It was not until I had been some time in Philadelphia that I became convinced how very superior the free coloured people were in intelligence and education, to what, from my knowledge of them in our West-India Islands, I had ever imagined them capable of. Not that I mean to imply that they will ever attain to the same powers of intellect as the white man, for I really believe that the race are not formed for it by the Almighty. I do not mean to say that there never will be great men among the African race, but that such instances will always be very rare, compared to the numbers produced among the white. But this is certain, that in Philadelphia the free coloured people are a very respectable class, and, in my opinion, quite as intelligent as the more humble of the free whites. I have been quite surprised to see them take out their pencils, write down and calculate with quickness and precision, and in every other point shew great intelligence and keenness.
In this city they are both numerous and wealthy. The most extravagant funeral I saw in Philadelphia was that of a black; the coaches were very numerous, as well as the pedestrians, who were all well dressed, and behaving with the utmost decorum. They were preceded by a black clergyman, dressed in his full black silk canonicals. He did look very odd, I must confess.
Singular is the degree of contempt and dislike in which the free blacks are held in all the free States of America. They are deprived of their rights as citizens; and the white pauper, who holds out his hand for charity (and there is no want of beggars in Philadelphia), will turn away from a negro, or coloured man, with disdain. It is the same thing in the Eastern States, notwithstanding their religious professions. In fact, in the United States, a negro, from his colour, and I believe his colour alone, is a degraded being. Is not this extraordinary, in a land which professes universal liberty, equality, and the rights of man? In England this is not the case. In private society no one objects to sit in company with a man of colour, provided he has the necessary education and respectability. Nor, indeed, is it the case in the Slave States, where I have frequently seen a lady in a public conveyance with her negress sitting by her, and no objection has been raised by the other parties in the coach; but in the Free States a man of colour is not admitted into a stage coach; and in all other public places, such as theatres, churches, etcetera, there is always a portion divided off for the negro population, that they may not be mixed up with the whites. When I first landed at New York, I had a specimen of this feeling. Fastened by a rope yarn to the rudder chains of a vessel next in the tier, at the wharf to which the packet had hauled in, I perceived the body of a black man, turning over and over with the ripple of the waves. I was looking at it, when a lad came up: probably his curiosity was excited by my eyes being fixed in that direction. He looked, and perceiving the object, turned away with disdain, saying, "Oh, it's only a nigger."
And all the Free States in America respond to the observation, "It's only a nigger." [See note 1.] At the time that I was at Philadelphia a curious cause was decided. A coloured man of the name of James Fortin, who was, I believe, a sailmaker by profession, but at all events a person not only of the highest respectability, but said to be worth 150,000 dollars, appealed because he was not permitted to vote at elections, and claimed his right as a free citizen. The cause was tried, and the verdict, a very lengthy one, was given by the judge against him, I have not that verdict in my possession; but I have the opinion of the Supreme Court on one which was given before, and I here insert it as a curiosity. It is a remarkable feature in the tyranny and injustice of this case, that although James Fortin was not considered white enough (he is, I believe, a mulatto) to vote as a citizen, he has always been quite white enough to be taxed as one, and has to pay his proportion, (which, from the extent of his business, is no trifle) of all the rates and assessments considered requisite for the support of the poor, and improving and beautifying that city, of which he is declared not to be a citizen.
Although the decision of the Supreme Court enters into a lengthened detail, yet as it is very acute and argumentative, and touches upon several other points equally anomalous to the boasted freedom of the American institutions, I wish the reader would peruse it carefully, as it will amply repay him for his trouble; and it is that he may read it, that I have not inserted it in an Appendix.
The question arose upon a writ of error to the judgment of the Common Pleas of Luzerne county, in an action by Wm. Fogg, a negro, against Hiram Hobbs, inspector, and Levi Baldwin and others, judges of the election, for refusing his vote. In the Court below the plaintiff recovered. The Supreme Court being of opinion that a negro has not a right to vote under the present constitution, reversed the judgment.
"Respectfully, FRED. WATTS.
"Wm. Fogg versus Hiram Hobbs and others.
"The opinion of the Court was delivered by Gibson, CJ.
"This record raises, a second time, the only question on a phrase in the Constitution which has occurred since its adoption; and, however partisans may have disputed the clearness and precision of phraseology, we have often been called upon to enforce its limitations of legislative power; but the business of interpretation was incidental, and the difficulty was not in the diction, but in the uncertainty of the act to which it was to be applied. I have said a question on the meaning of a phrase has arisen a second time. It would be more accurate to say the same question has arisen the second time. About the year 1795, as I have it from James Gibson, Esquire, of the Philadelphia bar, the very point before us was ruled by the High Court of Errors and Appeals against the right of negro suffrage. Mr Gibson declined an invitation to be concerned in the argument, and therefore has no memorandum of the cause to direct us to the record. I have had the office searched for it; but the papers had fallen into such disorder as to preclude a hope of its discovery. Most of them were imperfect, and many were lost or misplaced. But Mr Gibson's remembrance of the decision is perfect, and entitled to full confidence. That the case was not reported, is probably owing to the fact that the judges gave no reasons; and the omission is the more to be regretted, as a report of it would have put the question at rest, and prevented much unpleasant excitement. Still, the judgment is not the less authoritative as a precedent. Standing as the court of last resort, that tribunal bore the name relation to this court that the Supreme Court does to the Common Pleas; and as its authority could not be questioned then, it cannot be questioned now. The point, therefore, is not open to discussion on original grounds.
"But the omission of the judges renders it proper to show that their decision was founded in the true principles of the constitution. In the first section of the third article it is declared, that 'in elections by the citizens, every freeman of the age of twenty-one years, having resided in the State two years before the election, and having within that time paid a state or county tax,' shall enjoy the rights of an elector. Now, the argument of those who assert the claim of the coloured population is, that a negro is a man; and when not held to involuntary service, that he is free, consequently that he is a freeman; and if a freeman in the common acceptation of the term, then a freeman in every acceptation of it. This pithy and syllogistic sentence comprises the whole argument, which, however elaborated, perpetually goes back to the point from which it started. The fallacy of it is its assumption that the term 'freedom' signifies nothing but exemption from involuntary service; and that it has not a legal signification more specific. The freedom of a municipal corporation, or body politic, implies fellowship and participation, of corporate rights; but an inhabitant of an incorporated place, who is neither servant nor slave, though bound by its laws, may be no freeman in respect to its government. It has indeed been affirmed by text writers, that habitance, paying scot and lot, give an incidental right to corporate freedom; but the courts have refused to acknowledge it, even when the charter seemed to imply it; and when not derived from prescription or grant, it has been deemed a qualification merely, and not a title. (Wilcox, chap. iii. p. 456.) Let it not be said that the legal meaning of the word freeman is peculiar to British corporations, and that we have it not in the charters and constitutions of Pennsylvania. The laws agreed upon in England in May 1682, use the word in this specific sense, and even furnish a definition of it: 'Every inhabitant of the said province that is, or shall be, a purchaser of one hundred acres of land or upwards, his heirs or assigns, and every person who shall have paid his passage, and shall have taken up one hundred acres of land, at a penny an acre, and have cultivated ten acres thereof; and every person that hath been a servant or bondsman, and is free by his service, that shall have taken up his fifty acres of land, and shall have cultivated twenty thereof; and every inhabitant, artificer, or other resident in the said province, that pays scot and lot to the government, shall be deemed and accounted a *freeman* of the said province; and every such person shall be capable of electing, or being elected, representatives of the people in provincial council, or general assembly of the said province.' Now, why this minute and elaborate detail? Had it been intended that all but servants and slaves should be freemen to every intent, it had been easier and more natural to say so. But it was not intended. It was foreseen that there would be inhabitants, neither planters nor taxable, who, though free as the winds, might be unsafe depositories of popular power; and the design was, to admit no man to the freedom of the province who had not a stake in it. That the clause which relates to freedom by service was not intended for manumitted slaves is evident, from the fact that there were none; and it regarded not slavery, but limited servitude expired by efflux of time. At that time, certainly, the case of a manumitted slave, or of his free-born progeny, was not contemplated as one to be provided for in the founder's scheme of policy: I have quoted the passage, however, to show that the word freeman was applied in a peculiar sense to the political compact of our ancestors, resting like a corporation, on a charter from the crown; and exactly as it was applied to bodies politic at home. In entire consonance, it was declared in the Act of Union, given at Chester in the same year, that strangers and foreigners holding land 'according to the law of a freeman,' and promising obedience to the proprietary, as well as allegiance to the crown, 'shall be held and reputed freemen of the province and counties aforesaid;' and it was further declared, that when a foreigner 'shall make his request to the governor of the province for the aforesaid freedom, the same person shall be admitted on the conditions herein expressed, paying twenty shillings sterling, and no more:'—modes of expression peculiarly appropriate to corporate fellowship. The word in the same sense pervades the charter of privileges, the act of settlement, and the act of naturalisation, in the preamble to the last of which it was said, that some of the inhabitants were 'foreigners and not freemen, according to the acceptation of the laws of England;' it held its place also in the legislative style of enactment down to the adoption