Domestic Manners of the Americans
by Fanny Trollope
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

On entering the cottages I found also a great difference in the manner of living. Here, indeed, there were few cottages without a slave, but there were fewer still that had their beefsteak and onions for breakfast, dinner, and supper. The herrings of the bountiful Potomac supply their place. These are excellent "relish," as they call it, when salted, and, if I mistake not, are sold at a dollar and a half per thousand. Whiskey, however, flows every where at the same fatally cheap rate of twenty cents (about one shilling) the gallon, and its hideous effects are visible on the countenance of every man you meet.

The class of people the most completely unlike any existing in England, are those who, farming their own freehold estates, and often possessing several slaves, yet live with as few of the refinements, and I think I may say, with as few of the comforts of life, as the very poorest English peasant. When in Maryland, I went into the houses of several of these small proprietors, and remained long enough, and looked and listened sufficiently, to obtain a tolerably correct idea of their manner of living.

One of these families consisted of a young man, his wife, two children, a female slave, and two young lads, slaves also. The farm belonged to the wife, and, I was told, consisted of about three hundred acres of indifferent land, but all cleared. The house was built of wood, and looked as if the three slaves might have overturned it, had they pushed hard against the gable end. It contained one room, of about twelve feet square, and another adjoining it, hardly larger than a closet; this second chamber was the lodging-room of the white part of the family. Above these rooms was a loft, without windows, where I was told the "staying company" who visited them, were lodged. Near this mansion was a "shanty," a black hole, without any window, which served as kitchen and all other offices, and also as the lodging of the blacks.

We were invited to take tea with this family, and readily consented to do so. The furniture of the room was one heavy huge table, and about six wooden chairs. When we arrived the lady was in rather a dusky dishabille, but she vehemently urged us to be seated, and then retired into the closet-chamber above mentioned, whence she continued to address to us from behind the door, all kinds of "genteel country visiting talk," and at length emerged upon us in a smart new dress.

Her female slave set out the great table, and placed upon it cups of the very coarsest blue ware, a little brown sugar in one, and a tiny drop of milk in another, no butter, though the lady assured us she had a "deary" and two cows. Instead of butter, she "hoped we would fix a little relish with our crackers," in ancient English, eat salt meat and dry biscuits. Such was the fare, and for guests that certainly were intended to be honoured. I could not help recalling the delicious repasts which I remembered to have enjoyed at little dairy farms in England, not possessed, but rented, and at high rents too; where the clean, fresh-coloured, bustling mistress herself skimmed the delicious cream, herself spread the yellow butter on the delightful brown loaf, and placed her curds, and her junket, and all the delicate treasures other dairy before us, and then, with hospitable pride, placed herself at her board, and added the more delicate "relish" of good tea and good cream. I remembered all this, and did not think the difference atoned for, by the dignity of having my cup handed to me by a slave. The lady I now visited, however, greatly surpassed my quondam friends in the refinement of her conversation. She ambled through the whole time the visit lasted, in a sort of elegantly mincing familiar style of gossip, which, I think, she was imitating from some novel, for I was told she was a great novel reader, and left all household occupations to be performed by her slaves. To say she addressed us in a tone of equality, will give no adequate idea of her manner; I am persuaded that no misgiving on the subject ever entered her head. She told us that their estate was her divi-dend of her father's property. She had married a first cousin, who was as fine a gentleman as she was a lady, and as idle, preferring hunting (as they called shooting) to any other occupation. The consequence was, that but a very small portion of the dividend was cultivated, and their poverty was extreme. The slaves, particularly the lads, were considerably more than half naked, but the air of dignity with which, in the midst of all this misery, the lanky lady said to one of the young negroes, "Attend to your young master, Lycurgus," must have been heard to be conceived in the full extent of its mock heroic.

Another dwelling of one of these landed proprietors was a hovel as wretched as the one above described, but there was more industry within it. The gentleman, indeed, was himself one of the numerous tribe of regular whiskey drinkers, and was rarely capable of any work; but he had a family of twelve children, who, with their skeleton mother, worked much harder than I ever saw negroes do. They were, accordingly, much less elegant and much less poor than the heiress; yet they lived with no appearance of comfort, and with, I believe, nothing beyond the necessaries of life. One proof of this was, that the worthless father would not suffer them to raise, even by their own labour, any garden vegetables, and they lived upon their fat pork, salt fish, and corn bread, summer and winter, without variation. This, I found, was frequently the case among the farmers. The luxury of whiskey is more appreciated by the men than all the green delicacies from the garden, and if all the ready money goes for that and their darling chewing tobacco, none can be spent by the wife for garden seeds; and as far as my observation extended, I never saw any American menage where the toast and no toast question, would have been decided in favour of the lady.

There are some small farmers who hold their lands as tenants, but these are by no means numerous: they do not pay their rent in money, but by making over a third of the produce to the owner; a mode of paying rent, considerably more advantageous to the tenant than the landlord; but the difficulty of obtaining money in payment, excepting for mere retail articles, is very great in all American transactions. "I can pay in pro-duce," is the offer which I was assured is constantly made on all occasions, and if rejected, "Then I guess we can't deal," is the usual rejoinder. This statement does not, of course, include the great merchants of great cities, but refers to the mass of the people scattered over the country; it has, indeed, been my object, in speaking of the customs of the people, to give an idea of what they are generally.

The effect produced upon English people by the sight of slavery in every direction is very new, and not very agreeable, and it is not the less painfully felt from hearing upon every breeze the mocking words, "All men are born free and equal." One must be in the heart of American slavery, fully to appreciate that wonderfully fine passage in Moore's Epistle to Lord Viscount Forbes, which describes perhaps more faithfully, as well as more powerfully, the political state of America, than any thing that has ever been written upon it.

Oh! Freedom, Freedom, how I hate thy cant! Not eastern bombast, nor the savage rant Of purpled madmen, were they numbered all From Roman Nero, down to Russian Paul, Could grate upon my ear so mean, so base, As the rank jargon of that factious race, Who, poor of heart, and prodigal of words, Born to be slaves, and struggling to be lords, But pant for licence, while they spurn controul, And shout for rights, with rapine in their soul! Who can, with patience, for a moment see The medley mass of pride and misery, Of whips and charters, manacles and rights, Of slaving blacks, and democratic whites, Of all the pyebald polity that reigns In free confusion o'er Columbia's plains? To think that man, thou just and gentle God! Should stand before thee with a tyrant's rod, O'er creatures like himself, with soul from thee, Yet dare to boast of perfect liberty: Away, away, I'd rather hold my neck By doubtful tenure from a Sultan's beck, In climes where liberty has scarce been named, Nor any right, but that of ruling, claimed, Than thus to live, where bastard freedom waves Her fustian flag in mockery o'er slaves; Where (motley laws admitting no degree Betwixt the vilely slaved, and madly free) Alike the bondage and the licence suit, The brute made ruler, and the man made brute!

The condition of domestic slaves, however, does not generally appear to be bad; but the ugly feature is, that should it be so, they have no power to change it. I have seen much kind attention bestowed upon the health of slaves; but it is on these occasions impossible to forget, that did this attention fail, a valuable piece of property would be endangered. Unhappily the slaves, too, know this, and the consequence is, that real kindly feeling very rarely can exist between the parties. It is said that slaves born in a family are attached to the children of it, who have grown up with them. This may be the case where the petty acts of infant tyranny have not been sufficient to conquer the kindly feeling naturally produced by long and early association; and this sort of attachment may last as long as the slave can be kept in that state of profound ignorance which precludes reflection. The law of Virginia has taken care of this. The State legislators may truly be said to be "wiser in their generation than the children of light," and they ensure their safety by forbidding light to enter among them. By the law of Virginia it is penal to teach any slave to read, and it is penal to be aiding and abetting in the act of instructing them. This law speaks volumes. Domestic slaves are, generally speaking, tolerably well fed, and decently clothed; and the mode in which they are lodged seems a matter of great indifference to them. They are rarely exposed to the lash, and they are carefully nursed in sickness. These are the favourable features of their situation. The sad one is, that they may be sent to the south and sold. This is the dread of all the slaves north of Louisiana. The sugar plantations, and more than all, the rice grounds of Georgia and the Carolinas, are the terror of American negroes; and well they may be, for they open an early grave to thousands; and to avoid loss it is needful to make their previous labour pay their value.

