable levy upon my wardrobe: my boots were bursting, my trowsers torn to fragments, and my hat was spoilt; and, moreover, I sat shivering in the garments which remained. So I, in my turn, levied upon a cow that was milking, and having improved her juice very much by the addition of some rum, I sat down under the portico, and smoked the cigar of meditation.
The walls of the portico were, as usual, scribbled over by those who would obtain cheap celebrity. I always read these productions; they are pages of human life. The majority of the scribblers leave a name and nothing more: beyond that, some few of their productions are witty, some sententious, mostly gross. My thoughts, as I read over the rubbish, were happily expressed by the following distich which I came to:—
Les Fenetres et les Murailles, Sont le papier des Canailles.
A little farther on, I found the lie given to this remark by some philosophic Spaniard:
Amigo quien quiera que seas, piensa que si acqui Pones tu nombre, pronto il tiempo lo borrara Escribe lo pues en il libro de Dio en donde. Permancera eternamente— In Amigo.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER TWELVE.
Returning to Utica, I fell in with a horse bridled and saddled, that was taking his way home without his master, every now and then cropping the grass at the road-side, and then walking on in a most independent manner. His master had given him a certificate of leave, by chalking in large letters on the saddle-flaps on each side, "Let him go." This was a very primitive proceeding; but I am not quite sure that it could be ventured upon in Yorkshire, or in Virginia either, where they know a good horse, and are particularly careful of it. It is a fact, that wherever they breed horses they invariably learn to steal them.
Set off for Oswego in a canal boat; it was called a packet-boat because it did not carry merchandise, but was a very small affair, about fifty feet long by eight wide. The captain of her was, however, in his own opinion, no small affair; he puffed and swelled until he looked larger than his boat. This personage, as soon as we were under weigh, sat down in the narrow cabin, before a small table; sent for this writing-desk, which was about the size of street organ, and, like himself, no small affair; ordered a bell to be rung in our ears to summon the passengers; and, then, taking down the names of four or five people, received the enormous sum of ten dollars passage-money. He then locked his desk with a key large enough for a street-door, ordered his steward to remove it, and went on deck to walk just three feet and return again. After all, there is nothing like being a captain.
Although many of the boats are laid up, there is still considerable traffic on this canal. We passed Rome, a village of two thousand inhabitants, at which number it has for many years been nearly stationary. This branch of the canal is, of course, cut through the levels, and we passed through swamps and wild forests; here and there some few acres were cleared, and a log-house was erected, looking very solitary and forlorn, surrounded by the stumps of the trees which had been felled, and which now lay corded up on the banks of the canal, ready to be disposed of. Wild and dreary as the country is, the mass of forest is gradually receding, and occasionally some solitary tree is left standing, throwing out its wide arms, and appearing as if in lamentation at its separation from its companions, with whom for centuries it had been in close fellowship.
Extremes meet: as I looked down from the roof of the boat upon the giants of the forest, which had for so many centuries reared their heads undisturbed, but now lay prostrate before civilisation, the same feelings were conjured up in my mind as when I have, in my wanderings, surveyed such fragments of dismembered empires as the ruins of Carthage or of Rome. There the reign of Art was over, and Nature had resumed her sway—here Nature was deposed, and about to resign her throne to the usurper Art. By the bye, the mosquitoes of this district have reaped some benefit from the cutting of the canal here. Before these impervious forest retreats were thus pierced, they could not have tasted human blood; for ages it must have been unknown to them, even by tradition; and if they taxed all other boats on the canal as they did, ours, a canal share with them must be considerably above par, and highly profitable.
At five o'clock we arrived at Syracuse. I do detest these old names vamped up. Why do not the Americans take the Indian names? They need not be so very scrupulous about it; they have robbed the Indians of everything else.