of the present constitution; after which, the words 'by and with the advice and consent of the freemen,' were left out, and the present style substituted. Thus, till the instant when the phrase on which the question turns was penned, the term freeman had a peculiar and specific sense, being used like the term citizen, which supplanted it, to denote one who had a voice in public affairs. The citizens were denominated freemen even in the constitution of 1776; and under the present constitution, the word, though dropped in the style, was used in legislative acts, convertible with electors, so late as the year 1798, when it grew into disuse. In an act passed the 4th of April in that year for the establishment of certain election districts, it was, for the first time, used indiscriminately with that word; since when it has been entirely disused. Now, it will not be pretended, that the legislature meant to have it inferred, that every one not a freeman within the purview, should be deemed a slave; and how can a convergent intent be collected from the same word in the constitution, that every one not a slave is to be accounted an elector? Except for the word citizen, which stands in the context also as a term of qualification, an affirmance of these propositions would extend the right of suffrage to aliens; and to admit of any exception to the argument, its force being derived from the supposed universality of the term, would destroy it. Once concede that there may be a freeman in one sense of it, who is not so in another, and the whole ground is surrendered. In what sense, then, must the convention of 1790 be supposed to have used the term? questionless in that which it had acquired by use in public acts and legal proceedings, for the reason that a dubious staite is to be expounded by usage. 'The meaning of things spoken and written, must be as hath been constantly received.' (Vaugh. 169.) On this principle, it is difficult to discover how the word freeman, as used in previous public acts, could have been meant to comprehend a coloured race: as well might it be supposed, that the declaration of universal and unalienable freedom in both our constitutions was meant to comprehend it. Nothing was ever more comprehensively predicted, and a practical enforcement of it would have liberated every slave in the State; yet mitigated slavery long continued to exist among us, in derogation of it. Rules of interpretation demand a strictly verbal construction of nothing but a penal statute; and a constitution is to be construed still more liberally than even a remedial one, because a convention legislating for masses, can do little more than mark an outline of fundamental principles, leaving the interior gyrations and details to be filled up by ordinary legislation. 'Conventions intended to regulate the conduct of nations,' said Chief Justice Tilghman, in the Farmers' Bank versus Smith, 3 Sergt. and Rawl. 69, 'are not to be construed like articles of agreement at the common law. It is of little importance to the public, whether a tract of land belongs to A or B. In deciding these titles, strict rules of construction may be adhered to; and it is best that they should be adhered to, though sometimes at the expense of justice. But where multitudes are to be affected by the construction of an amendment, great regard is to be paid to the spirit and intention.' What better key to these, than the tone of antecedent legislation discoverable in the application of the disputed terms.
"But in addition to interpretation from usage, this antecedent legislation furnishes other proofs that no coloured race was party to our social compact. As was justly remarked by President Fox, in the matter of the late contested election, our ancestors settled the province as a community of white men, and the blacks were introduced into it as a race of slaves, whence an unconquerable prejudice of caste, which has come down to our day, insomuch that a suspicion of taint still has the unjust effect of sinking the subject of it below the common level. Consistently with this prejudice, is it to be credited that parity of rank would be allowed to such a race? Let the question be answered by the statute of 1726, which denominated it an idle and a slothful people; which directed the magistrates to bind out free negroes for laziness or vagrancy; which forbade them to harbour Indian or mulatto slaves, on pain of punishment by fine, or to deal with negro slaves, on pain of stripes; which annexed to the interdict of marriage with a white, the penalty of reduction to slavery; which punished them for tippling with stripes, and even a white person with servitude for intermarriage with a negro. If freemen, in a political sense, were subjects of these cruel and degrading oppressions, what must have been the lot of their brethren in bondage? It is also true, that degrading conditions were sometimes assigned to white men, but never as members of a caste. Insolvent debtors, to indicate the worst of them, are compelled to make satisfaction by servitude; but that was borrowed from a kindred, and still less rational, principle of the common law. This act of 1726, however, remained in force, till it was repealed by the Emancipating Act of 1789; and it is irrational to believe, that the progress of liberal sentiments was so rapid in the next ten years,—as to produce a determination in the convention of 1790 to raise this depressed race to the level of the white one. If such were its purpose, it is strange that the word chosen to effect it should have been the very one chosen by the convention of 1776 to designate a white elector. 'Every freeman,' it is said, (chap. 2, sect. 6,) 'of the full age of twenty-one years, having resided in this State for the space of one whole year before the day of election, and paid taxes during that time, shall enjoy the rights of an elector.' Now, if the word freeman were not potent enough to admit a free negro to suffrage under the first constitution, it is difficult to discern a degree of magic in the intervening plan of emancipation sufficient to give it potency, in the apprehension of the convention, under the second.
"The only thing in the history of the convention which casts a doubt upon the intent, is the fact, that the word white was prefixed to the word freeman in the report of the committee, and subsequently struck out—probably because it was thought superfluous, or still more probably, because it was feared that respectable men of dark complexion would often be insulted at the polls, by objections to their colour. I have heard it said, that Mr Gallatin sustained his motion to strike out on the latter ground. Whatever the motive, the disseverence is insufficient to wrap the interpretation of a word of such settled and determinate meaning as the one which remained. A legislative body speaks to the judiciary, only through its final act, and expresses its will in the words of it; and though their meaning may be influenced by the sense in which they have usually been applied to extrinsic matters, we cannot receive an explanation of them from what has been moved or said in debate. The place of a judge is his forum—not the legislative hall. Were he even disposed to pry into the motives of the members, it would be impossible for him to ascertain them; and, in attempting to discover the ground on which the conclusion was obtained, it is not probable that a member of the majority could indicate any that was common to all; previous prepositions are merged in the act of consummation, and the interpreter of it must look to that alone.
"I have thought it fair to treat the question as it stands affected by our own municipal regulations, without illustration from those of other States, where the condition of the race has been still less favoured. Yet it is proper to say, that the second section of the fourth article of the Federal Constitution presents an obstacle to the political freedom of the negro, which seems to be insuperable. It is to be remembered that citizenship, as well as freedom, is a constitutional qualification; and how it could be conferred, so as to overbear the laws, imposing countless disabilities on him in other States, is a problem of difficult solution. In this aspect, the question becomes one, not of intention, but of power; so doubtful, as to forbid the exercise of it. Every man must lament the necessity of the disabilities; but slavery is to be dealt with by those whose existence depends on the skill with which it is treated. Considerations of mere humanity, however, belong to a class with which, as judges, we have nothing to do; and, interpreting the constitution in the spirit of our own institutions, we are bound to pronounce that men of colour are destitute of title to the elective franchise: their blood, however, may become so diluted in successive descent, as to lose its distinctive character; and then both policy and justice require that previous disabilities should cease. By the amended constitution of North Carolina, no free negro, mulatto, or free person of mixed blood, descended from negro ancestors to the fourth generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall vote for the legislature. I regret to say, no similar regulation, for practical purposes, has been attempted here; in consequence of which, every case of disputed colour must be determined by no particular rule, but by the discretion of the judges; and thus a great constitutional right, even under the proposed amendments of the constitution, will be left the sport of caprice. In conclusion, we are of opinion the court erred in directing that the plaintiff could have his action against the defendant for the rejection of his vote. Judgment reversed."
It will be observed by those who have had patience to read through so long a legal document, that reference is made to the unjust prejudice against any taint of the African blood. There is an existing proof of the truth of this remark, in the case of one of the most distinguished members of the House of Representatives. This gentleman has some children who are not of pure blood; but, to his honour, he has done his duty by them, he has educated them, and received them into his house as his acknowledged daughters. What is the consequence? Why, it is considered that by so doing he has outraged society; and whenever they want to raise a cry against him, this is the charge, and very injurious it is to his popularity,—"that he has done his duty as a father and a Christian."
"Captain Marryat, we are a very moral people!"
The laws of the State relative to the intermarriage of the whites with the coloured population are also referred to. A case of this kind took place at New York when I was there; and as soon as the ceremony was over, the husband, I believe it was, but either the husband or the wife, was seized by the mob, and put under the pump for half an hour. At Boston, similar modes of expressing public opinion have been adopted, notwithstanding that that city is the stronghold of the abolitionists.
It also refers to the white slavery, which was not abolished until the year 1789. Previous to that period, a man who arrived out, from the old continent, and could not pay his passage, was put up to auction for the amount of his debt, and was compelled to serve until he had worked it out with the purchaser. But not only for the debt of passage-money, but for other debts, a white man was put up to auction, and sold to the best bidder. They tell a curious story, for the truth of which I cannot vouch, of a lawyer, a very clever but dissipated and extravagant man, who, having contracted large debts and escaped to New Jersey, was taken and put up to auction; a keen Yankee purchased him, and took him regularly round to all the circuits to plead causes, and made a very considerable sum out of him before his time expired.