There is something in the system of breeding and rearing negroes in the Northern States, for the express purpose of sending them to be sold in the South, that strikes painfully against every feeling of justice, mercy, or common humanity. During my residence in America I became perfectly persuaded that the state of a domestic slave in a gentleman's family was preferable to that of a hired American "help," both because they are more cared for and valued, and because their condition being born with them, their spirits do not struggle against it with that pining discontent which seems the lot of all free servants in America. But the case is widely different with such as, in their own persons, or those of their children, "loved in vain," are exposed to the dreadful traffic above mentioned. In what is their condition better than that of the kidnapped negroes on the coast of Africa? Of the horror in which this enforced migration is held I had a strong proof during our stay in Virginia. The father of a young slave, who belonged to the lady with whom we boarded, was destined to this fate, and within an hour after it was made known to him, he sharpened the hatchet with which he had been felling timber, and with his right hand severed his left from the wrist.

But this is a subject on which I do not mean to dilate; it has been lately treated most judiciously by a far abler hand. [See Captain Hall's Travels in America.] Its effects on the moral feelings and external manners of the people are all I wish to observe upon, and these are unquestionably most injurious. The same man who beards his wealthier and more educated neighbour with the bullying boast, "I'm as good as you," turns to his slave, and knocks him down, if the furrow he has ploughed, or the log he has felled, please not this stickler for equality. There is a glaring falsehood on the very surface of such a man's principles that is revolting. It is not among the higher classes that the possession of slaves produces the worst effects. Among the poorer class of landholders, who are often as profoundly ignorant as the negroes they own, the effect of this plenary power over males and females is most demoralising; and the kind of coarse, not to say brutal, authority which is exercised, furnishes the most disgusting moral spectacle I ever witnessed. In all ranks, however, it appeared to me that the greatest and best feelings of the human heart were paralyzed by the relative positions of slave and owner. The characters, the hearts of children, are irretrievably injured by it. In Virginia we boarded for some time in a family consisting of a widow and her four daughters, and I there witnessed a scene strongly indicative of the effect I have mentioned. A young female slave, about eight years of age, had found on the shelf of a cupboard a biscuit, temptingly buttered, of which she had eaten a considerable portion before she was observed. The butter had been copiously sprinkled with arsenic for the destruction of rats, and had been thus most incautiously placed by one of the young ladies of the family. As soon as the circumstance was known, the lady of the house came to consult me as to what had best be done for the poor child; I immediately mixed a large cup of mustard and water (the most rapid of all emetics) and got the little girl to swallow it. The desired effect was instantly produced, but the poor child, partly from nausea, and partly from the terror of hearing her death proclaimed by half a dozen voices round her, trembled so violently that I thought she would fall. I sat down in the court where we were standing, and, as a matter of course, took the little sufferer in my lap. I observed a general titter among the white members of the family, while the black stood aloof, and looked stupified. The youngest of the family, a little girl about the age of the young slave, after gazing at me for a few moments in utter astonishment, exclaimed "My! If Mrs. Trollope has not taken her in her lap, and wiped her nasty mouth! Why I would not have touched her mouth for two hundred dollars!"

The little slave was laid on a bed, and I returned to my own apartments; some time afterwards I sent to enquire for her, and learnt that she was in great pain. I immediately went myself to enquire farther, when another young lady of the family, the one by whose imprudence the accident had occurred, met my anxious enquiries with ill-suppressed mirth—told me they had sent for the doctor—and then burst into uncontrollable laughter. The idea of really sympathising in the sufferings of a slave appeared to them as absurd as weeping over a calf that had been slaughtered by the butcher. The daughters of my hostess were as lovely as features and complexion could make them; but the neutralizing effect of this total want of feeling upon youth and beauty, must be witnessed, to be conceived.

There seems in general a strong feeling throughout America, that none of the negro race can be trusted, and as fear, according to their notions, is the only principle by which a slave can be actuated, it is not wonderful if the imputation be just. But I am persuaded that were a different mode of moral treatment pursued, most important and beneficial consequences would result from it. Negroes are very sensible to kindness, and might, I think, be rendered more profitably obedient by the practice of it towards them, than by any other mode of discipline whatever. To emancipate them entirely throughout the Union cannot, I conceive, be thought of, consistently with the safety of the country; but were the possibility of amelioration taken into the consideration of the legislature, with all the wisdom, justice, and mercy, that could be brought to bear upon it, the negro population of the Union might cease to be a terror, and their situation no longer be a subject either of indignation or of pity.

I observed every where throughout the slave States that all articles which can be taken and consumed are constantly locked up, and in large families, where the extent of the establishment multiplies the number of keys, these are deposited in a basket, and consigned to the care of a little negress, who is constantly seen following her mistress's steps with this basket on her arm, and this, not only that the keys may be always at hand, but because, should they be out of sight one moment, that moment would infallibly be employed for purposes of plunder. It seemed to me in this instance, as in many others, that the close personal attendance of these sable shadows, must be very annoying; but whenever I mentioned it, I was assured that no such feeling existed, and that use rendered them almost unconscious of their presence.

I had, indeed, frequent opportunities of observing this habitual indifference to the presence of their slaves. They talk of them, of their condition, of their faculties, of their conduct, exactly as if they were incapable of hearing. I once saw a young lady, who, when seated at table between a male and a female, was induced by her modesty to intrude on the chair of her female neighbour to avoid the indelicacy of touching the elbow of a man. I once saw this very young lady lacing her stays with the most perfect composure before a negro footman. A Virginian gentleman told me that ever since he had married, he had been accustomed to have a negro girl sleep in the same chamber with himself and his wife. I asked for what purpose this nocturnal attendance was necessary? "Good heaven!" was the reply, "if I wanted a glass of water during the night, what would become of me?"


Fruits and Flowers of Maryland and Virginia—Copper-head Snake—Insects—Elections

Our summer in Maryland, (1830), was delightful. The thermometer stood at 94, but the heat was by no means so oppressive as what we had felt in the West. In no part of North America are the natural productions of the soil more various, or more beautiful. Strawberries of the richest flavour sprung beneath our feet; and when these past away, every grove, every lane, every field looked like a cherry orchard, offering an inexhaustible profusion of fruit to all who would take the trouble to gather it. Then followed the peaches; every hedgerow was planted with them, and though the fruit did not equal in size or flavour those ripened on our garden walls, we often found them good enough to afford a delicious refreshment on our long rambles. But it was the flowers, and the flowering shrubs that, beyond all else, rendered this region the most beautiful I had ever seen, (the Alleghany always excepted.) No description can give an idea of the variety, the profusion, the luxuriance of them. If I talk of wild roses, the English reader will fancy I mean the pale ephemeral blossoms of our bramble hedges; but the wild roses of Maryland and Virginia might be the choicest favourites of the flower garden. They are rarely very double, but the brilliant eye atones for this. They are of all shades, from the deepest crimson to the tenderest pink. The scent is rich and delicate; in size they exceed any single roses I ever saw, often measuring above four inches in diameter. The leaf greatly resembles that of the china rose; it is large, dark, firm, and brilliant. The sweetbrier grows wild, and blossoms abundantly; both leaves and flowers are considerably larger than with us. The acacia, or as it is there called, the locust, blooms with great richness and profusion; I have gathered a branch less than a foot long, and counted twelve full bunches of flowers on it. The scent is equal to the orange flower. The dogwood is another of the splendid white blossoms that adorn the woods. Its lateral branches are flat, like a fan, and dotted all over, with star-like blossoms, as large as those of the gum-cistus. Another pretty shrub, of smaller size, is the poison alder. It is well that its noxious qualities are very generally known, for it is most tempting to the eye by its delicate fringe-like bunches of white flowers. Even the touch of this shrub is poisonous, and produces violent swelling. The arbor judae is abundant in every wood, and its bright and delicate pink is the earliest harbinger of the American spring. Azalias, white, yellow, and pink; kalmias of every variety, the too sweet magnolia, and the stately rhododendron, all grow in wild abundance there. The plant known in England as the Virginian creeper, is often seen climbing to the top of the highest forest trees, and bearing a large trumpet- shaped blossom of a rich scarlet. The sassafras is a beautiful shrub, and I cannot imagine why it has not been naturalized in England, for it has every appearance of being extremely hardy. The leaves grow in tufts, and every tuft contains leaves of five or six different forms. The fruit is singularly beautiful; it resembles in form a small acorn, and is jet black; the cup and stem looking as if they were made of red coral. The graceful and fantastic grapevine is a feature of great beauty, and its wandering festoons bear no more resemblance to our well-trained vines, than our stunted azalias, and tiny magnolias, to their thriving American kindred.