After you pass Syracuse, the country wears a more populous and inviting appearance. Salina is a village built upon a salt spring, which has the greatest flow of water yet known, and this salt spring is the cause of the improved appearance of the country; the banks of the canal, for three miles, are lined with buildings for the boiling down of the salt water, which is supplied by a double row of wooden pipes. Boats are constantly employed up and down the canal, transporting wood for the supply of the furnaces. It is calculated that two hundred thousand cord of wood are required every year for the present produce; and as they estimate upon an average about sixty cord of wood per acre in these parts, those salt works are the means of yearly clearing away upwards of three thousand acres of land. Two million of bushels of salt are boiled down every year: it is packed in barrels, and transported by the canals and lakes to Canada, Michigan, Chicago, and the far West. When we reflect upon the number of people employed in the manufactories, and in cutting wood, and making barrels, and engaged on the lakes and canals in transporting the produce so many thousand miles, we must admire the spring to industry which has been created by this little, but bounteous, spring presented by nature.
The first sixty miles of this canal (I get on very slow with my description, but canal travelling is very slow), which is through a flat swampy forest, is without a lock; but after you pass Syracuse, you have to descend by locks to the Oswego river, and the same at every rapid of the river; in all, there is a fall of one hundred and sixty feet. Simple as locks are, I could not help reverting to the wild rapids at Trenton Falls, and reflecting upon how the ingenuity of man had so easily been able to overcome and control Nature! The locks did not detain us long—they never lose time in America. When the boat had entered the lock, and the gate was closed upon her, the water was let off with a rapidity which considerably affected her level, and her bows pointed downwards. I timed one lock with a fall of fifteen feet. From the time the gate was closed behind us until the lower one was opened for our egress, was exactly one minute and a quarter; and the boat sank down in the lock so rapidly as to give you the idea that she was scuttled and sinking.
The country round the Oswego is fertile and beautiful, and the river, with its islands, falls, and rapids, very picturesque. At one p.m. we arrived at the town of Oswego, on Lake Ontario; I was pleased with the journey, although, what with ducking to bridges, bites from mosquitoes, and the constant blowing of their unearthly horn with only one note, and which one must have been borrowed from the gamut of the infernal regions, I had had enough of it.
For the first time since my arrival in the country, no one—that is to say, on board the canal-boat—knew who I was. As we tracked above the Oswego river, I fell into conversation with a very agreeable person, who had joined us at Syracuse. We conversed the whole day, and I obtained much valuable information from him about the country: when we parted, he expressed a wish that we should meet again. He gave me his name and address, and when I gave my card in return, he looked at it, and then said, "I am most happy to make your acquaintance, sir; but I will confess that had I known with whom I had been conversing, I should not have spoken so freely upon certain points connected with the government and institutions of this country." This was American all over; they would conceal the truth, and then blame us because we do not find it out. I met him afterwards, but he never would enter into any detailed conversation with me.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER THIRTEEN.
Niagara Falls.—Perhaps the wisest, if not the best description of the Falls of Niagara, is in the simple ejaculation of Mrs Butler; for it is almost useless to attempt to describe when you feel that language fails; but if the falls cannot be described, the ideas which are conjured up in the mind, when we contemplate this wonderful combination of grandeur and beauty, are often worth recording. The lines of Mrs Sigourney, the American poetess, please me most.
Flow on for ever, in thy glorious robe Of terror and of beauty; God hath set His rainbow on thy forehead, and the cloud Mantles around thy feet. And he doth give Thy voice of thunder power to speak of him Eternally—bidding the lip of man Keep silence, and upon thy rocky altar pour Incense of awe-struck praise.
When the Indian first looked upon the falls, he declared them to be the dwelling of the Great Spirit. The savage could not imagine that the Great Spirit dwelt also in the leaf which he bruised in his hand; but here it appealed to his senses in thunder and awful majesty, and he was compelled to acknowledge it.