I have observed that Mr Fortin, the coloured man, was considered quite white enough to pay taxes. It is usually considered in this country, that by going to America you avoid taxation, but such is not the case. The municipal taxes are not very light. I could not obtain any very satisfactory estimates from the other cities, but I gained thus much from Philadelphia.
The assessments are on property.
City Tax, 70 cents upon the 100 dollars valuation.
County Tax, 65 cents upon ditto.
Poor's Rate, 40 cents.
Taxes on Horses, 1 dollar each.
Taxes on Dogs, half a dollar each.
Poll Tax, from a quarter dollar to 4 dollars each person.
It is singular that such a tax as the poll tax, that which created the insurrection of Wat Tyler in England, should have forced its way into a democracy. In the collection of their taxes, they are quite as summary as they are in England. This is the notice:
"You are hereby informed, that your property is included in a list of delinquents now preparing, and will be advertised and sold for the assessments due thereon. (This being the last call.)
"Your immediate attention will save the costs of advertising, sale, etcetera.
"Collector's Office, Number 1, State of —."
It is a strange fact, and one which must have attracted the reader's notice, that there should be a poor's rate in America, where there is work for every body; and still stranger that there should be one in the city of Philadelphia, in which, perhaps, there are more beneficent and charitable institutions than in any city in the world of the same population: notwithstanding this there are many mendicants in the street. All this arises from the advantage taken of an unwise philanthropy in the first place, many people preferring to live upon alms in preference to labour; and next from the state of destitution to which many of the emigrants are reduced after their arrival, and before they can obtain employment. Indeed, not only Philadelphia, but Baltimore and New York, are equally charged for the support of these people—the two first by legal enactment, the latter by voluntary subscription. And it is much to the credit of the inhabitants of all these cities that the charge is paid cheerfully, and that an appeal is never made in vain.
But let the Americans beware: the poor rate at present is trifling—40 cents in the 100 dollars, or about 1.75 pence in the pound; but they must recollect, that they were not more in England about half a century back, and see to what they have risen now! It is the principle which is bad. There are now in Philadelphia more than 1,500 paupers, who live entirely upon the public, but who, if relief had not been continued to them, would, in all probability, by this time, have found their way to where their labour is required. The Philadelphians are proverbially generous and charitable; but they should remember that in thus yielding to the dictates of their hearts, they are sowing the seeds of what will prove a bitter curse to their posterity. See note 2.
Note 1. "On the whole, I cannot help considering it a mistake to suppose that slavery has been abolished in the Northern States of the Union. It is true, indeed, that in these States the power of compulsory labour no longer exists; and that one human being within their limits can no longer claim property in the thews and sinews of another. But is this all that is implied in the boon of freedom? if the word mean anything, it must mean the enjoyment of equal rights, and the unfettered exercise in each individual of such powers and faculties as God has given. In this true meaning of the word, it may be safely asserted that this poor degraded class are still slaves—they are subject to the most grinding and humiliating of all slaveries, that of universal and unconquerable prejudice. The whip, indeed, has been removed from the back of the negro; but the chains are still upon his limbs, and he bears the brand of degradation on his forehead. What is it but the mere abuse of language to call him free, who is tyrannically deprived of all the motives to exertion which animate other men? The law, in truth, has left him in that most pitiable of all conditions—a masterless slave."—Hamilton's Men and Manners in America.
Note 2. Miss Martineau, who is not always wrong, in her remarks upon pauperism in the United States, observes:—"The amount, altogether, is far from commensurate with the charity of the community; and it is to be hoped that the curse of a legal charity will be avoided in a country where it certainly cannot become necessary within any assignable time. I was grieved to see the magnificent Pauper Asylum near Philadelphia, made to accommodate, luxuriously, 1,200 persons; and to have its arrangements pointed out to me, as yielding more comforts to the inmates than the labourer could secure at home by any degree of industry and prudence."
VOLUME TWO, CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
Washington. Here are assembled from every State in the Union what ought to be the collected talent, intelligence, and high principle of a free and enlightened nation. Of talent and intelligence there is a very fair supply, but principle is not so much in demand; and in everything, and everywhere, by the demand the supply is always regulated.
Everybody knows that Washington has a Capitol; but the misfortune is that the Capitol wants a city. There it stands, reminding you of a general without an army, only surrounded and followed by a parcel of ragged little dirty boys, for such is the appearance of the dirty, straggling, ill-built houses which lie at the foot of it.
Washington, notwithstanding, is an agreeable city, full of pleasant clever people, who come there to amuse and be amused; and you observe in the company (although you occasionally meet some very queer importations from the Western settlements) much more usage du monde and continental ease than in any other parts of the State. A large portion of those who come up for the meeting of Congress, as well as of the residents, having travelled, and thereby gained more respect for other nations, are consequently not so conceited about their own country as are the majority of other Americans.
If anything were required to make Washington a more agreeable place than it is at all times, the arrival and subsequent conduct of Mr Fox as British Ambassador would be sufficient. His marked attention to all Americans of respectability: his empressement in returning the calls of English gentlemen who may happen to arrive, his open house; his munificent allowance dedicated wholly to the giving of fetes and dinner parties as his Sovereign's representative; and, above all, his excessive urbanity, can never be forgotten by those who have ever visited the Capitol.
The Chamber of the House of Representatives is a fine room, and taking the average of the orations delivered there, it possesses this one great merit—you cannot hear in it. Were I to make a comparison between the members of our House of Commons and those of the House of Representatives, I should say that the latter had certainly real advantages. In the first place; the members of the American Senate and House of Representatives are paid, not only their travelling expenses to and fro, but eight dollars a day during the sitting of Congress. Out of these allowances many save money, and those who do not, are at all events enabled to bring their families up to Washington for a little amusement. In the next place, they are so comfortably accommodated in the house, every man having his own well-stuffed arm-chair, and before him his desk, with his papers and notes! Then they are supplied with everything, even to pen-knives with their names engraved on them—each knife having two pen-blades, one whittling blade, and a fourth to clean their nails with, showing on the part of the government, a paternal regard for their cleanliness as well as convenience. Moreover, they never work at night, and do very little during the day.
It is astonishing how little work they get through in a session at Washington: this is owing to every member thinking himself obliged to make two or three speeches, not for the good of the nation, but for the benefit of his constituents. These speeches are printed and sent to them, to prove that their member makes some noise in the house. The subject upon which he speaks is of little consequence, compared to the sentiments expressed. It must be full of eagles, star-spangled banners, sovereign people, clap-trap, flattery, and humbug. I have said that very little business is done in these houses; but this is caused not only by their long-winded speeches about nothing, but by the fact that both parties (in this respect laudably following the example of the old country) are chiefly occupied, the one with the paramount and vital consideration of keeping in, and the other with that of getting in,— thus allowing the business of the nation, (which after all is not very important, unless such a trump as the Treasury Bill turns up,) to become a very secondary consideration.
And yet there are principle and patriotism among the members of the legislature, and the more to be appreciated from their rarity. Like the seeds of beautiful flowers, which, when cast upon a manure-heap, spring up in greater luxuriance and beauty, and yield a sweeter perfume from the rankness which surrounds them, so do these virtues show with more grace and attractiveness from the hot-bed of corruption in which they have been engendered. But there has been a sad falling-off in America since the last war, which brought in the democratic party with General Jackson. America, if she would wish her present institutions to continue, must avoid war; the best security for her present form of government existing another half century, is a state of tranquillity and peace; but of that hereafter. As for the party at present in power, all I can say in its favour is, that there are three clever gentlemen in it—Mr Van Buren, Mr Poinsett, and Mr Forsyth. There may be more, but I know so little of them, that I must be excused if I do not name them, which otherwise I should have had great pleasure in doing.
Mr Van Buren is a very gentleman-like, intelligent man; very proud of talking over his visit to England, and the English with whom he was acquainted. It is remarkable that, although at the head of the democratic party, Mr Van Buren has taken a step striking at the very roots of their boasted equality, and one on which General Jackson did not venture—i.e. he has prevented the mobocracy from intruding themselves at his levees. The police are now stationed at the door, to prevent the intrusion of any improper person. A few years ago, a fellow would drive his cart, or hackney coach, up to the door; walk into the saloon in all his dirt, and force his way to the president, that he might shake him by the one hand; whilst he flourished his whip in the other. The revolting scenes which took place when refreshments were handed round, the injury done to the furniture, and the disgust of the ladies, may be well imagined. Mr Van Buren deserves great credit for this step, for it was a bold one; but I must not praise him too much, or he may lose his next election.
The best lounge at Washington is the library of the Capitol, but the books are certainly not very well treated. I saw a copy of Audubon's Ornithology, and many other valuable works, in a very dilapidated state, but this must be the case when the library is open to all, and there are so many juvenile visitors. Still it is much better than locking it up, for only the bindings to be looked at. It is not a library for show, but for use, and is a great comfort and amusement.