There is another charm that haunts the summer wanderer in America, and it is perhaps the only one found in greatest perfection in the West: but it is beautiful every where. In a bright day, during any of the summer months, your walk is through an atmosphere of butterflies, so gaudy in hue, and so varied in form, that I often thought they looked like flowers on the wing. Some of them are very large, measuring three or four inches across the wings; but many, and I think the most beautiful, are smaller than ours. Some have wings of the most dainty lavender colour; and bodies of black; others are fawn and rose colour; and others again are orange and bright blue. But pretty as they are, it is their number, even more than their beauty, that delights the eye. Their gay and noiseless movement as they glance through the air, crossing each other in chequered maze, is very beautiful. The humming-bird is another pretty summer toy; but they are not sufficiently numerous, nor do they live enough on the wing to render them so important a feature in the transatlantic show, as the rainbow-tinted butterflies. The fire-fly was a far more brilliant novelty. In moist situations, or before a storm, they are very numerous, and in the dark sultry evening of a burning day, when all employment was impossible, I have often found it a pastime to watch their glancing light, now here, now there; now seen, now gone; shooting past with the rapidity of lightning, and looking like a shower of falling stars, blown about in the breeze of evening.

In one of our excursions we encountered and slew a copperhead snake. I escaped treading on it by about three inches. While we were contemplating our conquered foe, and doubting in our ignorance if he were indeed the deadly copper-head we had so often heard described, a farmer joined us, who, as soon as he cast his eyes on our victim, exclaimed, "My! if you have not got a copper. That's right down well done, they be darnation beasts." He told us that he had once seen a copper-head bite himself to death, from being teazed by a stick, while confined in a cage where he could find no other victim. We often heard terrible accounts of the number of these desperate reptiles to be found on the rocks near the great falls of the Potomac; but not even the terror these stories inspired could prevent our repeated visits to that sublime scene; Luckily our temerity was never punished by seeing any there. Lizards, long, large, and most hideously like a miniature crocodile, I frequently saw, gliding from the fissures of the rocks, and darting again under shelter, perhaps beneath the very stone I was seated upon; but every one assured us they were harmless. Animal life is so infinitely abundant, and in forms so various, and so novel to European eyes, that it is absolutely necessary to divest oneself of all the petty terrors which the crawling, creeping, hopping, and buzzing tribes can inspire, before taking an American summer ramble. It is, I conceive, quite impossible for any description to convey an idea of the sounds which assail the ears from the time the short twilight begins, until the rising sun scatters the rear of darkness, and sends the winking choristers to rest.

Be where you will (excepting in the large cities) the appalling note of the bull-frog will reach you, loud, deep, and hoarse, issuing from a thousand throats in ceaseless continuity of croak. The tree-frog adds her chirping and almost human voice; the kattiedid repeats her own name through the livelong night; the whole tribe of locusts chirp, chirrup, squeak, whiz, and whistle, without allowing one instant of interval to the weary ear; and when to this the mosquito adds her threatening hum, it is wonderful that any degree of fatigue can obtain for the listener the relief of sleep. In fact, it is only in ceasing to listen that this blessing can be found. I passed many feverish nights during my first summer, literally in listening to this most astounding mixture of noises, and it was only when they became too familiar to excite attention, that I recovered my rest.

I know not by what whimsical link of association the recapitulation of this insect din suggests the recollection of other discords, at least as harsh and much more troublesome.

Even in the retirement in which we passed this summer, we were not beyond reach of the election fever which is constantly raging through the land. Had America every attraction under heaven that nature and social enjoyment can offer, this electioneering madness would make me fly it in disgust. It engrosses every conversation, it irritates every temper, it substitutes party spirit for personal esteem; and, in fact, vitiates the whole system of society.

When a candidate for any office starts, his party endow him with every virtue, and with all the talents. They are all ready to peck out the eyes of those who oppose him, and in the warm and mettlesome south-western states, do literally often perform this operation: but as soon as he succeeds, his virtues and his talents vanish, and, excepting those holding office under his appointment, every man Jonathan of them set off again full gallop to elect his successor. When I first arrived in America Mr. John Quincy Adams was President, and it was impossible to doubt, even from the statement of his enemies, that he was every way calculated to do honour to the office. All I ever heard against him was, that "he was too much of a gentleman;" but a new candidate must be set up, and Mr. Adams was out-voted for no other reason, that I could learn, but because it was "best to change." "Jackson for ever!" was, therefore, screamed from the majority of mouths, both drunk and sober, till he was elected; but no sooner in his place, than the same ceaseless operation went on again, with "Clay for ever" for its war-whoop.

I was one morning paying a visit, when a party of gentlemen arrived at the same house on horseback. The one whose air proclaimed him the chief of his party, left us not long in doubt as to his business, for he said, almost in entering,

"Mr. P—, I come to ask for your vote."

"Who are you for, sir?" was the reply.

"Clay for ever!" the rejoinder; and the vote was promised.

This gentleman was candidate for a place in the state representation, whose members have a vote in the presidential election.

I was introduced to him as an English woman: he addressed me with, "Well madam, you see we do these things openly and above-board here; you mince such matters more, I expect."

After his departure, his history and standing were discussed. "Mr. M. is highly respectable, and of very good standing; there can be no doubt of his election if he is a thorough-going Clay-man," said my host.

I asked what his station was.

The lady of the house told me that his father had been a merchant, and when this future legislator was a young man, he had been sent by him to some port in the Mediterranean as his super-cargo. The youth, being a free-born high-spirited youth, appropriated the proceeds to his own uses, traded with great success upon the fund thus obtained, and returned, after an absence of twelve years, a gentleman of fortune and excellent standing. I expressed some little disapprobation of this proceeding, but was assured that Mr. M. was considered by every one as a very "honourable man."

Were I to relate one-tenth part of the dishonest transactions recounted to me by Americans, of their fellow-citizens and friends, I am confident that no English reader would give me credit for veracity it would, therefore, be very unwise to repeat them, but I cannot refrain from expressing the opinion that nearly four years of attentive observation impressed on me, namely, that the moral sense is on every point blunter than with us. Make an American believe that his next-door neighbour is a very worthless fellow, and I dare say (if he were quite sure he could make nothing by him) he would drop the acquaintance; but as to what constitutes a worthless fellow, people differ on the opposite sides of the Atlantic, almost by the whole decalogue. There is, as it appeared to me, an obtusity on all points of honourable feeling.

"Cervantes laughed Spain's chivalry away," but he did not laugh away that better part of chivalry, so beautifully described by Burke as "the unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, that chastity of honour, which feels a stain as a wound, which ennobles whatever it touches, and by which vice itself loses half its evil, by losing all its grossness." The better part of chivalry still mixes with gentle blood in every part of Europe, nor is it less fondly guarded than when sword and buckler aided its defence. Perhaps this unbought grace of life is not to be looked for where chivalry has never been. I certainly do not lament the decadence of knight errantry, nor wish to exchange the protection of the laws for that of the doughtiest champion who ever set lance in rest; but I do, in truth, believe that this knightly sensitiveness of honourable feeling is the best antidote to the petty soul-degrading transactions of every day life, and that the total want of it, is one reason why this free-born race care so very little for the vulgar virtue called probity.


Journey to Philadelphia—Chesapeak and Delaware Canal—City of Philadelphia—Miss Wright's Lecture

In the latter part of August, 1830, we paid a visit to Philadelphia, and, notwithstanding the season, we were so fortunate as to have both bright and temperate weather for the expedition. The road from Washington to Baltimore, which was our first day's journey, is interesting in summer from the variety of luxuriance of the foliage which borders great parts of it.

We passed the night at Baltimore, and embarked next morning on board a steam-boat for Philadelphia. The scenery of the Elk river, upon which you enter soon after leaving the port of Baltimore, is not beautiful. We embarked at six in the morning, and at twelve reached the Chesapeak and Delaware canal; we then quitted the steam-boat, and walked two or three hundred yards to the canal, where we got on board a pretty little decked boat, sheltered by a neat awning, and drawn by four horses. This canal cuts across the state of Delaware, and connects the Chesapeak and Delaware rivers: it has been a work of great expense, though the distance is not more than thirteen miles; for a considerable part of this distance the cutting has been very deep, and the banks are in many parts thatched, to prevent their crumbling. At the point where the cutting is deepest, a light bridge is thrown across, which, from its great height, forms a striking object to the travellers passing below it. Every boat that passes this canal pays a toll of twenty dollars.

Nothing can be less interesting than that part of the state of Delaware through which this cut passes, the Mississippi hardly excepted. At one, we reached the Delaware river, at a point nearly opposite Delaware Fort, which looks recently built, and is very handsome. [This fort was destroyed by fire a few months afterwards.] Here we again changed our vessel, and got on board another of their noble steam-boats; both these changes were made with the greatest regularity and dispatch.

There is nothing remarkable in the scenery of the Delaware. The stream is wide and the banks are flat; a short distance before you reach Philadelphia two large buildings of singular appearance strike the eye. On enquiry I learnt that they were erected for the purpose of sheltering two ships of war. They are handsomely finished, with very neat roofs, and are ventilated by many windows. The expense of these buildings must have been considerable, but, as the construction of the vast machines they shelter was more so, it may be good economy.