The effects which the contemplation of these glorious waters produce, are of course very different, according to one's temperament and disposition. As I stood on the brink above the falls, continuing for a considerable time to watch the great mass of water tumbling, dancing, capering, and rushing wildly along, as if in a hurry to take the leap and, delighted at it, I could not help wishing that I too had been made of such stuff as would have enabled me to have joined it; with it to have rushed innocuously down the precipice; to have rolled uninjured into the deep unfathomable gulf below, or to have gambolled in the atmosphere of spray, which rose again in a dense cloud from its recesses. For about half an hour more I continued to watch the rolling waters, and then I felt a slight dizziness and a creeping sensation come over me—that sensation arising from strong excitement, and the same, probably, that occasions the bird to fall into the jaws of the snake. This is a feeling which, if too long indulged in, becomes irresistible, and occasions a craving desire to leap into the flood of rushing waters. It increased upon me every minute; and retreating from the brink, I turned my eyes to the surrounding foliage, until the effect of the excitement had passed away. I looked upon the waters a second time, and then my thoughts were directed into a very different channel. I wished myself a magician, that I might transport the falls to Italy, and pour their whole volume of waters into the crater of Mount Vesuvius; witness the terrible conflict between the contending elements, and create the largest steam-boiler that ever entered into the imagination of man.
I have no doubt that the opinion that these falls have receded a distance of seven miles is correct; but what time must have passed before even this tremendous power could have sawed away such a mass of solid rock! Within the memory of man it has receded but a few feet— changed but little. How many thousand years must these waters have been flowing and falling, unvarying in their career, and throwing up their sheets of spray to heaven.
It is impossible for either the eye or the mind to compass the whole mass of falling water; you cannot measure, cannot estimate its enormous volume; and this is the reason, perhaps, why travellers often express themselves disappointed by it. But fix your eye upon one portion—one falling and heaving wave out of the millions, as they turn over the edge of the rocks; watch, I say, this fragment for a few minutes, its regular time-beating motion never varying or changing; pursuing the laws of nature with a regularity never ceasing and never tiring; minute after minute; hour after hour; day after day; year after year, until time recedes into creation: then cast your eyes over the whole multitudinous mass which is, and has been, performing the same and coeval duty, and you feel its vastness! Still the majesty of the whole is far too great for the mind to compass—too stupendous for its limited powers of reception.
Sunday.—I had intended to have passed the whole day at the Falls; but an old gentleman whose acquaintance I had made in the steam boat on Lake Ontario, asked me to go to church; and as I felt he would be annoyed if I did not, I accompanied him to a Presbyterian meeting not far from the Falls, which sounded like distant thunder. The sermon was upon temperance—a favourite topic in America; and the minister rather quaintly observed, that "alcohol was not sealed by the hand of God." It was astonishing to me that he did not allude to the Falls, point out that the seal of God was there, and shew how feeble was the voice of man when compared to the thunder of the Almighty so close at hand. But the fact was, he had been accustomed to preach every Sunday with the Falls roaring in his ear, and (when the wind was in a certain quarter,) with the spray damping the leaves of his sermon: he therefore did not feel as we did, and, no doubt, thought his sermon better than that from the God of the elements.
Yes, it is through the elements that the Almighty has ever deigned to commune with man, or to execute his supreme will, whether it has been by the wild waters to destroy an impious race—by the fire hurled upon the doomed cities—by seas divided, that the chosen might pass through them—by the thunders on Sinai's Mount when his laws were given to man— by the pillar of fire or the gushing rock, or by the rushing of mighty winds. And it is still through the elements that the Almighty speaks to man, to warn, to terrify, to chasten; to raise him up to wonder, to praise, and adore. The forked and blinding lightning which, with the rapidity of thought, dissolves the union between the body and the soul; the pealing thunder, announcing that the bolt has sped; the fierce tornado, sweeping away everything in its career, like a besom of wrath; the howling storm; the mountain waves; the earth quaking, and yawning wide, in a second overthrowing the work and pride of centuries, and burying thousands in a living tomb; the fierce vomiting of the crater, pouring out its flames of liquid fire, and changing fertility to the arid rock: it is through these that the Deity still speaks to man; yet what can inspire more awe of him, more reverence, and more love, than the contemplation of thy falling waters, great Niagara!
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER FOURTEEN.
Two gentlemen have left their cards, and will be happy to see me on my route; one lives at Batavia, the other at Pekin. I recollect going over the ferry to Brooklyn to visit the Commodore at the Navy Yard; I walked to where the omnibuses started from, to see if one was going my way. There were but two on the stand: one was bound to Babylon, the other to Jericho. Buffalo is one of the wonders of America. It is hardly to be credited that such a beautiful city could have risen up in the wilderness in so short a period. In the year 1814 it was burnt down, being then only a village; only one house was left standing, and now it is a city with twenty-five thousand inhabitants. The Americans are very judicious in planning their new towns; the streets are laid out so wide that there will never be any occasion to pull down to widen and improve, as we do in England. The city of Buffalo is remarkably well built; all the houses in the principal streets are lofty and substantial, and are either of brick or granite. The main street is wider, and the stores handsomer, than the majority of those in New York. It has five or six very fine churches, a handsome theatre, town-hall, and market, and three or four hotels, one of which is superior to most others in America; and to these we must add a fine stone pier, with a lighthouse, and a harbour full of shipping and magnificent steam-boats. It is almost incomprehensible, that all this should have been accomplished since the year 1814. And what has occasioned this springing up of a city in so short a time as to remind you of Aladdin's magic palace?—the Erie Canal, which here joins the Hudson River with the Lake, passing through the centre of the most populous and fertile States.
At present, however, the business of Buffalo, as well as of every other city, is nearly at a stand-still; the machinery of America is under repair, and until that repair is completed, the country will remain paralysed. America may just now be compared to one of her own steamboats, which, under too high pressure, has burst her boiler. Some of her passengers have (in a commercial point of view) been killed outright, others severely injured, and her progress has for a time been stopped: but she will soon be enabled to go a-head again as fast as ever, and will then probably pay a little more attention to her safety-valve.
I went out to the Indian reservation, granted to the remnant of the Seneca tribe of Indians, once a portion of the Mohawks, and all that now remains in the United States of the famed six nations. The chief of them (Red Jacket), lately dead, might be considered as the last of the Mohicans. I had some conversation with his daughter, who was very busily employed in the ornamenting of a pair of mocassins, and then visited the tomb, or rather the spot, where her father was buried, without name or record. This omission has since been repaired, and a tablet is now raised over his grave. It is creditable to the profession that the "poor player," as Shakespeare hath it, should be the foremost to pay tribute to worth. Cooke, the tragedian, was lying without a stone to mark his resting-place, when Kean came to America, found out the spot, and raised a handsome cenotaph to his memory; and it is to Mr Placide, one of the very best of American actors, that Red Jacket is indebted for the tablet which has been raised to rescue his narrow home from oblivion.
Red Jacket was a great chief and a great man, but, like most of the Indians, he could not resist the temptations of alcohol, and was during the latter part of his life very intemperate. When Red Jacket was sober, he was the proudest chief that ever walked, and never would communicate even with the highest of the American authorities but through his interpreter; but when intoxicated, he would speak English and French fluently, and then the proud Indian warrior, the most eloquent of his race, the last chief of the six nations, would demean himself by begging for a sixpence to buy more rum.
I must now revert to the singular causes by which, independent of others, such as locality, etcetera, Buffalo was so rapidly brought to a state of perfection—not like many other towns which, commencing with wooden houses, gradually supersede them by brick and stone. The person who was the cause of this unusual rise was a Mr Rathbun, who now lies incarcerated in a gaol of his own building. It was he who built all the hotels, churches, and other public edifices; in fact, every structure worthy of observation in the whole town was projected, contracted for, and executed by Mr Rathbun. His history is singular. Of quiet, unassuming manners, Quaker in his dress, moderate in all his expenses, (except in charity, wherein, assisted by an amiable wife, he was very liberal) he concealed under this apparent simplicity and goodness a mind capable of the vastest conceptions, united with the greatest powers of execution. He undertook contracts, and embarked in building speculations, to an amount almost incredible. Rathbun undertook every thing, and every thing undertaken by Rathbun was well done. Not only at Buffalo, but at Niagara and other places, he was engaged in raising vast buildings, when the great crash occurred, and Rathbun, with others, was unable to meet his liabilities. Then, for the first time, it was discovered that for more than five years he had been conniving at a system of forgery, to the amount of two millions of dollars: the forgery consisted in putting to his bills the names of responsible parties as indorsers, that they might be more current. It does not appear that he ever intended to defraud, for he took up all his notes as fast as they became due; and it was this extreme regularity on his part which prevented the discovery of his fraud for so unusually long a period. It is surmised, that had not the general failure taken place, he would have eventually withdrawn all these forged bills from the market, and have paid all his creditors, reserving for himself a handsome fortune. It is a singular event in the annals of forgery, that this should have been carried on undiscovered for so unprecedented a time. Mr Rathbun is to be tried as an accessory, as it was his brother who forged the names. As soon as it was discovered, the latter made his escape, and he is said to have died miserably in a hovel on the confines of Texas.
Embarked on board of the Sandusky, for Detroit. As we were steering clear of the pier, a small brig of about two hundred tons burthen was pointed out to me as having been the flag-ship of Commodore Barclay, in the action upon Lake Erie. The appearance of Buffalo from the Lake is very imposing. Stopped at Dunkirk to put some emigrants on shore. As they were landing, I watched them carefully counting over their little property, from the iron tea-kettle to the heavy chest. It was their whole fortune, and invaluable to them; the nest-egg by which, with industry, their children were to rise to affluence. They remained on the wharf as we shoved off, and no wonder that they seemed embarrassed and at a loss. There was the baby in the cradle, the young children holding fast to their mother's skirt, while the elder had seated themselves on a log, and watched the departure of the steam-vessel;—the bedding, cooking utensils, etcetera, all lying in confusion, and all to be housed before night. Weary did they look, and weary indeed they were, and most joyful would they be when they at last should gain their resting-place. It appears from the reports sent in, that upwards of 100,000 emigrants pass to the west every year by the route of the Lakes, of which it is estimated that about 30,000 are from Europe, the remainder migrating from the eastern States of the Union.
I may keep a log now.—5 AM Light breezes and clear weather, land trending from South to South South West. Five sail in the offing.
At 6 AM, ran into Grand River. Within these last two years, three towns have sprung up here, containing between them about three thousand inhabitants.
How little are they aware, in Europe, of the vastness and extent of commerce carried on in these inland seas whose coasts are now lined with flourishing towns and cities, and whose waters are ploughed by magnificent steam-boats, and hundreds of vessels laden with merchandise. Even the Americans themselves are not fully aware of the rising importance of these Lakes as connected with the West. Since the completion of the Ohio Canal, which enters the Lake Erie at Cleveland, that town has risen almost as rapidly as Buffalo. It is beautifully situated. It is about six years back that it may be said to have commenced its start, and it now contains more than ten thousand inhabitants. The buildings are upon the same scale as those of Buffalo, and it is conjectured with good reason, that it will become even a larger city than the other, as the ice breaks up here and the navigation is open in the spring, six weeks sooner than it is at Buffalo; abreast of which town the ice is driven down and collected, previous to its forcing its passage over the falls.
Erie, which was the American naval depot during the war, has a fine bay, but it is now falling into insignificance: it has a population of about one thousand.
Sandusky is a fast-rising town, beautifully situated upon the verge of a small prairie; it is between Sandusky and Huron that the prairie lands commence. The bay of Sandusky is very picturesque, being studded with small verdant islands. On one of these are buried in the same grave all those who fell in the hard-fought battle of the Lakes, between Perry and Barclay, both of whom have since followed their companions.
Toledo is the next town of consequence on the Lake. It is situated at the mouth of the Miami River; and as a railroad has already been commenced across the isthmus, so as to avoid going round the whole peninsula of Michigan, it is fast rising into importance. Three years ago the land was purchased at a dollar and a-half per acre; now, it is selling for building lots at one hundred dollars per foot. They handed me a paper printed in this town called "The Toledo Blade;" a not inappropriate title, though rather a bold one for an editor to write up to, as his writings ought to be very sharp, and, at the same time, extremely well-tempered.
The American government have paid every attention to their inland waters. The harbours, light-houses, piers, etcetera, have all been built at the expense of government, and every precaution has been taken to make the navigation of the Lakes as safe as possible.
In speaking of the new towns rising so fast in America, I wish the reader to understand that, if he compares them with the country towns of the same population in England, he will not do them. In the smaller towns of England you can procure but little, and you have to send to London for any thing good: in the larger towns, such as Norwich, etcetera, you may procure most things; but, still, luxuries must usually be obtained from the metropolis. But in such places as Buffalo and Cleveland, every thing is to be had that you can procure at New York or Boston. In those two towns on Lake Erie are stores better furnished, and handsomer, than any shops at Norwich, in England; and you will find, in either of them, articles for which, at Norwich, you would be obliged to send to London. It is the same thing at almost every town in America with which communication is easy. Would you furnish a house in one of them, you will find every article of furniture—carpets, stoves, grates, marble chimney-pieces, pier-glasses, pianos, lamps, candelabra, glass, china, etcetera, in twice the quantity, and in greater variety, than at any provincial town in England.
This arises from the system of credit extended through every vein and artery of the country, and by which English goods are forced, as if with a force-pump, into every available depot in the Union; and thus, in a town so newly raised, that the stumps of the forest-trees are not only still surrounding the houses, but remain standing in the cellars, you will find every luxury that can be required. It may be asked what becomes of all these goods. It must be recollected that hundreds of new houses spring up every year in the towns, and that the surrounding country is populous and wealthy. In the farmhouses—mean-looking and often built of logs—is to be found not only comfort, but very often luxury.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER FIFTEEN.
The French never have succeeded as colonists, and their want of success can only be ascribed to an amiable want of energy. When located at any spot, if a Frenchman has enough, he seeks no more; and, instead of working as the Englishman or the American does, he will pass his time away, and spend his little surplus in social amusements. The town of Detroit was founded as early as the city of Philadelphia, but, favourably as it is situated, it never until lately rose to any thing more than, properly speaking, a large village. There is not a paved street in it, or even a foot-path for a pedestrian. In winter, in rainy weather, you are up to your knees in mud; in summer, invisible from dust: indeed, until lately, there was not a practicable road for thirty miles round Detroit. The muddy and impassable state of the streets has given rise to a very curious system of making morning or evening calls. A small one-horse cart is backed against the door of a house; the ladies dressed get into it, and seat themselves upon a buffalo skin at the bottom of it; they are carried to the residence of the party upon whom they wish to call; the cart is backed in again, and they are landed dry and clean. An old inhabitant of Detroit complained to me that people were now getting so proud, that many of them refused to visit in that way any longer. But owing to the rise of the other towns on the lake, the great increase of commerce, and Michigan having been admitted as a State into the Union, with Detroit as its capital, a large Eastern population has now poured into it, and Detroit will soon present an appearance very different from its present, and become one of the most flourishing cities of America. Within these last six years it has increased its population from two to ten thousand. The climate here is the very best in America, although the State itself is unhealthy. The land near the town is fertile. A railroad from Detroit already extends thirty miles through the State; and now that the work has commenced, it will be carried on with the usual energy of the Americans.
Left Detroit in the Michigan steam-vessel for Mackinaw; passed through the Lake St Clair, and entered Lake Huron; stopped at a solitary wharf to take in wood, and met there with a specimen of American politeness or (if you please) independence in the gentleman who cut down and sold it. Without any assignable motive, he called out to me, "You are a damned fool of an Englishman;" for which, I suppose, I ought to have been very much obliged to him.
Miss Martineau has not been too lavish in her praises of Mackinaw. It has the appearance of a fairy isle floating on the water, which is so pure and transparent that you may see down to almost any depth; and the air above is as pure as the water, so that you feel invigorated as you breathe it. The first reminiscence brought to my mind after I had landed, was the description by Walter Scott of the island and residence of Magnus Troil and his daughters Minna and Brenda, in the novel of the "Pirate."
The low buildings, long stores, and out-houses full of nets, barrels, masts, sails, and cordage; the abundance of fish lying about; the rafters of the houses laden with dried and smoked meat; and the full and jolly proportions of most of the inhabitants, who would have rivalled Scott's worthy in height and obesity, immediately struck my eye; and I might have imagined myself transported to the Shetland isle, had it not been for the lodges of the Indians on the beach, and the Indians themselves either running about, or lying stripped in the porches before the whisky stores.
I inquired of one of the islanders, why all the white residents were generally such large portly men, which they are at a very early age; he replied, "We have good air, good water, and what we eat agrees with us." This was very conclusive.
I enquired of another, if people lived to a good old age in the island; his reply was quite American—"I guess they do; if people want to die, they can't die here—they're obliged to go elsewhere."
Wandering among the Indian lodges (wigwams is a term not used now-a-days), I heard a sort of flute played in one of them, and I entered. The young Indian who was blowing on it, handed it to me. It was an imperfect instrument, something between a flute and a clarionet, but the sound which it gave out was soft and musical. An islander informed me that it was the only sort of musical instrument which the Northern tribes possessed, and that it was played upon by the young men only when they were in love. I suspected at first that he was bantering me, but I afterwards found that what he said was true. The young Indian must have been very deeply smitten, for he continued to play all day and all night, during the time that I was there.
"If music be the food of love, play on."
Started in a birch canoe for Sault St Marie, a small town built under the rapids of that name, which pour out a portion of the waters of Lake Superior. Two American gentlemen, one a member of Congress, and the other belonging to the American Fur Company, were of the party. Our crew consisted of five Canadian half-breeds—a mixture between the Indian and the white, which spoils both. It was a lovely morning; not a breath of air stirred the wide expanse of the Huron, as far as the eye could scan; and the canoe, as it floated along side of the landing-place, appeared as if it were poised in the air, so light did it float, and so clear and transparent are these northern waters. We started, and in two hours arrived at Goose Island, unpoetical in its name, but in itself full of beauty. As you stand on the beach, you can look down through the water on to the shelving bottom, bright with its variety of pebbles, and trace it almost as far off as if it had not been covered with water at all. The island was small, but gay as the gayest of parterres, covered with the sweet wild rose in full bloom (certainly the most fragrant rose in the world), blue campanellos, yellow exeranthemums, and white ox-eyed daisies. Underneath there was a perfect carpet of strawberries, ripe, and inviting you to eat them, which we did, while our Canadian brutes swallowed long strings of raw salt pork. And yet, in two months hence, this lovely little spot will be but one mass of snow—a mound rising above to serve as a guide to the chilled traveller who would find his way over the frozen expanse of the wide Huron Lake.
As soon as our Canadians had filled themselves to repletion with raw pork, we continued our route that we might cross the lake and gain the detour, or point which forms the entrance of the river St Marie, before it was dark. We arrived a little before sunset, when we landed, put up our light boat, and bivouacked for the night. As soon as we put our feet on shore, we were assailed by the mosquitoes in myriads. They congregated from all quarters in such numbers, that you could only see as if through a black veil, and you could not speak without having your mouth filled with them. But in ten minutes we had a large fire, made, not of logs or branches, but of a dozen small trees. The wind eddied, and the flame and smoke, as they rose in masses, whirled about the mosquitoes right and left, and in every quarter of the compass, until they were fairly beaten off to a respectable distance. We supped upon lake-trout and fried ham; and rolling ourselves up in our Mackinaw blankets, we were soon fast asleep.
There was no occasion to call us the next morning. The Canadians were still snoring, and had let the fires go down. The mosquitoes, taking advantage of this neglect, had forced their way into the tent, and sounded the reveille in our ears with their petty trumpets; following up the summons with the pricking of pins, as the fairies of Queen Mab are reported to have done to lazy housemaids. We kicked up our half-breeds, who gave us our breakfast, stowed away the usual quantity of raw pork, and once more did we float on the water in a piece of birch bark. The heat of the sun was oppressive, and we were broiled; but we dipped our hands in the clear cool stream as we skimmed along, listening to the whistling of the solitary loon as it paddled away from us, or watching the serrated back of the sturgeon, as he rolled lazily over and showed above the water. Now and then we stopped, and the silence of the desert was broken by the report of our fowling-pieces, and a pigeon or two was added to our larder. At noon a breeze sprung up, and we hoisted our sail, and the Canadians who had paddled dropped asleep as we glided quietly along under the guidance of the "timonier."