There are three things in great request amongst Americans of all classes,—male, I mean,—to wit, oysters, spirits, and tobacco. The first and third are not prohibited by Act of Congress and may be sold in the Capitol, but spirituous liquors may not. I wondered how the members could get on without them, but upon this point I was soon enlightened. Below the basement of the building is an oyster shop and refectory. The refectory has been permitted by Congress upon the express stipulation that no spirituous liquors should be sold there, but law-makers are too often law-breakers all over the world. You go there and ask for pale sherry, and they hand you gin; brown sherry, and it is brandy; madeira, whisky; and thus do these potent, grave, and reverend signors evade their own laws, beneath the very hall wherein they were passed in solemn conclave.
It appears that tobacco is considered very properly as an article of fashion. At a store close to the hotel, the board outside informs you that among fashionable requisites to be found there, are gentlemen's shirts, collars, gloves, silk handkerchiefs, and the best chewing tobacco. But not only at Washington but at other large towns I have seen at silk-mercers and hosiers this notice stuck up in the window—"Dulcissimus chewing tobacco." So prevalent is the habit of chewing, and so little, from long custom, do the ladies care about it, that I have been told that many young ladies in the South carry, in their work-boxes, etcetera, pigtail, nicely ornamented with gold and coloured papers; and when their swains are at fault administer to their wants, thus meriting their affections by such endearing solicitude.
I was rather amused in the Senate at hearing the claims of parties who had suffered during the last war, and had hitherto not received any redress, discussed for adjudication. One man's claim, for instance, was for a cow, value thirty dollars, eaten up, of course, by the Britishers. It would naturally be supposed that such claims were unworthy of the attention of such a body as the Senate, or, when brought forward, would have been allowed without comment: but it was not so. The member who saves the public money always finds favour in the eyes of the people, and therefore every member tries to save as much as he can, except when he is himself a party concerned. And there was as much arguing and objecting, and discussion of the merits of this man's claim, as there would be in the English House of Commons at passing the Navy Estimates. Eventually he lost it. The claims of the Fulton family were also brought forward, when I was present, in the House of Representatives. Fulton was certainly the father of steam-navigation in America, and to his exertions and intelligence America may consider herself in a great degree indebted for her present prosperity. It once required six or seven months to ascend the Mississippi, a passage which is now performed in fifteen days. Had it not been for Fulton's genius, the West would still have remained a wild desert, and the now flourishing cotton-growing States would not yet have yielded the crops which are the staple of the Union. The claim of his surviving relatives was a mere nothing, in comparison with the debt of gratitude owing to that great man: yet member after member rose to oppose it with all the ingenuity of argument. One asserted that the merit of the invention did not belong to Fulton; another, that even if it did, his relatives certainly could found no claim upon it; a third rose and declared that he would prove that, so far from the government owing money to Fulton, Fulton was in debt to the government. And thus did they go on, showing to their constituents how great was their consideration for the public money, and to the world (if another proof were required) how little gratitude is to be found in a democracy. The bill was thrown out, and the race of Fultons left to the chance of starving, for anything that the American nation seemed to care to the contrary. Whitney, the inventor of the gin for clearing the cotton of its seeds (perhaps the next greatest boon ever given to America), was treated in the same way. And yet, on talking over the question, there were few of the members who did not individually acknowledge the justice of their claims, and the duty of the State to attend to them: but the majority would not have permitted it, and when they went back to their constituents to be re-elected, it would have been urged against them that they had voted away the public money, and they would have had the difficult task of proving that the interests of the majority, and of the majority alone, had regulated their conduct in Congress.
There was one event of exciting interest which occurred during my short stay at Washington, and which engrossed the minds of every individual: the fatal duel between Mr Graves and Mr Cilley. Not only the duel itself, but what took place after it, was to me, as a stranger, a subject for grave reflection.
Notice of Mr Cilley's decease having been formally given to the House, it adjourned for a day or two, as a mark of respect, and a day was appointed for the funeral.
The coffin containing the body was brought into the House of Representatives, and there lay in state, as it were. The members of Senate and the Supreme Court were summoned to attend, whilst an eulogium was passed on the merits and virtues of the deceased by the surviving representative of the State of Maine: the funeral sermon was delivered by one clergyman, and an exhortation by another, after which the coffin was carried out to be placed in the hearse. The following printed order of the procession was distributed, that it might be rigidly attended to by the members of the two Houses and the Supreme Court:—
Order of Arrangements for the Funeral of The Hon. Jonathan Cilley, Late a Representative in Congress, from the State of Maine.
The Committee of Arrangement, Pall-bearers, and Mourners, will attend at the late residence of the deceased, at Mr Birth's, in third-street, at 11 o'clock AM, Tuesday, February 27th; at which time the remains will be removed, in charge of the Committee of Arrangements, attended by the Serjeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives, to the hall of the House.
At 12 o'clock, meridian, funeral service will be performed in the hall of the House of Representatives, and immediately after the procession will move to the place of interment, in the following order,—
The Chaplains of both Houses.
Committee of Arrangement, viz:
Mr Evans, of Maine.
Mr Atherton, of NH. Mr Coles, of Va.
Mr Conner, of NC. Mr Johnson, of La.
Mr Whittlesey, of Ohio, Mr Fillmore, of NV.
Mr Thomas, of Maryland. Mr Campbell, of SC.
Mr Williams, of NH. Mr White, of Indiana.
Mr Ogle, of Pennsylvania. Mr Martin, of Ala.
The Family and Friends of the deceased.
The Members of the House of Representatives, and Senators from Maine, as Mourners.
The Serjeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives, preceded by their Speaker and Clerk.
The Serjeant-at-Arms of the Senate.
The Senate of the United States, preceded by the Vice President and their Secretary.
The President of the United States.
The Heads of Departments.
Judges of the Supreme Court, and its Officers.
Citizens and Strangers.
February, 26th, 1838.
The burial-ground being at some distance, carriages were provided for the whole of the company, and the procession even then was more than half a mile long. I walked there to witness the whole proceeding; but when the body had been deposited in the vault, I found, on my return, a vacant seat in one of the carriages, in which were two Americans, who went under the head of "Citizens." They were very much inclined to be communicative. One of them observed of the clergyman, who, in his exhortation, had expressed himself very forcibly against the practice of duelling:—
"Well, I reckon that chaplain won't be 'lected next year, and sarve him right too; he did pitch it in rather too strong for the members; that last flourish of his was enough to raise all their danders."
To the other, who was a more staid sort of personage, I put the question, how long did he think this tragical event, and the severe observations on duelling, would stop the practice.
"Well, I reckon three days, or thereabouts," replied the man.
I am afraid that the man is not far out in his calculation. Virginia. Mississippi, Louisiana, and now Congress, as respects the district of Columbia, in which Washington is built, have all passed severe laws against the practice of duelling, which is universal; but they are no more than dead letters. The spirit of their institutions is adverse to such laws; and duelling always has been, and always will be, one of the evils of democracy. I have, I believe, before observed, that in many points a young nation is, in all its faults, very like to a young individual; and this is one in which the comparison holds good. But there are other causes for, and other incentives to this practice, besides the false idea that it is a proof of courage. Slander and detraction are the inseparable evils of a democracy; and as neither public nor private characters are spared, and the law is impotent to protect them, men have no other resource than to defend their reputations with their lives, or to deter the defamer by the risk which he must incur.
And where political animosities are carried to such a length as they are in this exciting climate, there is no time given for coolness and reflection. Indeed, for one American who would attempt to prevent a duel, there are ten who would urge the parties on to the conflict. I recollect a gentleman introducing me to the son of another gentleman who was present. The lad, who was about fourteen, I should think, shortly after left the room; and then the gentleman told me, before the boy's father, that the lad was one of the right sort, having already fought, and wounded his man; and the father smiled complacently at this tribute to the character of his son. The majority of the editors of the newspapers in America are constantly practising with the pistol, that they may be ready when called upon, and are most of them very good shots. In fact, they could not well refuse to fight, being all of them colonels, majors, or generals—"tam Marte quam Mercurio." But the worst feature in the American system of duelling is, that they do not go out, as we do in this country, to satisfy honour, but with the determination to kill. Independently of general practice, immediately after a challenge has been given and received, each party practises as much as he can.
And now let us examine into the particulars of this duel between Mr Graves and Mr Cilley. It was well known that Mr Graves had hardly ever fired a rifle in his life. Mr Cilley, on the contrary, was an excellent rifle-shot, constantly in practice: it was well known, also, that he intended to fix a quarrel upon one of the southern members, as he had publicly said he would. He brought his rifle down to Washington with him; he practised with it almost every day, and more regularly so after he had sent the challenge, and it had been accepted. It so happened that, contrary to the expectations of all parties, Mr Cilley, instead of Mr Graves, was the party who fell; but surely, if ever there was a man who premeditated murder, it was Mr Cilley. I state this, not with the wish to assail Mr Cilley's character, as I believe that almost any other American would have done the same thing; for whatever license society will give, that will every man take, and moreover, from habit, will not consider it as wrong.