We reached Philadelphia at four o'clock in the afternoon. The approach to this city is not so striking as that to Baltimore; though much larger, it does not now show itself so well; it wants domes and columns: it is, nevertheless, a beautiful city. Nothing can exceed its neatness; the streets are well paved, the foot-way, as in all the old American cities, is of brick, like the old pantile walk at Tunbridge Wells. This is almost entirely sheltered from the sun by the awnings, which, in all the principal streets, are spread from the shop windows to the edge of the pavement.

The city is built with extreme and almost wearisome regularity; the streets, which run north and south, are distinguished by numbers, from one to—I know not how many, but I paid a visit in Twelth Street; these are intersected at right angles by others, which are known by the names of various trees; Mulberry (more commonly called Arch-street), Chesnut, and Walnut, appear the most fashionable: in each of these there is a theatre. This mode of distinguishing the streets is commodious to strangers, from the facility it gives of finding out whereabouts you are; if you ask for the United States Bank, you are told it is in Chesnut, between Third and Fourth, and as the streets are all divided from each other by equal distances, of about three hundred feet, you are sure of not missing your mark. There are many handsome houses, but none that are very splendid; they are generally of brick, and those of the better order have white marble steps, and some few, door frames of the same beautiful material; but, on the whole, there is less display of it in the private dwellings than at Baltimore.

The Americans all seem greatly to admire this city, and to give it the preference in point of beauty to all others in the Union, but I do not agree with them. There are some very handsome buildings, but none of them so placed as to produce a striking effect, as is the case both with the Capitol and the President's house, at Washington. Notwithstanding these fine buildings, one or more of which are to be found in all the principal streets, the coup d'oeil is every where the same. There is no Place de Louis Quinze or Carrousel, no Regent Street, or Green Park, to make one exclaim "how beautiful!" all is even, straight, uniform, and uninteresting.

There is one spot, however, about a mile from the town, which presents a lovely scene. The water-works of Philadelphia have not yet perhaps as wide extended fame as those of Marley, but they are not less deserving it. At a most beautiful point of the Schuylkill River the water has been forced up into a magnificent reservoir, ample and elevated enough to send it through the whole city. The vast yet simple machinery by which this is achieved is open to the public, who resort in such numbers to see it, that several evening stages run from Philadelphia to Fair Mount for their accommodation. But interesting and curious as this machinery is, Fair Mount would not be so attractive had it not something else to offer. It is, in truth, one of the very prettiest spots the eye can look upon. A broad weir is thrown across the Schuylkill, which produces the sound and look of a cascade. On the farther side of the river is a gentleman's seat, the beautiful lawns of which slope to the water's edge, and groups of weeping-willows and other trees throw their shadows on the stream. The works themselves are enclosed in a simple but very handsome building of freestone, which has an extended front opening upon a terrace, which overhangs the river: behind the building, and divided from it only by a lawn, rises a lofty wall of solid limestone rock, which has, at one or two points, been cut into, for the passage of the water into the noble reservoir above. From the crevices of this rock the catalpa was every where pushing forth, covered with its beautiful blossom. Beneath one of these trees an artificial opening in the rock gives passage to a stream of water, clear and bright as crystal, which is received in a stone basin of simple workmanship, having a cup for the service of the thirsty traveller. At another point, a portion of the water in its upward way to the reservoir, is permitted to spring forth in a perpetual jet d'eau, that returns in a silver shower upon the head of a marble naiad of snowy whiteness. The statue is not the work of Phidias, but its dark, rocky background, the flowery catalpas which shadow it, and the bright shower through which it shows itself, altogether make the scene one of singular beauty; add to which, the evening on which I saw it was very sultry, and the contrast of this cool spot to all besides certainly enhanced its attraction; it was impossible not to envy the nymph her eternal shower-bath.

On returning from this excursion we saw handbills in all parts of the city announcing that Miss Wright was on that evening to deliver her parting address to the citizens of Philadelphia, at the Arch Street theatre, previous to her departure for Europe. I immediately determined to hear her, and did so, though not without some difficulty, from the crowds who went thither with the same intention. The house, which is a very pretty one, was filled in every part, including the stage, with a well dressed and most attentive audience. There was a larger proportion of ladies present than I ever saw on any other occasion in an American theatre. One reason for this might be, perhaps, that they were admitted gratis.

Miss Wright came on the stage surrounded by a body guard of Quaker ladies, in the full costume of their sect. She was, as she always is, startling in her theories, but powerfully eloquent, and, on the whole, was much applauded, though one passage produced great emotion, and some hissing. She stated broadly, on the authority of Jefferson, furnished by his posthumous works, that "Washington was not a Christian." One voice from the crowded pit exclaimed, in an accent of indignation, "Washington was a Christian." but it was evident that the majority of the audience considered Mr. Jefferson's assertion as a compliment to the country's idol, for the hissing was soon triumphantly clapped down. General Washington himself, however, gives a somewhat different account of his own principles, for in his admirable farewell address on declining a re-election to the Presidency, I find the following passage.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who would labour to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the destinies of men and citizens. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Whether Mr. Jefferson or himself knew best what his principles were, I will not decide, but, at least, it appears fair, when repeating one statement, to add the other also.


Washington Square—American Beauty—Gallery of Fine Arts— Antiques—Theatres—Museum

Our mornings were spent, as all travellers' mornings must be, in asking questions, and in seeing all that the answers told us it was necessary to see. Perhaps this can be done in no city with more facility than in Philadelphia; you have nothing to do but to walk up one straight street, and down another, till all the parallelograms have been threaded. In doing this you will see many things worth looking at. The United States, and Pennsylvania banks, are the most striking buildings, and are both extremely handsome, being of white marble, and built after Grecian models. The State House has nothing externally to recommend it, but the room shown as that in which the declaration of independence was signed, and in which the estimable Lafayette was received half a century after he had shed his noble blood in aiding to obtain it, is an interesting spot. At one end of this room is a statue in wood of General Washington; on its base is the following inscription:-

First in Peace, First in War, and First in the hearts of his Countrymen.

There is a very pretty enclosure before the Walnut Street entrance to the State House, with good well-kept gravel walks, and many of their beautiful flowering trees. It is laid down in grass, not in turf; that, indeed, is a luxury I never saw in America. Near this enclosure is another of much the same description, called Washington Square. Here there was an excellent crop of clover; but as the trees are numerous, and highly beautiful, and several commodious seats are placed beneath their shade, it is, in spite of the long grass, a very agreeable retreat from heat and dust. It was rarely, however, that I saw any of these seats occupied; the Americans have either no leisure, or no inclination for those moments of delassement that all other people, I believe, indulge in. Even their drams, so universally taken by rich and poor, are swallowed standing, and, excepting at church, they never have the air of leisure or repose. This pretty Washington Square is surrounded by houses on three sides, but (lasso!) has a prison on the fourth; it is nevertheless the nearest approach to a London square that is to be found in Philadelphia.

One evening, while the rest of my party went to visit some objects which I had before seen, I agreed to await their return in this square, and sat down under a magnificent catalpa, which threw its fragrant blossoms in all directions; the other end of the bench was occupied by a young lady, who was employed in watching the gambols of a little boy. There was something in her manner of looking at me, and exchanging a smile when her young charge performed some extraordinary feat of activity on the grass, that persuaded me she was not an American. I do not remember who spoke first, but we were presently in a full flow of conversation. She spoke English with elegant correctness, but she was a German, and with an ardour of feeling which gave her a decidedly foreign air in Philadelphia, she talked to me of her country, of all she had left, and of all she had found, or rather of all she had not found, for thus ran her lament:-

"They do not love music. Oh no! and they never amuse themselves—no; and their hearts are not warm, at least they seem not so to strangers; and they have no ease, no forgetfulness of business and of care—no, not for a moment. But I will not stay long, I think, for I should not live." She told me that she had a brother settled there as a merchant, and that she had passed a year with him; but she was hoping soon to return to her father land.

I never so strongly felt the truth of the remark, that expression is the soul of beauty, as in looking at, and listening to this young German. She was any thing but handsome; it is true she had large eyes, full of gentle expression, but every feature was irregular; but, oh! the charm of that smile, of that look of deep feeling which animated every feature when she spoke of her own Germany! The tone of her voice, the slight and graceful action which accompanied her words, all struck me as so attractive, that the half hour I passed with her was continually recurring to my memory. I had often taxed myself with feeling something like prejudice against the beautiful American women; but this half hour set my conscience at rest; it is not prejudice which causes one to feel that regularity of features is insufficient to interest, or even to please, beyond the first glance. I certainly believe the women of America to be the handsomest in the world, but as surely do I believe that they are the least attractive.