But my reason for pointing out all this is to show that society must be in a very loose state, and the standard of morality must be indeed low in a nation, when a man who has fallen in such a manner, a man who, had he killed Mr Graves, would, according to the laws of our country, have been condemned and executed for murder, (inasmuch as from his practising after the challenge was given, it would have proved malice prepense, on his part) should now, because he falls in the attempt, have honours paid to his remains, much greater than we paid to those of Nelson, when he fell so nobly in his country's cause. The chief magistrate of England, which is the king, did not follow Nelson to the grave; while the chief magistrate of the United States (attended by the Supreme Court and judges, the Senate, the Representatives) does honour to the remains of one who, if Providence had not checked him in his career, would have been considered as a cold-blooded murderer.
And yet the Americans are continually dinning into my ears—Captain Marryat, we are a very moral people! Again, I repeat, the Americans are the happiest people in the world in their own delusions. If they wish to be a moral people, the government must show them some better example than that of paying those honours to vice and immorality which are only due to honour and to virtue.
Legislation on Duelling.—The legislature of Mississippi has prohibited duelling, and the parties implicated, in any instance, are declared to be ineligible to office. The act also imposes a fine of not less than three hundred dollars, and not more than one thousand, and an imprisonment of not less than six months: and in case of the death of one of the parties, the survivor is to be held chargeable with the payment of the debts of his antagonist. The estate of the party who falls in the combat is to be exonerated from such debts until the surviving party be first prosecuted to insolvency. The seconds are made subject to incapacity to hold office, fine, and imprisonment.
The bill, as it passed the senate, is in the following words:—
A Bill to prohibit the giving or accepting, within the District of Columbia, of a Challenge to fight a Duel, and for the punishment thereof.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any person shall, in the district of Columbia, challenge another to fight a duel, or shall send or deliver any written or verbal message purporting or intending to be such challenge, or shall accept any such challenge or message, or shall knowingly carry or deliver any such challenge or message, or shall knowingly carry or deliver an acceptance of such challenge or message to fight a duel in or out of said district, and such duel shall be fought in or out of said district; and if either of the parties thereto shall be slain or mortally wounded in such duel, the surviving party to such duel, and every person carrying or delivering such challenge or message, or acceptance of such challenge or message as aforesaid, and all others aiding and abetting therein, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and upon conviction thereof; in any court competent to the trial thereof, in the said district, shall be punished by imprisonment and confinement to hard labour in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding ten years, nor less than five years, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, that if any person shall give or send, or cause to be given or sent, to any person in the district of Columbia, any challenge to fight a duel, or to engage in single combat with any deadly or dangerous instrument or weapon whatever, or shall be the bearer of any such challenge, every person so giving or sending, or causing to be given or sent, or accepting such challenge, or being the bearer thereof, and every person aiding or abetting in the giving, sending, or accepting such challenge, shall be deemed guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court competent to try the same, in the said district, shall be punished by imprisonment and confinement to hard labour in the penitentiary, for a term not exceeding ten years, nor less than five years, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, that if any person shall assault, strike, beat, or wound, or cause to be assaulted, stricken, beaten, or wounded, any person in the district of Columbia for declining or refusing to accept any challenge to fight a duel, or to engage in single combat with any deadly or dangerous instrument or weapon whatever, or shall, post or publish, or cause to be posted or published, any writing charging any such person so declining or refusing to accept any such challenge to be a coward, or using any other opprobrious or injurious language therein, tending to deride and disgrace such person, for so offending, on conviction thereof in any court competent to trial thereof in said district, shall be punished by confinement to hard labour in the penitentiary for a term not exceeding seven years, nor less than three years, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, that in addition to the oath now to be prescribed by law to be administered to the grand jury in the district of Columbia, they shall be sworn faithfully and impartially to inquire into, and true presentment make of, all offences against this act.
VOLUME TWO, CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
I have been for some time journeying through the province of Upper Canada, and, on the whole, I consider it the finest portion of all North America. In America every degree of longitude which you proceed west, is equal to a degree of latitude to the southward in increasing the mildness of the temperature. Upper Canada, which is not so far west as to sever you from the civilised world, has every possible advantage of navigation, and is at the same time, from being nearly surrounded by water, much milder than the American States to the southward of it. Every thing grows well and flourishes in Upper Canada; even tobacco, which requires a very warm atmosphere. The land of this province is excellent, but it is a hard land to clear, the timber being very close and of a very large size. A certain proof of the value of the land of Upper Canada is, that there are already so many Americans who have settled there. Most of them had originally emigrated to establish themselves in the neighbouring state of Michigan; but the greater part of that state is at present so unhealthy from swamps, and the people suffer so much from fever and agues, that the emigrants have fallen back upon Upper Canada, which (a very small portion of it excepted) is the most healthy portion of North America. I have before observed, that the Rideau and Welland canals, splendid works as they are, are too much in advance of the country: and had the Government spent one-half the money in opening communications and making good roads, the province would have been much more benefited. In the United States you have a singular proof of the advantages of communication; in the old continent, towns and villages rise up first, and the communications, are made afterwards; in the United States, the roads are made first, and when made, towns and villages make their appearance on each side of them, just as the birds drop down for their aliment upon the fresh furrows made across the fallow by the plough.
From Hamilton, on Lake Ontario, to Bradford, the country is very beautifully broken and undulating, occasionally precipitate and hilly. You pass through forests of splendid timber, chiefly fir, but of a size which is surprising. Here are masts for "tall admirals," so lofty that you could not well perceive a squirrel, or even a large animal, if upon one of the topmast boughs. The pine forests are diversified by the oak; you sometimes pass through six or seven miles of the first description of timber, which gradually changes, until you have six or seven miles of forest composed entirely of oak. The road is repairing and levelling, preparatory to its being macadamised—certainly not before it was required, for it is at present execrable throughout the whole province. Every mile or so you descend into a hollow, at the bottom of which is what they term a mud hole, that is, a certain quantity of water and mud, which is of a depth unknown, but which you must fathom by passing through it. To give an Englishman an idea of the roads is not easy; I can only say that it is very possible for a horse to be drowned in one of the ruts, and for a pair of them to disappear, waggon and all, in a mud hole.
At Bradford, on Grand River, are located some remnants of the Mohawk tribe of Indians; they are more than demi-civilised; they till their farms, and have plenty of horses and cattle. A smart looking Indian drove into town, when I was there, in a waggon with a pair of good horses; in the waggon were some daughters of one of their chiefs; they were very richly dressed after their own fashion, their petticoats and leggings being worked with beads to the height of two feet from the bottom, and in very good taste; and they wore beaver hats and feathers of a pattern which used formerly to be much in vogue with the ladies of the seamen at Plymouth and Portsmouth.
From Bradford to London the roads are comparatively good; the country rises, and the plain is nearly one hundred feet above the level of the river Thames, a beautifully wide stream, whose two branches join at the site of this town. The land here is considered to be the finest in the whole province, and the country the most healthy.
From London to Chatham the roads are really awful. I had the pleasure of tumbling over head and ears into a mud hole, at about twelve o'clock at night; the horses were with difficulty saved, and the waggon remained fixed for upwards of three hours, during which we laboured hard, and were refreshed with plentiful showers of rain.
Chatham, on the river Thames, is at present a sad dirty hole; but, as the country rises, will be a place of great importance. From Chatham I embarked in the steam-boat, and went down the Thames into Lake St Clair, and from thence to Sandwich, having passed through the finest country, the most beautiful land, and about the most infamous roads that are to be met with in all America.
Within these last seven or eight years the lakes have risen; many hypotheses have been offered to account for this change. I do not coincide with any of the opinions which I have heard, yet, at the same time, it is but fair to acknowledge that I can offer none of my own. It is quite a mystery. The consequence of this rising of the waters is, that some of the finest farms at the month of the river Thames and on Lake St Clair, occupied by the old Canadian settlers, are, and have been for two or three years under water. These Canadians have not removed; they are waiting for the water to subside; their houses stand in the lake, the basements being under water, and they occupy the first floors with their families, communicating by boats. As they cannot cultivate their land, they shoot and fish. Several miles on each side of the mouth of the river Thames the water is studded with these houses, which have, as may be supposed, a very forlorn appearance, especially as the top rail of the fences is generally above water, marking out the fields which are now tenanted by fish instead of cattle.
Went out with a party into the bush, as it is termed, to see some land which had been purchased. Part of the road was up to the saddle-flaps under water, from the rise of the lakes. We soon entered the woods, not so thickly growing but that our horses could pass through them, had it not been for the obstacles below our feet. At every third step a tree lay across the path, forming, by its obstruction to the drainage, a pool of water; but the Canadian horses are so accustomed to this that they very coolly walked over them, although some were two feet in diameter. They never attempted to jump, but deliberately put one foot over and the other—with equal dexterity avoiding the stumps and sunken logs concealed under water. An English horse would have been foundered before he had proceeded fifty yards. Sometimes we would be for miles wading through swamps; at others the land rose, and then it was clear and dry, and we could gallop under the oak trees.
We continued till noon before we could arrive at the land in question, forcing our way through the woods, and guided by the blazing of the trees. Blazing is cutting off a portion of the bark of the trees on both sides of the road with an axe, and these marks, which will remain for many years, serve as a guide. If lost in the woods you have but to look out for a blaze, and by following it you are certain to arrive at some inhabited place. We found the land at last, which was high, dry, and covered with large oak trees. A herd of deer bounded past us as we approached the river, which ran through it; and we could perceive the flocks of wild turkeys at a distance, running almost as fast as the deer. The river was choked by trees which had fallen across its bed, damming up its stream, and spreading it over the land; but the scene was very beautiful and wild, and I could not help fancying what a pretty spot it would one day be, when it should be cleared, and farm-houses built on the banks of the river.
On our way we called upon a man who had been in the hush but a year or so; he had a wife and six children. He was young and healthy, and although he had been used to a life of literary idleness, he had made up his mind to the change, and taken up the axe—a thing very few people can do. I never saw a person apparently more cheerful and contented. He had already cleared away about fifteen acres, and had procured a summer crop from off a portion of it the year before! having no other assistance than his two boys, one thirteen and the other fourteen years old, healthy, but not powerfully built lads. When we called upon him, he was busied in burning the felled timber, and planting Indian corn. One of his boys was fencing-in the ground. I went with the man into his log-hut, which was large and convenient, and found his wife working at her needle, and three little girls all as busy as bees; the eldest of these girls was not twelve years old, yet she cooked, baked, washed, and, with the assistance of her two little sisters, did all that was required for the household. After a short repose, we went out again into the clearing, when one of my friends asked him how he got on with his axe? "Pretty well," replied he, laughing; "I'll show you." He led us to where a button-wood tree was lying; the trunk was at least ninety feet long, and the diameter where it had been cut through between five and six feet; it was an enormous tree. "And did you cut that down yourself?" enquired my companion, who was an old settler. "Not quite; but I cut through the north half while my two boys cut through the south; we did it between us." This was really astonishing, for if these two lads could cut through half the tree, it is evident that they could have cut it down altogether. We had here a proof of how useful children can be made at an early age.
We promised to call upon him on our return; which we did. We found him sitting with his wife in his log-house; it was five o'clock in the afternoon; he told us "work was over now, and that the children had gone into the bush to play." They had all worked from five o'clock in the morning, and had since learnt their lessons. We heard their laughter ringing in the woods at a distance.
Now this is rather a remarkable instance among settlers, as I shall hereafter explain. Had this man been a bachelor, he would have been, in all probability, a drunkard; but, with his family, he was a happy, contented, and thriving man. We parted with him, and arrived at Windsor, opposite Detroit, very tired, having been, with little exception, fourteen hours in the saddle.
I took cold, and was laid up with a fever. I mention this, not as any thing interesting to the reader, but merely to show what you may expect when you travel in these countries. I had been in bed three days, when my landlady came into the room. "Well, captain, how do you find yourself by this time?" "Oh, I am a little better, thank you," replied I. "Well, I am glad of it, because I want to whitewash your room; for if the coloured man stops to do it to-morrow, he'll be for charging us another quarter of a dollar." "But I am not able to leave my room." "Well, then, I'll speak to him; I dare say he won't mind your being in bed while he whitewashes."
I have often remarked the strange effects of intoxication, and the different manner in which persons are affected with liquor. When I was on the road from London to Chatham, a man who was very much intoxicated got into the waggon, and sat beside me. As people in that state generally are, he was excessively familiar; and although jerked off with no small degree of violence, would continue, until we arrived at the inn where we were to sup, to attempt to lay his head upon my shoulder.
As soon as we arrived, supper was announced. At first he refused to take any, but on the artful landlady bawling in his ear, that all gentlemen supped when they arrived, he hesitated to consider (which certainly was not at all necessary) whether he was not bound to take some. Another very important remark of the hostess, which was, that he would have nothing to eat until the next morning, it being then eleven o'clock at night, decided him, and he staggered in, observing, "Nothing to eat till next morning! well, I never thought of that." He sat down opposite to me, at the same table. It appeared as if his vision was inverted by the quantity of liquor which he had taken; everything close to him on the table he considered to be out of his reach, whilst everything at a distance he attempted to lay hold of. He sat up as erect as he could, balancing himself so as not to appear canned, and fixing his eyes upon me, said, "Sir, I'll trouble you—for some fried ham." Now the ham was in the dish next to him, and altogether out of my reach; I told him so. "Sir," said he again, "as a gentleman, I ask you to give me some of that fried ham." Amused with the curious demand, I rose from my chair, went round to him and helped him. "Shall I give you a potato," said I, the potatoes being at my end of the table, and I not wishing to rise again. "No, Sir," replied he, "I can help myself to them." He made a dash at them, but did not reach them; then made another, and another, till he lost his balance, and lay down upon his plate; this time he gained the potatoes, helped himself, and commenced eating. After a few minutes he again fixed his eyes upon me. "Sir, I'll trouble you—for the pickles." They were actually under his nose, and I pointed them out to him. "I believe, Sir, I asked you for the pickles," repeated he, after a time. "Well, there they are," replied I, wishing to see what he would do. "Sir, are you a gentleman—as a gentleman—I ask you as a gentleman, for them 'ere pickles." It was impossible to resist this appeal, so I rose and helped him. I was now convinced that his vision was somehow or another inverted, and to prove it, when he asked me for the salt, which was within his reach, I removed it farther off. "Thank ye, Sir," said he, sprawling over the table after it. The circumstance, absurd as it was, was really a subject for the investigation of Dr Brewster.
At Windsor, which is directly opposite to Detroit, where the river is about half a mile across, are stores of English goods, sent there entirely for the supply of the Americans, by smugglers. There is also a row of tailor shops, for cloth is a very dear article in America, and costs nearly double the price it does in the English provinces. The Americans go over there, and are measured for a suit of clothes which, when ready, they put on, and cross back to Detroit with their old clothes in a bundle. The smuggling is already very extensive, and will, of course, increase as the Western country becomes more populous.
Near Windsor and Sandwich are several villages of free blacks, probably the major portion of them having been assisted in their escape by the Abolitionists. They are not very good neighbours from their propensity to thieving, which either is innate, or, as Miss Martineau would have it, is the effect of slavery. I shall not dispute that point; but it is certain that they are most inveterately hostile to the Americans, and will fight to the last, from the dread of being again subjected to their former masters. They are an excellent frontier population; and in the last troubles they proved how valuable they would become, in case their services were more seriously required.
VOLUME TWO, CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.
Once more on board of the Michigan, one of the best vessels on Lake Erie; as usual, full of emigrants, chiefly Irish. It is impossible not to feel compassion for these poor people, wearied as they are with confinement and suffering, and yet they do compose occasionally about as laughable a group as can well be conceived. In the first place, they bring out with them from Ireland, articles which no other people would consider worth the carriage. I saw one Irish woman who had old tin tea pots; there was but one spout among the whole, and I believe not one bottom really sound and good. And then their costumes, more particularly the fitting out of the children, who are not troubled with any extra supply of clothes at any time! I have witnessed the seat of an old pair of corduroy trowsers transformed into a sort of bonnet for a laughing fair-haired girl. But what amused me more was the very reverse of this arrangement; a boy's father had just put a patch upon the hinder part of his son's trousers; and cloth not being at hand, he had, as an expedient for stopping the gap, inserted a piece of an old straw bonnet; in so doing he had not taken the precaution to put the smooth side of the plait inwards, and, in consequence, young Teddy when he first sat down felt rather uncomfortable. "What's the matter wid ye, Teddy; what makes ye wriggle about in that way? Sit aisy, man; sure enough, havn't ye a strait-bottomed chair to sit down upon all the rest of your journey, which is more than your father ever had before you?" And then their turning in for the night! A single bed will contain one adult and four little ones at one end, and another adult and two half-grown at the other. But they are all packed away so snug and close, and not one venturing to move, there appears to be room for all.
We stopped half an hour at Mackinaw to take in wood, and then started for Green Bay, in the Wisconsin territory. Green Bay is a military station; it is a pretty little place, with soil as rich as garden mould. The Fox river debouches here, but the navigation is checked a few miles above the town by the rapids, which have been dammed up into a water power; yet there is no doubt that as soon as the whole of the Wisconsin lands are offered for sale by the American Government, the river will be made navigable up to its meeting with the Wisconsin, which falls into the Mississippi. There is only a portage of a mile and a half between the two, through which a canal will be cut, and then there will be another junction between the lakes and the Far West. It was my original intention to have taken the usual route by Chicago and Galena to St Louis, but I fell in with Major F—-, with whom I had been previously acquainted, who informed me that he was about to send a detachment of troops from Green Bay to Fort Winnebago, across Wisconsin territory. As this afforded me an opportunity of seeing the country, which seldom occurs, I availed myself of an offer to join the party. The detachment consisted of about one hundred recruits, nearly the whole of them Canada patriots, as they are usually called, who, having failed in taking the provinces from John Bull, were fain to accept the shilling from uncle Sam.
Major F—-accompanied us to pay the troops at the fort, and we therefore had five waggons with us, loaded with a considerable quantity of bread and pork, and not quite so large a proportion of specie, the latter not having as yet become plentiful again in the United States. We set off, and marched fifteen miles in about half a day, passing through the settlement Des Peres, which is situated at the rapids of the Fox river. Formerly they were called the Rapids des Peres, from a Jesuit college which had been established there by the French. Our course lay along the banks of the Fox river, a beautiful swift stream pouring down between high ridges, covered with fine oak timber.
The American Government have disposed of all the land on the banks of this river and the Lake Winnebago, and consequently it is well settled; but the Winnebago territory in Wisconsin, lately purchased of the Winnebago Indians, and comprising all the prairie land and rich mineral country from Galena to Mineral Point, is not yet offered for sale: when it is, it will be eagerly purchased; and the American Government, as it only paid the Indians at the rate of one cent and a fraction per acre, will make an enormous profit by the speculation. Well may the Indians be said, like Esau, to part with their birthright for a mess of pottage; but, in truth, they are compelled to sell—the purchase-money being a mere subterfuge, by which it may appear as if their lands were not wrested from them, although, in fact, it is.
On the second day we continued our march along the banks of the Fox river, which, as we advanced, continued to be well settled, and would have been more so, if some of the best land had not fallen, as usual, into the hands of speculators, who, aware of its value, hold out that they may obtain a high price for it. The country through which we passed was undulating, consisting of a succession of ridges, covered with oaks of a large size, but not growing close as in a forest; you could gallop your horse through any part of it. The tracks of deer were frequent, but we saw but one herd of fifteen, and that was at a distance. We now left the banks of the river, and cut across the country to Fond du Lac, at the bottom of Lake Winnebago, of which we had had already an occasional glimpse through the openings of the forest. The deer were too wild to allow of our getting near them; so I was obliged to content myself with shooting wood pigeons, which were very plentiful.
On the night of the third day we encamped upon a very high ridge; as usual studded with oak trees. The term used here to distinguish this variety of timber land from the impervious woods is oak openings. I never saw a more beautiful view than that which was afforded us from our encampment. From the high ground upon which our tents were pitched, we looked down to the left, upon a prairie flat and level as a billiard-table, extending, as far as the eye could scan, one rich surface of unrivalled green. To the right the prairie gradually changed to oak openings, and then to a thick forest, the topmost boughs and heads of which were level with our tents. Beyond them was the whole broad expanse of the Winnebago lake, smooth and reflecting like a mirror the brilliant tints of the setting sun, which disappeared, leaving a portion of his glory behind him; while the moon in her ascent, with the dark portion of her disk as clearly defined as that which was lighted, gradually increased in brilliancy, and the stars twinkled in the clear sky. We watched the features of the landscape gradually fading from our sight, until nothing was left but broad masses partially lighted up by the young moon.
Nor was the foreground less picturesque: the spreading oaks, the tents of the soldiers, the waggons drawn up with the horses tethered, all lighted up by the blaze of our large fires. Now, when I say our large fires, I mean the large fires of America, consisting of three or four oak trees, containing a load of wood each, besides many large boughs and branches, altogether forming a fire some twenty or thirty feet long, with flames flickering up twice as high as one's head. At a certain distance from this blazing pile you may perceive what in another situation would be considered as a large coffee-pot (before this huge fire it makes a very diminutive appearance). It is placed over some embers drawn out from the mass, which would have soon burnt up coffee-pot and coffee all together; and at a still more respectful distance you may perceive small rods, not above four or five feet long, bifurcated at the smaller end, and fixed by the larger in the ground, so as to hang towards the huge fire, at an angle of forty degrees, like so many tiny fishing-rods. These rods have at their bifurcated ends a piece of pork or ham, or of bread, or perhaps of venison, for we bought some, not having shot any: they are all private property, as each party cooks for himself. Seeing these rods at some distance, you might almost imagine that they were the fishing-rods of little imps bobbing for salamanders in the fiery furnace.
In the mean time, while the meat is cooking and the coffee is boiling, the brandy and whisky are severely taxed, as we lie upon our cloaks and buffalo skins at the front of our tents. There certainly is a charm in this wild sort of life, which wins upon people the more they practise it; nor can it be wondered at: our wants are in reality so few and so easily satisfied, without the restraint of form and ceremony. How often, in my wanderings, have I felt the truth of Shakespeare's lines in "As You Like It."
"Now, my co-mates and partners in exile, Hath not old custom made this life more sweet Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods More free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we but the penalty of Adam— The seasons' difference."
On the fourth day we descended, crossed the wide prairie, and arrived at the Fond du Lac, where we again fell in with the Fox river, which runs through the Winnebago lake. The roads through the forests had been very bad, and the men and horses showed signs of fatigue; but we had now passed through all the thickly wooded country, and had entered into the prairie country, extending to Fort Winnebago, and which was beautiful beyond concoction. Its features alone can be described; but its effects can only be felt by being seen. The prairies here are not very large, seldom being above six or seven miles in length or breadth; generally speaking, they lie in gentle undulating flats, and the ridges and hills between them are composed of oak openings. To form an idea of these oak openings, imagine an inland country covered with splendid trees, about as thickly planted as in our English parks; in fact, it is English park scenery, Nature having here spontaneously produced what it has been the care and labour of centuries in our own country to effect. Sometimes the prairie will rise and extend along the hills, and assume an undulating appearance, like the long swell of the ocean; it is then called rolling prairie.
Often, when I looked down upon some fifteen or twenty thousand acres of these prairies, full of rich grass, without one animal, tame or wild, to be seen, I would fancy what thousands of cattle will, in a few years, be luxuriating in those pastures, which, since the herds of buffalo have retreated from them, are now useless, and throwing up each year a fresh crop, to seed and to die unheeded.
On our way we had fallen in with a young Frenchman, who had purchased some land at Fond du Lac, and was proceeding there in company with an American, whom he had hired to settle on it. I now parted company with him; he had gone out with me in my shooting excursions, and talked of nothing but his purchase: it had water; it had a waterfall; it had, in fact, everything that he could desire; but he thought that, after two years, he would go home and get a wife: a Paradise without an Eve would be no Paradise at all.
The price of labour is, as may be supposed, very high in this part of the country. Hiring by the year, you find a man in food, board, and washing, and pay him three hundred dollars per annum (about 70 pounds English.)
The last night that we bivouacked out was the only unfortunate one. We had been all comfortably settled for the night, and fast asleep, when a sudden storm came on, accompanied with such torrents of rain as would have washed us out of our tents, if they had not been already blown down by the violence of the gale. Had we had any warning, we should have provided against it; as it was, we made up huge fires, which defied the rain; and thus we remained till day-light, the rain pouring on us, while the heat of the fire drying us almost as fast as we got wet, each man threw up a column of steam from his still saturating and still heated garments. Every night we encamped where there was a run of water, and plenty of dead timber for our fires; and thus did we go on, emptying our waggons daily of the bread and pork, and filling up the vacancies left by the removal of the empty casks with the sick and lame, until at last we arrived at Fort Winnebago.
VOLUME TWO, CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.
We had not to arrive at the fort to receive a welcome, for when we were still distant about seven miles, the officers of the garrison, who had notice of our coming, made their appearance on horseback, bringing a britchska and grey horses for our accommodation. Those who were not on duty (and I was one) accepted the invitation, and we drove in upon a road which, indeed, for the last thirty miles, had been as level as the best in England. The carriage was followed by pointers, hounds, and a variety of dogs, who were off duty like ourselves, and who appeared quite as much delighted with their run as we were tired with ours. The medical officer attached to the fort, an old friend and correspondent of Mr Lee of Philadelphia, received me with all kindness, and immediately installed me into one of the rooms in the hospital.
Fort Winnebago is situated between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers at the portage, the two rivers being about a mile and a-half apart; the Fox river running east, and giving its waters to Lake Michigan at Green Bay, while the Wisconsin turns to the west, and runs into the Mississippi at Prairie du Chien. The fort is merely a square of barracks, connected together with palisades, to protect it from the Indians; and it is hardly sufficiently strong for even that purpose. It is beautifully situated, and when the country fills up will become a place of importance. Most of the officers are unmarried, and live a very quiet, and secluded, but not unpleasant life. I stayed there two days, much pleased with the society and the kindness shown to me; but an opportunity of descending the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, in a keel-boat, having presented itself, I availed myself of an invitation to join the party, instead of proceeding by land to Galena, as had been my original intention.
The boat had been towed up the Wisconsin with a cargo of flour for the garrison; and a portion of the officers having been ordered down to Prairie du Chien, they had obtained this large boat to transport themselves, families, furniture, and horses, all at once, down to their destination. The boat was about one hundred and twenty feet long, covered in to the height of six feet above the gunnel, and very much in appearance like the Noah's Ark given to children, excepting that the roof was flat. It was an unwieldy craft, and, to manage it, it required at least twenty-five men with poles and long sweeps; but the army gentlemen had decided that, as we were to go down with the stream, six men with short oars would be sufficient—a very great mistake. In every other respect she was badly found, as we term it at sea, having but one old piece of rope to hang on with, and one axe. Our freight consisted of furniture stowed forward and aft, with a horse and cow. In a cabin in the centre we had a lady and five children, one maid and two officers. Our crew was composed of six soldiers, a servant, and a French half bred to pilot us down the river. All Winnebago came out to see us start; and as soon as the rope was cast off, away we went down with the strong current at the rate of five miles an hour. The river passed through forests of oak, the large limbs of which hung from fifteen to twenty feet over the banks on each side; sometimes whole trees lay prostrate in the stream, held by their roots still partially remaining in the ground, while their trunks and branches offering resistance to the swift current, created a succession of small masses of froth, which floated away on the dark green water.
We had not proceeded far, before we found that it was impossible to manage such a large and cumbrous vessel with our few hands; we were almost at the mercy of the current, which appeared to increase in rapidity every minute; however, by exertion and good management, we contrived to keep in the middle of the stream until the wind sprung up and drove us on to the southern bank of the river, and then all was cracking and tearing away of the wood-work, breaking of limbs from the projecting trees, the snapping, cracking, screaming, hallooing, and confusion. As fast as we cleared ourselves of one tree, the current bore us down upon another; as soon as we were clear above water, we were foul and entangled below. It was a pretty general average; but, what was worse than all a snag had intercepted and unshipped our rudder, and we were floating away from it, as it still remained fixed upon the sunken tree. We had no boat with us, not oven a dug-out—(a canoe made out of the trunk of a tree)—so one of the men climbed on shore by the limbs of an oak, and went back to disengage it. He did so, but not being able to resist the force of the stream, down he and the rudder came together—his only chance of salvation being that of our catching him as he came past us. This we fortunately succeeded in effecting; and then hanging on by our old piece of rope to the banks of the river, after an hour's delay we contrived to re-ship our rudder, and proceeded on our voyage, which was a continuation of the same eventful history. Every half hour we found ourselves wedged in between the spreading limbs of the oaks, and were obliged to have recourse to the axe to clear ourselves: and on every occasion we lost a further portion of the frame-work of our boat, either from the roof, the sides, or by the tearing away of the stancheons themselves.
A little before sunset, we were again swept on to the bank with such force as to draw the pintles of our rudder. This finished us for the day: before it could be replaced, it was time to make fast for the night; so there we lay, holding by our rotten piece of rope, which cracked and strained to such a degree, as inclined us to speculate upon where we might find ourselves in the morning. However, we could not help ourselves, so we landed, made a large fire, and cooked our victuals; not, however, venturing to wander away far, on account of the rattle-snakes, which here abounded. Perhaps there is no portion of America in which the rattle-snakes are so large and so numerous as in Wisconsin. There are two varieties: the black rattle-snake, that frequents marshy spots, and renders it rather dangerous to shoot snipes and ducks; and the yellow, which takes up its abode in the rocks and dry places. Dr F—-told me that he had killed, inside of the fort Winnebago, one of the latter species, between seven and eight feet long. The rattle-snake, although its poison is so fatal, is in fact not a very dangerous animal, and people are seldom bitten by it. This arises from two causes: first, that it invariably gives you notice of its presence by its rattle; and secondly, that it always coils itself up like a watch-spring before it strikes, and then darts forward only about its own length. Where they are common, the people generally carry with them a vial of ammonia, which, if instantly applied to the bite, will at least prevent death. The copper-head is a snake of a much more dangerous nature, from its giving no warning, and its poison being equally active.
This river has been very appropriately named by the Indians the 'Stream of the Thousand Isles,' as it is studded with them; indeed, every quarter of a mile you find one or two in its channel. The scenery is fine, as the river runs through high ridges, covered with oak to their summits; sometimes these ridges are backed by higher cliffs and mountains, which halfway up are of a verdant green, and above that present horizontal strata of calcareous rock of rich grey tints, having, at a distance, very much the appearance of the dilapidated castles on the Rhine.
The scenery, though not so grand as the highlands of the Hudson, is more diversified and beautiful. The river was very full, and the current occasionally so rapid, as to leave a foam as it swept by any projecting point. We had, now that the river widened, sand banks to contend with, which required all the exertions of our insufficient crew.
On the second morning, I was very much annoyed at our having left without providing ourselves with a boat, for at the grey of dawn, we discovered that some deer had taken the river close to us, and were in midstream. Had we had a boat, we might have procured a good supply of venison. We cast off again and resumed our voyage; and without any serious accident we arrived at the shot-tower, where we remained for the night. Finding a shot-tower in such a lone wilderness as this, gives you some idea of the enterprise of the Americans; but the Galena, or lead district, commences here, on the south bank of the Wisconsin. The smelting is carried on about twelve miles inland, and the lead is brought here, made into shot, and then sent down the river to the Mississippi, by which, and its tributary streams, it is supplied to all America, west of the Alleghanies. The people were all at work when we arrived. The general distress had even affected the demand for shot, which was now considerably reduced.
On the third day we had the good fortune to have no wind, and consequently made rapid progress, without much further damage. We passed a small settlement called the English prairie—for the prairies were now occasionally mixed up with the mountain scenery. Here there was a smelting-house and a steam saw-mill.
The diggings, as they term the places where the lead is found (for they do not mine, but dig down from the surface,) were about sixteen miles distant. We continued our course for about twenty miles lower down, when we wound up our day's work by getting into a more serious fix among the trees, and eventually losing our only axe, which fell overboard into deep water. All Noah's Ark was in dismay, for we did not know what might happen, or what the next day might bring forth. Fortunately, it was not necessary to cut wood for firing. During the whole of this trip I was much amused with our pilot, who, fully aware of the dangers of the river, was also equally conscious that there were not sufficient means on board to avoid them; when, therefore, we were set upon a sand-bank, or pressed by the wind on the sunken trees, he always whistled; that was all he could do, and in proportion as the danger became more imminent, so did he whistle the louder, until the affair was decided by a bump or a crash, and then he was silent.
On the ensuing day we had nothing but misfortunes. We were continually twisted and twirled about, sometimes with our bows, sometimes with our stern foremost, and as often with our broadside to the stream. We were whirled against one bank, and, as soon as we were clear of that we were thrown upon the other. Having no axe to cut away, we were obliged to use our hands. Again our rudder was unshipped, and with great difficulty replaced. By this time we had lost nearly the half of the upper works of the boat, one portion after another having been torn off by the limbs of the trees as the impetuous current drove us along. To add to our difficulties, a strong wind rose against the current, and the boat became quite unmanageable. About noon, when we had gained only seven miles, the wind abated, and two Menonnomie Indians, in a dug-out, came alongside of us; and as it was doubtful whether we should arrive at the mouth of the river on that night, or be left upon a sand-bank, I got into the canoe with them, to go down to the landing-place, and from thence to cross over to Prairie du Chien, to inform the officers of the garrison of our condition, and obtain assistance. The canoe would exactly hold three, and no more; but we paddled swiftly down the stream, and we soon lost sight of the Noah's Ark. Independently of the canoe being so small, she had lost a large portion of her stem, so that at the least ripple of the water she took it in, and threatened us with a swim; and she was so very narrow, that the least motion would have destroyed her equilibrium and upset her. One Indian sat in the bow, the other in the stern, whilst I was doubled up in the middle. We had given the Indians some bread and pork, and after paddling about half an hour, they stopped to eat. Now, the Indian at the bow had the pork, while the one at the stern had the bread; any attempt to move, so as to hand the eatables to each other, must have upset us; so this was their plan of communication:—The one in the bow cut off a slice of pork, and putting it into the lid of a saucepan which he had with him, and floating it alongside of the canoe, gave it a sufficient momentum to make it swim to the stern, when the other took possession of it. He in the stern then cut off a piece of bread, and sent it back in return by the same conveyance. I had a flask of whisky, but they would not trust that by the same perilous little conveyance; so I had to lean forward very steadily, and hand it to the foremost, and, when he returned it to me, to lean backwards to give it the other, with whom it remained till we landed, for I could not regain it. After about an hour's more paddling, we arrived safely at the landing-place. I had some trouble to get a horse, and was obliged to go out to the fields where the men were ploughing. In doing so, I passed two or three very large snakes. At last I was mounted somehow, but without stirrups, and set off for Prairie du Chien. After riding about four miles, I had passed the mountain, and I suddenly came upon the prairie (on which were feeding several herd of cattle and horses), with the fort in the distance, and the wide waters of the Upper Mississippi flowing beyond it. I crossed the prairie, found my way into the fort, stated the situation of our party, and requested assistance. This was immediately dispatched, but on their arrival at the landing-place, they found that the keel-boat had arrived at the ferry without further difficulty. Before sunset the carriages returned with the whole party, who were comfortably accommodated in the barracks—a sufficient number of men being left with the boat to bring it round to the Mississippi, a distance of about twelve miles.