We visited the nineteenth annual exhibition of the Pennsylvanian academy of the fine arts; 431 was the number of objects exhibited, which were so arranged as to fill three tolerably large rooms, and one smaller called the director's room. There were among the number about thirty engravings, and a much larger proportion of water-colour drawings; about seventy had the P.A. (Pensylvanian Academician) annexed to the name of the artist.

The principal historical composition was a large scripture piece by Mr. Washington Alston. This gentleman is spoken of as an artist of great merit, and I was told that his manner was much improved since this picture was painted, (it bears date, 1813). I believe it was for this picture Mr. Alston received a prize at the British Gallery.

There was a portrait of a lady, which, in the catalogue, is designated as "the White Plume," which had the reputation of being the most admired in the collection, and the artist, Mr. Ingham, is said to rank highest among the portrait-painters of America. This picture is of very high finish, particularly the drapery, which is most elaborately worked, even to the pile of the velvet; the management of the light is much in the manner of Good; but the drawing is very defective, and the contour, though the face is a lovely one, hard and unfleshy. From all the conversations on painting, which I listened to in America, I found that the finish of drapery was considered as the highest excellence, and next to this, the resemblance in a portrait; I do not remember ever to have heard the words drawing or composition used in any conversation on the subject.

One of the rooms of this academy has inscribed over its door,


The door was open, but just within it was a screen, which prevented any objects in the room being seen from without. Upon my pausing to read this inscription, an old woman who appeared to officiate as guardian of the gallery, hustled up, and addressing me with an air of much mystery, said, "Now, ma'am, now; this is just the time for you—nobody can see you—make haste."

I stared at her with unfeigned surprise, and disengaging my arm, which she had taken apparently to hasten my movements, I very gravely asked her meaning.

"Only, ma'am, that ladies like to go into that room by themselves, when there be no gentlemen watching them."

On entering this mysterious apartment, the first thing I remarked, was written paper, deprecating the disgusting depravity which had led some of the visitors to mark and deface the casts in a most indecent and shameless manner. This abomination has unquestionably been occasioned by the coarse-minded custom which sends alternate groups of males and females into the room. Were the antique gallery thrown open to mixed parties of ladies and gentlemen, it would soon cease. Till America has reached the degree of refinement which permits of this, the antique casts should not be exhibited to ladies at all. I never felt my delicacy shocked at the Louvre, but I was strangely tempted to resent as an affront the hint I received, that I might steal a glance at what was deemed indecent. Perhaps the arrangements for the exhibition of this room, the feelings which have led to them, and the result they have produced, furnish as good a specimen of the kind of delicacy on which the Americans pride themselves, and of the peculiarities arising from it, as can be found. The room contains about fifty casts, chiefly from the antique.

In the director's room I was amused at the means which a poet had hit upon for advertising his works, or rather HIS WORK, and not less at the elaborate notice of it. His portrait was suspended there, and attached to the frame was a paper inscribed thus:-

'PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR of The Fredoniad, or Independence Preserved, a political, naval, and military poem, on the late war of 1812, in forty cantos; the whole compressed in four volumes; each volume averaging more than 305 pages, By RICHARD EMMONS, M.D."

I went to the Chesnut Street Theatre to see Mr. Booth, formerly of Drury Lane, in the character of Lear, and a Mrs. Duff in Cordelia; but I have seen too many Lears and Cordelias to be easily pleased; I thought the whole performance very bad. The theatre is of excellently moderate dimensions, and prettily decorated. It was not the fashionable season for the theatres, which I presume must account for the appearance of the company in the boxes, which was any thing but elegant; nor was there more decorum of demeanour than I had observed elsewhere; I saw one man in the lower tier of boxes deliberately take off his coat that he might enjoy the refreshing coolness of shirt sleeves; all the gentlemen wore their hats, and the spitting was unceasing.

On another evening we went to the Walnut Street Theatre; the chief attraction of the night was furnished by the performance of a young man who had been previously exhibited as "a living skeleton." He played the part of Jeremiah Thin, and certainly looked the part well; and here I think must end my praise of the evening's performances.

The great and most striking contrast between this city and those of Europe, is perceived after sunset; scarcely a sound is heard; hardly a voice or a wheel breaks the stillness. The Streets are entirely dark, except where a stray lamp marks an hotel or the like; no shops are open, but those of the apothecary, and here and there a cook's shop; scarcely a step is heard, and for a note of music, or the sound of mirth, I listened in vain. In leaving the theatre, which I always did before the afterpiece, I saw not a single carriage; the night of Miss Wright's lecture, when I stayed to the end, I saw one. This darkness, this stillness, is so great, that I almost felt it awful. As we walked home one fine moonlight evening from the Chestnut Street house, we stopped a moment before the United States Bank, to look at its white marble columns by the subdued lights said to be so advantageous to them; the building did, indeed, look beautiful; the incongruous objects around were hardly visible, while the brilliant white of the building, which by daylight is dazzling, was mellowed into fainter light and softer shadow.

While pausing before this modern temple of Theseus, we remarked that we alone seemed alive in this great city; it was ten o'clock, and a most lovely cool evening, after a burning day, yet all was silence. Regent Street, Bond Street, with their blaze of gas-light bijouterie, and still more the Italian Boulevard of Paris, rose in strong contrast on the memory; the light, which outshines that of day—the gay, graceful, laughing throng—the elegant saloons of Tortoni, with all their varieties of cooling nectar—were all remembered. Is it an European prejudice to deem that the solitary dram swallowed by the gentlemen on quitting an American theatre indicates a lower and more vicious state of manners, than do the ices so sedulously offered to the ladies on leaving a French one?

The museum contains a good collection of objects illustrative of natural history, and some very interesting specimens of Indian antiquities; both here and at Cincinnati I saw so many things resembling Egyptian relics, that I should like to see the origin of the Indian nations enquired into, more accurately than has yet been done.

The shops, of which there appeared to me to be an unusually large proportion, are very handsome; many of them in a style of European elegance. Lottery offices abound, and that species of gambling is carried to a great extent. I saw fewer carriages in Philadelphia than either at Baltimore or Washington, but in the winter I was told they were more numerous.

Many of the best families had left the city for different watering-places, and others were daily following. Long Branch is a fashionable bathing place on the Jersey shore, to which many resort, both from this place and from New York; the description given of the manner of bathing appeared to me rather extraordinary, but the account was confirmed by so many different people, that I could not doubt its correctness. The shore, it seems, is too bold to admit of bathing machines, and the ladies have, therefore, recourse to another mode of ensuring the enjoyment of a sea-bath with safety. The accommodation at Long Branch is almost entirely at large boarding-houses, where all the company live at a table d'hote. It is customary for ladies on arriving to look round among the married gentlemen, the first time they meet at table, and to select the one her fancy leads her to prefer as a protector in her purposed visits to the realms of Neptune; she makes her request, which is always graciously received, that he would lead her to taste the briny wave; but another fair one must select the same protector, else the arrangement cannot be complete, as custom does not authorise tete a tete immersion.


Quakers—Presbyterians—Itinerant Methodist Preacher—Market—Influence of females in society

I had never chanced, among all my wanderings, to enter a Quaker Meeting-house; and as I thought I could no where make my first visit better than at Philadelphia, I went under the protection of a Quaker lady to the principal orthodox meeting of the city. The building is large, but perfectly without ornament; the men and women are separated by a rail which divides it into two equal parts; the meeting was very full on both sides, and the atmosphere almost intolerably hot. As they glided in at their different doors, I spied many pretty faces peeping from the prim head gear of the females, and as the broad-brimmed males sat down, the welcome Parney supposes prepared for them in heaven, recurred to me,

"Entre done, et garde ton chapeau."

The little bonnets and the large hats were ranged in long rows, and their stillness was for a long time so unbroken, that I could hardly persuade myself the figures they surmounted were alive. At length a grave square man arose, laid aside his ample beaver, and after another solemn interval of silence, he gave a deep groan, and as it were by the same effort uttered, "Keep thy foot." Again he was silent for many minutes, and then he continued for more that an hour to put forth one word at a time, but at such an interval from each other that I found it quite impossible to follow his meaning, if, indeed, he had any. My Quaker friend told me she knew not who he was, and that she much regretted I had heard so poor a preacher. After he had concluded, a gentleman-like old man (a physician by profession) arose, and delivered a few moral sentences in an agreeable manner; soon after he had sat down, the whole congregation rose, I know not at what signal, and made their exit. It is a singular kind of worship, if worship it may be called, where all prayer is forbidden; yet it appeared to me, in its decent quietness, infinitely preferable to what I had witnessed at the Presbyterian and Methodist Meeting-houses. A great schism had lately taken place among the Quakers of Philadelphia; many objecting to the over-strict discipline of the orthodox. Among the seceders there are again various shades of difference; I met many who called themselves Unitarian Quakers, others were Hicksites, and others again, though still wearing the Quaker habit, were said to be Deists.

We visited many churches and chapels in the city, but none that would elsewhere be called handsome, either internally or externally.

I went one evening, not a Sunday, with a party of ladies to see a Presbyterian minister inducted. The ceremony was woefully long, and the charge to the young man awfully impossible to obey, at least if he were a man, like unto other men. It was matter of astonishment to me to observe the deep attention, and the unwearied patience with which some hundreds of beautiful young girls who were assembled there, (not to mention the old ladies,) listened to the whole of this tedious ceremony; surely there is no country in the world where religion makes so large a part of the amusement and occupation of the ladies. Spain, in its most catholic days, could not exceed it: besides, in spite of the gloomy horrors of the Inquisition, gaiety and amusement were not there offered as a sacrifice by the young and lovely.

The religious severity of Philadelphian manners is in nothing more conspicuous than in the number of chains thrown across the streets on a Sunday to prevent horses and carriages from passing. Surely the Jews could not exceed this country in their external observances. What the gentlemen of Philadelphia do with themselves on a Sunday, I will not pretend to guess, but the prodigious majority of females in the churches is very remarkable. Although a large proportion of the population of this city are Quakers, the same extraordinary variety of faith exists here, as every where else in the Union, and the priests have, in some circles, the same unbounded influence which has been mentioned elsewhere.

One history reached me, which gave a terrible picture of the effect this power may produce; it was related to me by my mantua-maker; a young woman highly estimable as a wife and mother, and on whose veracity I perfectly rely. She told me that her father was a widower, and lived with his family of three daughters, at Philadelphia. A short time before she married, an itinerant preacher came to the city, who contrived to obtain an intimate footing in many respectable families. Her father's was one of these, and his influence and authority were great with all the sisters, but particularly with the youngest. The young girl's feelings for him seem to have been a curious mixture of spiritual awe and earthly affection. When she received a hint from her sisters that she ought not to give him too much encouragement till he spoke out, she showed as much holy resentment as if they had told her not to say her prayers too devoutly. At length the father remarked the sort of covert passion that gleamed through the eyes of his godly visitor, and he saw too, the pallid anxious look which had settled on the young brow of his daughter; either this, or some rumours he had heard abroad, or both together, led him to forbid this man his house. The three girls were present when he did so, and all uttered a deprecating "Oh father!" but the old man added stoutly. If you show yourself here again, reverend sir, I will not only teach you the way out of my house, but out of the city also. The preacher withdrew, and was never heard of in Philadelphia afterwards; but when a few months had passed, strange whispers began to creep through the circle which had received and honoured him, and, in due course of time, no less than seven unfortunate girls produced living proofs of the wisdom of my informant's worthy father. In defence of this dreadful story I can only make the often repeated quotation, "I tell the tale as 'twas told to me;" but, in all sincerity I must add, that I have no doubt of its truth.

I was particularly requested to visit the market of Philadelphia, at the hour when it presented the busiest scene; I did so, and thought few cities had any thing to show better worth looking at; it is, indeed, the very perfection of a market, the beau ideal of a notable housewife, who would confide to no deputy the important office of caterer. The neatness, freshness, and entire absence of every thing disagreeable to sight or smell, must be witnessed to be believed. The stalls were spread with snow-white napkins; flowers and fruit, if not quite of Paris or London perfection, yet bright, fresh, and fragrant; with excellent vegetables in the greatest variety and abundance, were all so delightfully exhibited, that objects less pleasing were overlooked and forgotten. The dairy, the poultry-yard, the forest, the river, and the ocean, all contributed their spoil; in short, for the first time in my life, I thought a market a beautiful object. The prices of most articles were, as nearly as I could calculate between dollars and francs, about the same as at Paris; certainly much cheaper than in London, but much dearer than at Exeter.

My letters of introduction brought me acquainted with several amiable and interesting people. There is something in the tone of manners at Philadelphia that I liked; it appeared to me that there was less affectation of ton there than elsewhere. There is a quietness, a composure in a Philadelphia drawing-room, that is quite characteristic of a city founded by William Penn. The dress of the ladies, even those who are not Quakers, partakes of this; they are most elegantly neat, and there was a delicacy and good taste in the dress of the young ladies that might serve as a model to the whole Union. There can hardly be a stronger contrast in the style of dress between any two cities than may be remarked between Baltimore and Philadelphia; both are costly, but the former is distinguished by gaudy splendour, the latter by elegant simplicity.

It is said that this city has many gentlemen distinguished by their scientific pursuits; I conversed with several well informed and intelligent men, but there is a cold dryness of manner and an apparent want of interest in the subjects they discuss, that, to my mind, robs conversation of all its charm. On one occasion I heard the character and situation of an illustrious officer discussed, who had served with renown under Napoleon, and whose high character might have obtained him favour under the Bourbons, could he have abandoned the principles which led him to dislike their government. This distinguished man had retreated to America after the death of his master, and was endeavouring to establish a sort of Polytechnic academy at New York: in speaking of him, I observed, that his devotion to the cause of freedom must prove a strong recommendation in the United States. "Not the least in the world, madam," answered a gentleman who ranked deservedly high among the literati of the city, "it might avail him much in England, perhaps, but here we are perfectly indifferent as to what people's principles may be."

This I believe to be exactly true, though I never before heard it avowed as a national feature.

The want of warmth, of interest, of feeling, upon all subjects which do not immediately touch their own concerns, is universal, and has a most paralysing effect upon conversation. All the enthusiasm of America is concentrated to the one point of her own emancipation and independence; on this point nothing can exceed the warmth of her feelings. She may, I think, be compared to a young bride, a sort of Mrs. Major Waddle; her independence is to her as a newly-won bridegroom; for him alone she has eyes, ears, or heart;—the honeymoon is not over yet;—when it is, America will, perhaps, learn more coquetry, and know better how to faire l'aimable to other nations.

I conceive that no place in the known world can furnish so striking a proof of the immense value of literary habits as the United States, not only in enlarging the mind, but what is of infinitely more importance, in purifying the manners. During my abode in the country I not only never met a literary man who was a tobacco chewer or a whiskey drinker, but I never met any who were not, that had escaped these degrading habits. On the women, the influence is, if possible, still more important; unfortunately, the instances are rare, but they are to be found. One admirable example occurs in the person of a young lady of Cincinnati: surrounded by a society totally incapable of appreciating, or even of comprehending her, she holds a place among it, as simply and unaffectedly as if of the same species; young, beautiful, and gifted by nature with a mind singularly acute and discriminating, she has happily found such opportunities of cultivation as might distinguish her in any country; it is, indeed, that best of all cultivation which is only to be found in domestic habits of literature, and in that hourly education which the daughter of a man of letters receives when she is made the companion and friend of her father. This young lady is the more admirable as she contrives to unite all the multifarious duties which usually devolve upon American ladies, with her intellectual pursuits. The companion and efficient assistant of her father's literary labours, the active aid in all the household cares of her mother, the tender nurse of a delicate infant sister, the skilful artificer of her own always elegant wardrobe, ever at leisure, and ever prepared to receive with the sweetest cheerfulness her numerous acquaintance, the most animated in conversation, the most indefatigable in occupation, it was impossible to know her, and study her character without feeling that such women were "the glory of all lands," and, could the race be multiplied, would speedily become the reformers of all the grossness and ignorance that now degrade her own. Is it to be imagined, that if fifty modifications of this charming young woman were to be met at a party, the men would dare to enter it reeking with whiskey, their lips blackened with tobacco, and convinced, to the very centre of their hearts and souls, that women were made for no other purpose than to fabricate sweetmeats and gingerbread, construct shirts, darn stockings, and become mothers of possible presidents? Assuredly not. Should the women of America ever discover what their power might be, and compare it with what it is, much improvement might be hoped for. While, at Philadelphia, among the handsomest, the wealthiest, and the most distinguished of the land, their comparative influence in society, with that possessed in Europe by females holding the same station, occurred forcibly to my mind.

Let me be permitted to describe the day of a Philadelphian lady of the first class, and the inference I would draw from it will be better understood.

It may be said that the most important feature in a woman's history is her maternity. It is so; but the object of the present observation is the social, and not the domestic influence of woman.

This lady shall be the wife of a senator and a lawyer in the highest repute and practice. She has a very handsome house, with white marble steps and door-posts, and a delicate silver knocker and door-handle; she has very handsome drawing-rooms, very handsomely furnished, (there is a sideboard in one of them, but it is very handsome, and has very handsome decanters and cut glass water-jugs upon it); she has a very handsome carriage, and a very handsome free black coachman; she is always very handsomely dressed; and, moreover, she is very handsome herself.

She rises, and her first hour is spent in the scrupulously nice arrangement of her dress; she descends to her parlour neat, stiff, and silent; her breakfast is brought in by her free black footman; she eats her fried ham and her salt fish, and drinks her coffee in silence, while her husband reads one newspaper, and puts another under his elbow; and then, perhaps, she washes the cups and saucers. Her carriage is ordered at eleven; till that hour she is employed in the pastry-room, her snow-white apron protecting her mouse-coloured silk. Twenty minutes before her carriage should appear, she retires to her chamber, as she calls it, shakes, and folds up her still snow-white apron, smooths her rich dress, and with nice care, sets on her elegant bonnet, and all the handsome et cetera; then walks down stairs, just at the moment that her free black coachman announces to her free black footman that the carriage waits. She steps into it, and gives the word, "Drive to the Dorcas society." her footman stays at home to clean the knives, but her coachman can trust his horses while he opens the carriage door, and his lady not being accustomed to a hand or an arm, gets out very safely without, though one of her own is occupied by a work-basket, and the other by a large roll of all those indescribable matters which ladies take as offerings to Dorcas societies. She enters the parlour appropriated for the meeting, and finds seven other ladies, very like herself, and takes her place among them; she presents her contribution, which is accepted with a gentle circular smile, and her parings of broad cloth, her ends of ribbon, her gilt paper, and her minikin pins, are added to the parings of broad cloth, the ends of ribbon, the gilt papers, and the minikin pins with which the table is already covered; she also produces from her basket three ready-made pincushions, four ink-wipers, seven paper matches, and a paste-board watch-case; these are welcomed with acclamations, and the youngest lady present deposits them carefully on shelves, amid a prodigious quantity of similar articles. She then produces her thimble, and asks for work; it is presented to her, and the eight ladies all stitch together for some hours. Their talk is of priests and of missions; of the profits of their last sale, of their hopes from the next; of the doubt whether your Mr. This, or young Mr. That should receive the fruits of it to fit him out for Liberia; of the very ugly bonnet seen at church on Sabbath morning, of the very handsome preacher who performed on Sabbath afternoon, and of the very large collection made on Sabbath evening. This lasts till three, when the carriage again appears, and the lady and her basket return home; she mounts to her chamber, carefully sets aside her bonnet and its appurtenances, puts on her scolloped black silk apron, walks into the kitchen to see that all is right, then into the parlour, where, having cast a careful glance over the table prepared for dinner, she sits down, work in hand, to await her spouse. He comes, shakes hands with her, spits, and dines. The conversation is not much, and ten minutes suffices for the dinner; fruit and toddy, the newspaper and the work-bag succeed. In the evening the gentleman, being a savant, goes to the Wister society, and afterwards plays a snug rubber at a neighbour's. The lady receives at tea a young missionary and three members of the Dorcas society.—And so ends her day.

For some reason or other, which English people are not very likely to understand, a great number of young married persons board by the year, instead of "going to housekeeping," as they call having an establishment of their own. Of course this statement does not include persons of large fortune, but it does include very many whose rank in society would make such a mode of life quite impossible with us. I can hardly imagine a contrivance more effectual for ensuring the insignificance of a woman, than marrying her at seventeen, and placing her in a boarding-house. Nor can I easily imagine a life of more uniform dulness for the lady herself; but this certainly is a matter of taste. I have heard many ladies declare that it is "just quite the perfection of comfort to have nothing to fix for oneself." Yet despite these assurances I always experienced a feeling which hovered between pity and contempt, when I contemplated their mode of existence.

How would a newly-married Englishwoman endure it, her head and her heart full of the one dear scheme—

"Well ordered home, his dear delight to make?"

She must rise exactly in time to reach the boarding table at the hour appointed for breakfast, or she will get a stiff bow from the lady president, cold coffee, and no egg. I have been sometimes greatly amused upon these occasions by watching a little scene in which the bye-play had much more meaning than the words uttered. The fasting, but tardy lady, looks round the table, and having ascertained that there was no egg left, says distinctly, "I will take an egg if you please." But as this is addressed to no one in particular, no one in particular answers it, unless it happen that her husband is at table before her, and then he says, "There are no eggs, my dear." Whereupon the lady president evidently cannot hear, and the greedy culprit who has swallowed two eggs (for there are always as many eggs as noses) looks pretty considerably afraid of being found out. The breakfast proceeds in sombre silence, save that sometimes a parrot, and sometimes a canary bird, ventures to utter a timid note. When it is finished, the gentlemen hurry to their occupation, and the quiet ladies mount the stairs, some to the first, some to the second, and some to the third stories, in an inverse proportion to the number of dollars paid, and ensconce themselves in their respective chambers. As to what they do there it is not very easy to say, but I believe they clear-starch a little, and iron a little, and sit in a rocking-chair, and sew a great deal. I always observed that the ladies who boarded, wore more elaborately worked collars and petticoats than any one else. The plough is hardly a more blessed instrument in America than the needle. How could they live without it? But time and the needle wear through the longest morning, and happily the American morning is not very long, even though they breakfast at eight.

It is generally about two o'clock that the boarding gentlemen meet the boarding ladies at dinner. Little is spoken, except a whisper between the married pairs. Sometimes a sulky bottle of wine flanks the plate of one or two individuals, but it adds nothing to the mirth of the meeting, and seldom more than one glass to the good cheer of the owners, it is not then, and it is not there, that the gentlemen of the Union drink. Soon, very soon, the silent meal is done, and then, if you mount the stairs after them, you will find from the doors of the more affectionate and indulgent wives, a smell of cigars steam forth, which plainly indicates the felicity of the couple within. If the gentleman be a very polite husband, he will, as soon as he has done smoking and drinking his toddy, offer his arm to his wife, as far as the corner of the street, where his store, or his office is situated, and there he will leave her to turn which way she likes. As this is the hour for being full dressed, of course she turns the way she can be most seen. Perhaps she pays a few visits; perhaps she goes to chapel; or, perhaps, she enters some store where her husband deals, and ventures to order a few notions; and then she goes home again—no, not home—I will not give that name to a boarding-house—but she re-enters the cold heartless atmosphere in which she dwells, where hospitality can never enter, and where interest takes the management instead of affection. At tea they all meet again, and a little trickery is perceptible to a nice observer in the manner of partaking the pound-cake, &c. After this, those who are happy enough to have engagements hasten to keep them; those who have not, either mount again to the solitude of their chamber, or, what appeared to me much worse, remain in the common sitting-room, in a society cemented by no tie, endeared by no connexion, which choice did not bring together, and which the slightest motive would break asunder. I remarked that the gentlemen were generally obliged to go out every evening on business, and, I confess, the arrangement did not surprise me.

It is not thus that the women can obtain that influence in society which is allowed to them in Europe, and to which, both sages and men of the world have agreed in ascribing such salutary effects. It is in vain that "collegiate institutes" are formed for young ladies, or that "academic degrees" are conferred upon them. It is after marriage, and when these young attempts upon all the sciences are forgotten, that the lamentable insignificance of the American woman appears, and till this be remedied, I venture to prophesy that the tone of their drawing-rooms will not improve.

Whilst I was at Philadelphia a great deal of attention was excited by the situation of two criminals, who had been convicted of robbing the Baltimore mail, and were lying under sentence of death. The rare occurrence of capital punishment in America makes it always an event of great interest; and the approaching execution was repeatedly the subject of conversation at the boarding table. One day a gentleman told us he had that morning been assured that one of the criminals had declared to the visiting clergyman that he was certain of being reprieved, and that nothing the clergyman could say to the contrary made any impression upon him. Day after day this same story was repeated, and commented upon at table, and it appeared that the report had been heard in so many quarters, that not only was the statement received as true, but it began to be conjectured that the criminal had some ground for his hope. I learnt from these daily conversations that one of the prisoners was an American, and the other an Irishman, and it was the former who was so strongly persuaded he should not be hanged. Several of the gentlemen at table, in canvassing the subject, declared, that if the one were hanged and the other spared, this hanging would be a murder, and not a legal execution. In discussing this point, it was stated that very nearly all the white men who had suffered death since the declaration of Independence had been Irishmen. What truth there may be in this general statement, I have no means of ascertaining; all I know is, that I heard it made. On this occasion, however, the Irishman was hanged, and the American was not.


Return to Stonington—Thunderstorm—Emigrants—Illness—Alexandria

A fortnight passed rapidly away in this great city, and, doubtless, there was still much left unseen when we quitted it, according to previous arrangement, to return to our friends in Maryland. We came back by a different route, going by land from Newcastle to French Town, instead of passing by the canal. We reached Baltimore in the middle of the night, but finished our repose on board the steam-boat, and started for Washington at five o'clock the next morning.

Our short abode amid the heat and closeness of a city made us enjoy more than ever the beautiful scenery around Stonington. The autumn, which soon advanced upon us, again clothed the woods in colours too varied and gaudy to be conceived by those who have never quitted Europe; and the stately maize, waving its flowing tassels, as the long drooping blossoms are called, made every field look like a little forest. A rainy spring had been followed by a summer of unusual heat; and towards the autumn frequent thunderstorms of terrific violence cleared the air, but at the same time frightened us almost out of our wits. On one occasion I was exposed, with my children, to the full fury of one of these awful visitations. We suffered considerable terror during this storm, but when we were all again safe, and comfortably sheltered, we rejoiced that the accident had occurred, as it gave us the best possible opportunity of witnessing, in all its glory, a transatlantic thunderstorm. It was, however, great imprudence that exposed us to it, for we quitted the house, and mounted a hill at a considerable distance from it, for the express purpose of watching to advantage the extraordinary aspect of the clouds. When we reached the top of the hill half the heavens appeared hung with a heavy curtain; a sort of deep blue black seemed to colour the very air; the blizzards screamed, as with heavy wing they sought the earth. We ought, in common prudence, to have immediately retreated to the house, but the scene was too beautiful to be left. For several minutes after we reached our station, the air appeared perfectly without movement, no flash broke through the seven-fold cloud, but a flickering light was visible, darting to and fro behind it. By degrees the thunder rolled onward, nearer and nearer, till the inky cloud burst asunder, and cataracts of light came pouring from behind it. From that moment there was no interval, no pause, the lightning did not flash, there were no claps of thunder, but the heavens blazed and bellowed above and around us, till stupor took the place of terror, and we stood utterly confounded. But we were speedily aroused, for suddenly, as if from beneath our feet, a gust arose which threatened to mix all the elements in one. Torrents of water seemed to bruise the earth by their violence; eddies of thick dust rose up to meet them; the fierce fires of heaven only blazed the brighter for the falling flood; while the blast almost out-roared the thunder. But the wind was left at last the lord of all, for after striking with wild force, now here, now there, and bringing worlds of clouds together in most hostile contact, it finished by clearing the wide heavens of all but a few soft straggling masses, whence sprung a glorious rainbow, and then retired, leaving the earth to raise her half crushed forests; and we, poor pigmies, to call back our frighted senses, and recover breath as we might.

During this gust, it would have been impossible for us to have kept our feet; we crouched down under the shelter of a heap of stones, and, as we informed each other, looked most dismally pale.

Many trees were brought to the earth before our eyes; some torn up by the roots, and some mighty stems snapt off several feet from the ground. If the West Indian hurricanes exceed this, they must be terrible indeed.

The situation of Mrs. S—'s house was considered as remarkably healthy, and I believe justly so, for on more than one occasion, persons who were suffering from fever and ague at the distance of a mile or two, were perfectly restored by passing a week or fortnight at Stonington; but the neighbourhood of it, particularly on the side bordering the Potomac, was much otherwise, and the mortality among the labourers on the canal was frightful.

I have elsewhere stated my doubts if the labouring poor of our country mend their condition by emigrating to the United States, but it was not till the opportunity which a vicinity to the Chesapeake and Ohio canal gave me, of knowing what their situation was after making the change, that I became fully aware how little it was to be desired for them.

Of the white labourers on this canal, the great majority are Irishmen; their wages are from ten to fifteen dollars a month, with a miserable lodging, and a large allowance of whiskey. It is by means of this hateful poison that they are tempted, and indeed enabled for a time, to stand the broiling heat of the sun in a most noxious climate: for through such, close to the romantic but unwholesome Potomac, the line of the canal has hitherto run. The situation of these poor strangers, when they sink at last in "the fever," which sooner or later is sure to overtake them, is dreadful. There is a strong feeling against the Irish in every part of the Union, but they will do twice as much work as a negro, and therefore they are employed. When they fall sick, they may, and must, look with envy on the slaves around them; for they are cared for; they are watched and physicked, as a valuable horse is watched and physicked: not so the Irishman, he is literally thrown on one side, and a new comer takes his place. Details of their sufferings, and unheeded death, too painful to dwell upon, often reached us; on one occasion a farmer calling at the house, told the family that a poor man, apparently in a dying condition, was lying beside a little brook at the distance of a quarter of a mile. The spot was immediately visited by some of the family, and there in truth lay a poor creature, who was already past the power of speaking; he was conveyed to the house and expired during the night. By enquiring at the canal, it was found that he was an Irish labourer, who having fallen sick, and spent his last cent, had left the stifling shanty where he lay, in the desperate attempt of finding his way to Washington, with what hope I know not. He did not appear above twenty, and as I looked on his pale young face, which even in death expressed suffering, I thought that perhaps he had left a mother and a home to seek wealth in America. I saw him buried under a group of locust trees, his very name unknown to those who laid him there, but the attendance of the whole family at the grave, gave a sort of decency to his funeral which rarely, in that country, honors the poor relics of British dust: but no clergyman attended, no prayer was said, no bell was tolled; these, indeed, are ceremonies unthought of, and in fact unattainable without much expense, at such a distance from a town; had the poor youth been an American, he would have been laid in the earth in the same unceremonious manner. But had this poor Irish lad fallen sick in equal poverty and destitution among his own people, he would have found a blanket to wrap his shivering limbs, and a kindred hand to close his eyes.

The poor of great Britain, whom distress, or a spirit of enterprise tempt to try another land, ought, for many reasons, to repair to Canada; there they would meet co-operation and sympathy, instead of malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness.

I frequently heard vehement complaints, and constantly met the same in the newspapers, of a practice stated to be very generally adopted in Britain of sending out cargoes of parish paupers to the United States. A Baltimore paper heads some such remarks with the words


and then tells us of a cargo of aged paupers just arrived from England, adding, "John Bull has squeezed the orange, and now insolently casts the skin in our faces." Such being the feeling, it will be readily believed that these unfortunates are not likely to meet much kindness or sympathy in sickness, or in suffering of any kind. If these American statements be correct, and that different parishes are induced, from an excessive population, to pay the voyage and outfit of some of their paupers across the Atlantic, why not send them to Canada?

It is certain, however, that all the enquiries I could make failed to substantiate these American statements. All I could ascertain was, that many English and Irish poor arrived yearly in the United States, with no other resources than what their labour furnished. This, though very different from the newspaper stories, is quite enough to direct attention to the subject. It is generally acknowledged that the suffering among our labouring classes arises from the excess of our population; and it is impossible to see such a country as Canada, its extent, its fertility, its fine climate, and know that it is British ground, without feeling equal sorrow and astonishment that it is not made the means of relief. How earnestly it is to be wished that some part of that excellent feeling which is for ever at work in England to help the distressed, could be directed systematically to the object of emigration to the Canadas. Large sums are annually raised for charitable purposes, by weekly subscriptions of one penny; were only a part of the money so obtained to be devoted to this object, hundreds of families might yearly be sent to people our own land. The religious feeling, which so naturally mixes with every charitable purpose, would there find the best field for its exertions. Where could a missionary, whether Protestant or Catholic, find a holier mission than that which sent him to comfort and instruct his countrymen in the wilderness? or where could he reap a higher reward in this world, than seeing that wilderness growing into fertile fields under the hands of his flock?

I never saw so many autumn flowers as grow in the woods and sheep-walks of Maryland; a second spring seemed to clothe the fields, but with grief and shame I confess, that of these precious blossoms I scarcely knew a single name. I think the Michaelmas daisy, in wonderful variety of form and colour, and the prickly pear, were almost my only acquaintance: let no one visit America without having first studied botany; it is an amusement, as a clever friend of mine once told me, that helps one wonderfully up and down hill, and must be superlatively valuable in America, both from the plentiful lack of other amusements, and the plentiful material for enjoyment in this; besides, if one is dying to know the name of any of these lovely strangers, it is a thousand to one against his finding any one who can tell it.

The prettiest eclipse of the moon I ever saw was that of September, of this year, (1830). We had been passing some hours amid the solemn scenery of the Potomac falls, and just as we were preparing to quit it, the full moon arose above the black pines, with half our shadow thrown across her. The effect of her rising thus eclipsed was more strange, more striking by far, than watching the gradual obscuration; and as I turned to look at the black chasm behind me, and saw the deadly alder, and the poison-vine waving darkly on the rocks around, I thought the scene wanted nothing but the figure of a palsied crone, plucking the fatal branches to concoct some charm of mischief.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse