The parade-ground being full, I expected to see an instant attack; but he was too knowing to be caught napping in that way. He looked around, and with a masterly eye scanned apples, oranges, and nuts. The two former he selected with great judgment; the latter he brought home in quantities sufficient to secure plenty of good ones. Then pouncing upon a pair of nutcrackers, and extending them like a chevaux-de-frise round his prizes, he began his onslaught upon the battalion of sweets before him.
The great general now set seriously to work. Scarce had he commenced, when an innocent young man, who had finished his sweets and was meditating an attack on some nuts, espied the crackers lying idle before the gastronomic general, and said, "Will you lend me the nutcrackers, sir?" The great general raised his head, and gave the youth one of those piercing looks with which Napoleon used to galvanize all askers of impertinent questions. The youth, understanding the refusal conveyed in that terrible glance, had however enough courage to add, "You don't want them, sir!" This was too much to bear in silence; so he replied with awful distinctness, "But I reckon I shall, sir!" Then dropping his head to the original position, he balanced a large piece of pumpkin-pie on the point of his knife, and gallantly charged with it down his throat. Poor youth! a neighbour relieved his distress, and saved his ivories.
Nearly a quarter of an hour has elapsed; dinner is all over, the nuts are all cracked and put in the pockets, and away the company go either to the other end of the saloon, where the stove is placed, round which they eat their nuts and smoke their cigars, or to drink at the bar. When the smoking is over, clasp-knives are opened. Don't be alarmed; there is no bloodshed intended, although half a dozen people strolling about with these weapons may appear ominous. Watch their faces; the lower part of their cheeks goes in with high-sucking pressure, then swells again, and the active tongue sweeps with restless energy along and around the ivory barriers within its range. In vain—in vain it strives to dispossess the intruders; rebellious particles of nut burrow deep between the ivories, like rabbits in an old stone dike. The knife comes to the rescue, and, plunging fearlessly into the dark abyss, the victory is won. Then the victors commence chewing a l'outrance, and expectorate on the red-hot stove, till it hisses like a steam-engine, or else they deluge the floor until there is no alternative but thick shoes or damp feet. The fumes of every known alcohol exhale from the bar, and mix with the head-bursting fragrance of the strongest "Warginny." Some seek safety in flight; others luxuriate in the poisonous atmosphere, and scream out, like deeply-injured men, if any door by chance be left open.
Behold! the table is laid again for dinner; piles of food keep coming in; the company arrive—some in coats, some in waistcoats only; some in coloured shirts, some in red flannel shirts; one, with sleeves turned up to the elbow. "Who on earth are these?" I ask, in my ignorance. "Oh! those, I guess, are the officers of the ship." Truly, they are "free," but whether "enlightened" also I had no opportunity of ascertaining. A short ten minutes, and they are all scattered, and the piles of food with them. Once more I look, and, behold! the table is again preparing. Who can this be for? Doubts are speedily solved, as a mixture of niggers and whites sit down to the festive hoard; it is the boys—alias waiters—whose turn has come at last. Their meal over, the spare leaves of the table are removed, half a dozen square tables dot the centre line of the saloon, and all is comparatively quiet. This process takes place at every meal—8 A.M., 1 P.M., and 5 P.M.—with the most rigid punctuality.
Fancy my distress one evening, when, on opening my cabin-door, I beheld a fellow-creature doubled up at the entry of the door opposite. I thought the poor sufferer had a fit of cholera, and I was expecting each instant to hear his screams; but hearing nothing, I examined the person in question more minutely. It was merely a gentleman, who had dispossessed himself of his jacket, waistcoat, trousers, and boots, not forgetting his stockings; and then deliberately planting his chair in the open entry of the door, and gathering up one foot on the seat thereof, was amusing himself by cutting and picking the horny excrescences of his pedal digits, for the benefit of the passengers in the gentlemen's saloon; and, unfortunately, you could not be sure that his hands would be washed before he sat next to you at breakfast in the morning,—for I can testify that I have, over and over again, sat next to people, on these Western waters, whose hands were scarce fit to take coals out of a scuttle.
There is nothing I have here set down but what actually passed under my own eye. You will, of course, find gentlemen on board, and many whose manners there is nothing to complain of, and whose conversation is both instructive and amusing; but you evidently are liable to find others to realize the picture I have given of scenes in the gentlemen's saloon, and, unless you have some acquaintance among the ladies, their saloon is as sacred from a gentleman as the Sultan's harem. And whence comes all this, except from that famous bugbear "equality?" Is there any real gentleman throughout the Empire State who would, in his heart, approve of this ridiculous hustling together of well-bred and ill-bred? But it pleases the masses, and they must submit to this incongruous herding and feeding, like the hungry dogs of a "Dotheboys Hall" kennel.
It may be useful information for the traveller, and is only fair to the Mississippi boat proprietors, to observe, that if you succeed in getting a passage in a perfectly new boat, there is always more care, more safety, better living, and better company. In all the boats there is one brush and comb for the use of the passengers.
By the aid of steam and stream, we at last reached Cairo, which is on the southern bank of the Ohio and the eastern of the Mississippi; its advantageous position has not passed unnoticed, but much money has been thrown away upon it, owing to the company's not sitting down and counting the cost before they began. There can be no question that, geographically, it is par excellence the site for the largest inland town of America, situated as it is at the confluence of the two giant arteries; and not merely is its position so excellent but mountains of coal are in its neighbourhood. The difficulty which has to be contended against is the inundation of these rivers. Former speculators built up levees; but either from want of pluck or purse, they were inefficiently constructed; the Mississippi overflowed them and overwhelmed the speculators. Latterly, however, another company has taken the task in hand, and having sufficient capital, it embraces the coal mines as well as the site, &c., of the new town, to which the coal will of course be brought by rail, and thus be enabled to supply the steamers on both rivers at the cheapest rate, and considerably less than one-third the price of wood; and if the indefatigable Swede's calorie-engine should ever become practicable, every steamer will easily carry sufficient coal from Cairo to last till her return; in short, I think it requires no prophetic eye to foresee that Cairo in fifty years, if the Union continues, will be one of the greatest, most important, and most flourishing inland towns in America; and curiously enough, this effect will be essentially brought about by the British capital embarked in the enterprise.
A few hours' run up the river brought us to St. Louis, whose nose, I prophesy, is to be put out of joint by Cairo some future day. Nevertheless, what a wonderful place is this same St. Louis; its rapid increase is almost as extraordinary as that of Cincinnati, and perhaps more so, when you consider, not only that it is further west by hundreds of miles, but that it has to contend with the overflowing of the Mississippi, which has, on more than one occasion, risen to the first floor of the houses and stores built on the edge of the levee; fortunately, the greater part of the town, being built on higher ground, escapes the ruinous periodical duckings. It is situated seven hundred and fifty miles below the falls of St. Anthony, and twelve hundred miles above New Orleans.
Le Clede and his party appreciated the value of its position as early as 1764, and named it in honour of Louis the Fifteenth. Subsequently it was transferred to the Spaniards, in 1768: however, it made but little progress until it passed into the hands of the United States, in 1804. The energy of the American character soon changed the face of affairs, and there are now 3000 steam-boats arriving annually, which I believe to be a greater number than there were inhabitants at the date of its cession to them. But the more active impulse seems to have commenced in 1830, at which time the population was under 7000, since which date it has so rapidly increased, that in 1852 its population was bordering on 100,000. The natives of the United States form about one-half of the community, and those of Germany one-fourth; the remainder are chiefly Irish. There are twenty newspapers, of which four are published in German. There are forty churches, one-fourth of which are Roman Catholic, and a liberal provision is made for education; the material prosperity of this thriving community is evidenced by the fact, that the annual value of the produce of their manufacturing-establishments exceeds 3,000,000l.; flour-mills, sugar refineries, and carpenters, contributing more largely than other occupations; after which come the tailors, thanks probably to the Germans, who appear to have a strong predilection for this trade, at which there are more hands employed than at any other.
[Footnote M: Messrs. Wallis and Whitworth, in their Report on the Industry of the United States, remark at Chapter V.—"In no branch of manufacture does the application of labour-saving machinery produce, by simple means, more important results than in the working of wood."]
[Footnote N: Since my return to England, I have seen it asserted, by a correspondent in the Morning Chronicle, that Colonel Crogan, of Louisville, purchased this cave for 2000l., and that, shortly after, he was offered 20,000l. for his bargain. It is further stated that, in his will, he tied it up in his family for two generations. If this latter be true, it proves that entails are not quite unknown even in the Democratic Republic.]
[Footnote O: I have heard, since my return to England, that old Mr. Bell is dead.]
I felt very anxious to make an excursion from St. Louis, and get a little shooting, either to the north-west or down near Cairo, where there are deer; but my companion was dying to get to New Orleans, and strongly urged me not to delay, "fiddling after sport." I always looked upon myself as a model of good-natured easiness, ever ready to sacrifice self for a friend; but I have been told by some intimates, that such is not my character, and some have even said, "You're a obstinate follow." If they were wrong, I suffered enough for my easiness; if they were right, I must have yielded the only time that I ought to have been firm; at all events, I gave up my shooting expedition, which I had intended to occupy the time with till a first-class boat started for New Orleans; and, in an evil hour, I allowed myself to be inveigled on board the "Western World." The steam was up, and we were soon bowling down the leviathan artery of the North American continent. Why the said artery should keep the name of the Mississippi, I cannot explain; for, not only is the Missouri the larger river above the confluence, but the Mississippi is a clear stream, with solid, and, in some instances, granite-bound shores, and perfectly free from "snags;" whereas the Missouri has muddy banks, and revels in snags, which, as many have sadly experienced, is the case with the stream on which they are borne throughout its whole length, thereby fully evincing its true parentage, and painfully exhibiting its just right to be termed Missouri; but the rights of men and women are difficult enough to settle, without entering into the rights of rivers, although from them, as from men and women, flow both good and evil. A truce to rights, then, especially in this "Far West," where every one is obliged to maintain his own for himself.
This river is one of the places assigned as the scene of the conversation between the philosopher and the boatman—a tale so old, that it had probably died out before some of my younger readers were born; I therefore insert it for their benefit exclusively.—A philosopher, having arrived at a ferry, entered a boat, rowed by one of those rare articles in this enlightened Republic—a man without any education.
PHILOSOPHER (loquitur).—Can you write?
BOATMAN.—I guess I can't.
PHILOSOPHER.—How sad! why, you've lost one-third of your life! Of course you can read?
BOATMAN,—Well, I guess I can't that neither.
PHILOSOPHER.—Good gracious me! why, you've lost two-thirds of your life.
When the conversation had proceeded thus far, the boatman discovered that, in listening to his learned passenger, he had neglected that vigilance which the danger of the river rendered indispensable. The stream was hurrying them into a most frightful snag; escape was hopeless; so the boatman opened the conversation with this startling question:
BOATMAN.—Can you swim, sir?
PHILOSOPHER.—No, that I can't.
BOATMAN.—Then, I guess, you've lost all your life.
Ere the sentence was finished, the boat upset; the sturdy rower struggled manfully, and reached the shore in safety. On looking round, nought was to be seen of the philosopher save his hat, floating down to New Orleans. The boatman sat down on the bank, reflecting on the fate of the philosopher; and, as the beaver disappeared in the bend of the river, he rose up and gave vent to his reflections in the following terms: "I guess that gentleman was never taught much of the useful; learning is a good thing in its place, but I guess swimming is the thing on the Mississippi, fix it how you will."
As I have alluded to that rara avis in the United States, a totally uneducated man, I may as well give an amusing specimen of the production of another Western, whose studies were evidently in their infancy. It is a certificate of marriage, and runs thus:—
"State of Illenois Peoria County ss
"To all the world Greeting. Know ye that John Smith and Peggy Myres is hereby certified to go together and do as old folks does, anywhere inside coperas precinct, and when my commission comes I am to marry em good, and date em back to kivver accidents.
"O—— M—— R—— [ss]
"Justice of the Peace."
Let us now return to the "Western World."
Having committed the indiscretion of taking my passage on board of her, the next step I took—i.e., paying for it—was worse, and proclaimed me a griffin. The old stagers know these waters too well to think of paying before they are at, or about, the end of their journey. Having, however, both taken and paid for my passage, and committed what old maids and sailors would call the audacious folly of starting upon a Friday, I may as well give you a description of the boat.
The river at many places and in many seasons being very low, these steamers are built as light as possible; in short, I believe they are built as light as any company can be found to insure them. Above the natural load-line they flam out like the rim of a washing-basin, so as to give breadth for the superstructure; on the deck is placed the engine and appurtenances, fuel, &c.; whatever is not so occupied is for freight. This deck is open all round, and has pillars placed at convenient distances, about fifteen to twenty feet high, to support the cabin deck. The cabin deck is occupied in the centre by a saloon, extending nearly the whole length of the vessel, with sleeping cabins—two beds in each—opening off it on both sides. The saloon is entered from forward; about one-third of its length at the after-end is shut off by doors, forming the ladies' sanctum, which is provided with sofas, arm-chairs, piano, &c.; about one-fifth of the length at the foremost-end, but not separated in any way, is the smoking-place, with the bar quite handy, and the stove in the centre. The floor of this place may with propriety be termed the great expectorating deposit, owing to the inducements it offers for centralization, though, of course, no creek or cranny of the vessel is free from this American tobacco-tax—if I may presume so to dignify and designate it. Having thus taken off one-third and one-fifth, the remaining portion is the "gentlemen's share"—how many 'eenths it may be, I leave to fractional calculators. Their average size is about sixteen feet broad, and from seven and a half to eight and a half feet high; the centre part is further raised about eighteen inches, having glass along the sides thereof, to give light; they are always well painted and elaborately gilt—in some vessels, such as the "Eclipse," of Louisville, they are quite gorgeous. The cabins are about six feet by seven, the same height as the saloon, and lit by a door on the outside part, the upper portion of which is glass, protected, if required, by folding jalousies, intended chiefly for summer use. Outside these cabins a gallery runs round, covered at the top, and about four feet broad, and with entries to the main cabin on each side. The box which covers the paddle-wheel, &c., helps to make a break in this gallery, separating the gentlemen from the ladies.
Some boats have a narrow passage connecting the two galleries, but fitted with a grille door, to prevent intrusion into the harem gallery; before, the paddle-box, on one side, is the steward's pantry, and on the other, that indispensable luxury to an American, the barber's shop; where, at all hours of the day, the free and enlightened, mounted on throne-like chairs and lofty footstools, stretch their carcases at full length, to enjoy the tweaking of their noses and the scraping of their chins, by the artistic nigger who officiates. This distinguished official is also the solo dispenser of the luxury of oysters, upon which fish the Anglo-Saxon in this hemisphere is intensely ravenous. It looks funny enough to a stranger, to see a notice hung up (generally near the bar), "Oysters to be had in the barber's saloon." Everything is saloon in America. Above this saloon deck, and its auxiliaries of barber-shop, gallery, &c., is the hurricane-deck, whereon is a small collection of cabins for the captain, pilots, &c.—there are always two of the latter, and their pay each, the captain told me, is forty pounds a month—and towering above these cabins is the wheel-house, lit all round by large windows, whence all orders to the engineers are readily transmitted by the sound of a good bell. The remainder of the deck—which is, in fact, only the roof of the saloon-cabins and gallery—is open to all those who feel disposed to admire distant views under the soothing influence of an eternal shower of wood-cinders and soot. These vessels vary in breadth from thirty-five to fifty feet, and from one hundred and fifty to—the "Eclipse"—three hundred and sixty-five feet in length; the saloons extending the whole length, except about thirty feet at each end. They have obtained the name of "palace-steamers," and at a coup d'oeil they appear to deserve it, for they are grand and imposing, both outside and inside; but many an European who has travelled in them will agree with me in the assertion, that they might, with more propriety, be termed "palace sepulchres;" not merely from the loss of life to which their constant disasters give rise, but also from the contrast between the grandeur outside and the uncleanliness within, of which latter I have already given a sketch in my trip from Louisville.
Some idea may be formed of their solidity, when I tell you they are only calculated to last five years; but at the end of three, it is generally admitted that they have paid for themselves, with good interest. I give you this, on the information derived from a captain who was sole owner, and I have also heard many others repeat the same thing; and yet the "Eclipse" cost 120,000 dollars, or about 25,000l. In the saloon you will always see an account of the goodness of the hull and the soundness of the boilers hung up, and duly attested by the proper inspectors of the same. The way these duties of the inspectors are performed makes it a perfect farce, at least on most occasions.
The inspector comes on board; the captain and engineer see him, and, of course, they shake hands, for here everybody shakes hands with everybody the moment they meet, if only for the first time; the only variation being in the words addressed: if for the first time, it may run thus:—"Sir, I'm happy to make your acquaintance;" which may be replied to by an additional squeeze, and perhaps a "Sir, I reciprocate." N.B.—Hats off always the first time. If it is a previous acquaintance, then a "Glad to see you, sir," is sufficient.—But to return from this digression. The captain and engineer greet the inspector—"I s'pose you're come to look at our bilers, sir?" "Yes, sir, I am." The parties all instinctively drawing nearer and nearer to the bar. "Well, sir, let's have a drink."—"Well, sir, let's."—"A cigar, sir?"—"Thank'ee, sir!" Parties smoke and drink. Ingeniously enough, the required document and pen and ink are all lying handy: the obdurate heart of the inspector is quite melted by kindness. "Well, sir, I s'pose your bilers are all right?"—"I guess they are that, sir, and nurthin else; you can't go and for to bust them bilers of mine, fix it anyhow you will; you can't that, I do assure you, sir."—What inspector can doubt such clear evidence.—"Take another glass, sir, do."—"Thank'ee, I'll sign this paper first." The inspection is over, all except the "glass" and the "'bacco," which continue to flow and fume. The skippers of these boats are rough enough; but I always found them very civil, plain spoken, and ready to give all the information in their power; and many of them have confessed to me that the inspection was but too often conducted in the manner above described.
There is little to interest in the account of a trip down the river. The style of society met with on board these vessels, I have already given you a sketch of; it may sometimes be better, and sometimes worse. One of my "messmates" in this boat, was a young fellow who had been second captain of the mizen-top on board of H.M.S. "Vengeance;" but not liking the style of discipline, especially—as he said—the irritating substitutes for flogging which have been introduced of late years into the Navy, to suit the mawkish sensibility of public opinion in England, as well as the clamours of the all-ruling Press, he took the first opportunity of running away, to seek his fortune in the Far West. He observed to me one day, "Those chaps who kick up such a devil of a row about flogging in the Navy, whatever their intentions may be, are no real friends to the sailor or the service."
As a slight illustration of the truth of his remarks, I may here observe that a purser in the American Navy, in which service they have lately abolished flogging, told me, that soon after the paying off of a line-of-battle ship in which he had been serving, he happened to meet fifty of his old shipmates in the port, and asking them what they were going to do, they told him they were about to embark for England, to take service in the English Navy; for said they, "Since corporal punishment has been abolished, the good men have to do all the work, and that wont pay." Only three of the fifty had ever been in the English service. There can be no doubt that many gentlemen of sensitive minds, seeing the names of their brother officers dragged before the public, through the House of Commons or the columns of an anonymous Press, endeavour to keep up discipline by other means, which annoy Jack far more, or else, slackening the bonds of discipline, leave all the work to be done by the willing and the good; anything, rather than be branded as a tyrant in every quarter of the globe by an anonymous assailant, knowing full well that, however explicit a denial may be inserted, ten people will read the charge for every one that reads its contradiction. But I am wandering from my young friend, the captain of the mizen-top.
If he did not look very well "got up" in his red shirt, at all events he was clean in his person, thus forming a pleasing contrast to a young chap who came in the evening, and seated himself on the table, where I was playing a game at ecarte with my companion. His hands absolutely appeared the hands of a nigger, though his voice was the voice of a white; travelling my eyes up to and beyond his face, I found it was all in keeping; his hair looked like an Indian jungle. If some one could only have caught him by the heels, and swung him round and round on a carding machine, like a handful of hemp, it would have improved him immensely; especially if, after going through that process, he had been passed between two of the pigs through the scalding-trough at Cincinnati. Among others of our fellow-voyagers, we found one or two very agreeable and intelligent American gentlemen, who, though more accustomed to the desagrements of travel, were fully alive to it, and expressed their disgust in the freest manner.
Let us now turn from company to scenery.—What is there to be said on this latter subject? Truly it is nought but sameness on a gigantic scale. What there is of grand is all in the imagination, or rather the reflection, that you are on the bosom of the largest artery of commerce in the world. What meets the eye is an average breadth of from half a mile to a mile of muddy water, tenanted by uprooted trees, and bristling with formidable snags. On either side a continuous forest confines the view, thus depriving the scene of that solemn grandeur which the horizonless desert or the boundless main is calculated to inspire. The signs of human life, like angels' visits, are few and far between. No beast is seen in the forest, no bird in the air, except from time to time a flight of water-fowl. At times the eye is gratified by a convocation of wild swans, geese, and ducks, assembled in conclave upon the edge of some bank; or, if perchance at sunrise or sunset you happen to come to some broad bend of the river, the gorgeous rays light up its surface till it appears a lake of liquid fire, rendered brighter by the surrounding darkness of the dense and leafless forest. Occasionally the trumpet-toned pipe of the engine—fit music for the woods—bursts forth; but there are no mountains or valleys to echo its strains far and wide. The grenadier ranks of vegetable life, standing like sentries along the margin of the stream, refuse it either an entry or an answer, and the rude voice of mechanism finds a speedy and certain sepulture in the muddy banks. This savage refusal of Nature to hold converse is occasionally relieved by the sight of a log hut, surrounded with cords of wood[P] prepared for sale to the steamers. At other times a few straggling huts, and piles of goods ready for transport, vary the scene. Sometimes you come to a real village, and there you generally find an old steamer doing duty for wharf-boat and hotel, in case of passengers landing at unseasonable hours of the night. Thanks also to the great commercial activity of the larger towns above, the monotony of the river is occasionally relieved by the sight of steam-boats, barges, coal-boats, salt-boats, &c. Now and then one's heart is cheered and one's spirits fortified by the sight of a vessel or two that has been snagged, and which the indignant stream appears to have left there as a gentle hint for travellers.
Thus the day passes on, and, when night closes in, you bid adieu to your friends, not with "Pleasant dreams to you!" but with a kind of mysterious smile, and a "I hope we sha'n't be snagged to-night!" You then retire to your cabin, and ... what you do there depends on yourself; but a man whose mind is not sobered when travelling on these waters is not to be envied.
When you leave your cabin in the morning, as you enter the saloon, you fancy a cask of spirits has burst. A little observation will show you your mistake, and the cause of it; which is merely that the free and enlightened are taking their morning drink at the bar. Truly they are a wonderful race; or, as they themselves sometimes express it, "We are a tall nation, sir; a big people." Though they drink on all occasions, whether from sociability or self-indulgence, and at all times, from rosy morn to dewy eve, and long after;—though breath and clothes are "alive" with the odour of alcohol, you will scarcely ever see a passenger drunk. Cards are also going all day long, and there is generally a Fancy-man—or blackleg—ready to oblige a friend. These card-playings are conducted quietly enough at present; but an old traveller told me he remembered, some fifteen years ago, when things were very different, and when every player came armed with a pistol and bowie-knife, by which all little difficulties as to an odd trick or a bet were speedily settled on the spot. In those days the sun never rose and set without witnessing one or more of these exciting little adjustments of difficulties, with which the bystanders were too good judges ever to interfere. In fact, they seem to have been considered as merely pleasing little breaks in the monotony of the trip.
As it may interest some of my readers, I will endeavour to retail for their amusement a sketch which was given me of a scene of boat-racing in the olden time. The "Screecher" was a vessel belonging to Louisville, having a cargo of wild Kentuckians and other passengers on board, among whom was an old lady, who, having bought a winter stock of bacon, pork, &c., was returning to her home on the banks of the Mississippi. The "Burster" was a St. Louis boat, having on board a lot of wild back-woodsmen, &c. The two rivals met at the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi. Beat or burst was the alternative. Victory hung in one scale; in the other, defeat and death. The "Screecher" was a little ahead; gradually the "Burster" closes. The silence of a death-struggle prevails. The Screechers put on more wood, and place more weight on the safety-valve; she bounds ahead. Slowly, but surely, the "Burster" draws nearer. The captain of the "Screecher" looks wistfully at the fires, for the boilers are well-nigh worn out. The "Burster" is almost abreast. The enraged Kentuckians gather round the captain, and, in fury, ask—"Why don't you put more weight on?"
CAPTAIN—"Boilers are done; can't bear it nohow."
KENTUCKIANS—"Can't bear it? You chicken-hearted coward—"
Knives are drawn, pistols click, a hundred voices exclaim, "Get on it yourself, or I'll bury this knife below your outer skin." Their eyes gleam—their hands are raised for the deadly blow. Wild boys, these Kentuckians; the captain knows it too well. A choice of deaths is before him; excitement decides—he mounts the breach. The "Screecher" shoots through the waters, quivering from head to stern. The Kentucky boys yell with delight and defiance. Again the "Burster" closes on her rival. Kentuckians brandish their knives, and call to the negroes, who are already half-roasted, "Pile on the wood; pile like agony; I'll ram a nigger into the fire for every foot the 'Burster' gains." Soon a cry of exultation is heard on board the "Burster," as she shoots up close to her rival. The enraged Kentuckians shout out, "Oil, I swear!—oil, by all creation!" "I smell it!" exclaims the old lady with the store of bacon. Her eyes flash fire; a few words to her slaves Pompey and Caesar, and casks of bacon, smashed quick as thought, lay before the furnace. In it all goes; the "Screecher" is wild; the captain bounds up and down like a parched pea on a filing-pan; once more she flies ahead of her rival "like a streak of greased lightning." Suddenly—horror of horrors!—the river throbs beneath; the forest trees quake like aspen leaves; the voice of many thunders rends the air; clouds of splinters and human limbs darken the sky. The "Burster" is blown to atoms! The captain jumps down, and joins the wild Kentucky boys in a yell of victory, through the bass notes of which may be heard the shrill voice of the old lady, crying, "I did it, I did it—it's all my bacon!"
The struggle over, and the excitement passed, they return and pick up such portions of the human frame as may be found worth preserving.—To resume.
Our captain was overtaken by a telegraphic message, requiring his appearance on a certain day to answer a charge of libel. From what I could glean, it seems that the captain, considering himself cheated by a person with whom he had been transacting business, took the liberty of saying to him, "Well, you're a darned infernal rascal, fix it anyhow you will!" The insulted person sued for 2500 dollars damages, and the captain was obliged to leave us, that he might go and defend his cause. He was a good type of a "hard-a-weather-bird," and I was sorry to see him obliged to quit the ship. I told him so, adding, that if he deserted us, we should be sure to get snagged, or something worse. He replied,—"Oh, no, sir; I guess you'll be safe enough; I shall leave my clerk in charge; he's been a captain of these boats; you'll be right enough, sir." And away he went ashore at Memphis, leaving us to continue our course to New Orleans.
Night came on, and we all toddled off to roost. I am habitually a very sound sleeper, dropping off the moment I turn in, and never awaking till daylight. On this occasion, however, I awoke about two o'clock A.M., and, do what I would, I could not coax myself to sleep again. While tossing from side to side, I felt the vessel strike as if gently touching a bank; and wood being a good conductor of sound, I heard the water, as it were, gurgling in. My first idea was, "We are snagged;" then, remembering how slight the concussion had been, I calmed my fears and turned over on my side, determined to bottle off a little more sleep if possible. Scarce had the thought crossed the threshold of my mind, when men with hasty steps rushed into the saloon, banging frantically at the cabin-doors, and the piercing cry was heard—"Turn out! turn out!—we're sinking!" Passengers flew from their beds, and opened their doors to get what scanty light the lamps in the saloon might afford. A mysterious and solemn silence prevailed; all was action; no time for words; dress, catch up what you can, and bolt for your life. As I got to the side of the vessel, I saw a steamer alongside, and felt the boat I was in careening over. A neighbour, in fear and desperation, caught hold of me as a drowning man catches at a straw; no time for compliments this, when it is neck or nothing; so, by a right-hander in the pit of the stomach, I got quit of his clutch, and, throwing my desk over to the other boat, I grasped the wooden fender and slid down. Thank God, I was safe!—my companion was already safe also.
It was about half-past four A.M., a drizzly, wet morning, quite dark, except the flame of the torches. A plank was got on board of the sinking boat, along which more passengers and even some luggage were saved. The crew of the sound boat had hard work to keep people from trying to return and save their luggage, thus risking not only their own lives but at the same time impeding the escape of others. From the gallery above I was looking down upon the wreck, lit up by the lurid light of some dozen torches, when, with a crash like thunder, she went clean over and broke into a thousand pieces; eighty head of cattle, fastened by the horns, vainly struggled to escape a watery grave. It was indeed a terrific and awful scene to witness. From the first striking till she went to pieces, not a quarter of an hour had elapsed; but who was saved? Who knew, and—alas! that I must add—who cared?
The crew worked hard enough to rescue all, and to them be every credit for their exertions; but the indifference exhibited by those who had been snatched from the jaws of death was absolutely appalling. The moment they escaped, they found their way to the bar and the stove, and there they were smoking, drinking, and passing the ribald jest, even before the wreck had gone to pieces, or the fate of one-half of their companions been ascertained. Yet there was a scene before their eyes sufficient, one would have imagined, to have softened the hardest heart and made the most thoughtless think. There, among them, at the very stove round which they were gathered, stood one with a haggard eye and vacant gaze, and at his feet clung two half-naked infants; a quarter of an hour before he was a hale man, a husband, with five children; now, he was an idiot and a widower, with two. No tear dimmed his eye, no trace of grief was to be read in his countenance; though the two pledges of the love of one now no more hung helplessly round his legs, he heeded them not; they sought a father's smile—they found an idiot's stare. They cried: was it for their mother's embrace, or did they miss their brother and sisters? Not even the piteous cry of motherless infancy could light one spark of emotion in the widowed husband's breast—all was one awful blank of idiocy. A wife and three children, buried beneath piles of freight, had found a wretched grave; his heart and his reason had fled after them—never, apparently, to return.
Surely this was a scene pre-eminently calculated to excite in those who wore, by their very escape, living monuments of God's mercy, the deepest feelings of gratitude and commiseration; yet, there stood the poor idiot, as if he had not been; and the jest, the glass, and cigar went on with as much indifference as if the party had just come out of a theatre, instead of having providentially escaped from a struggle between life and death. A more perfect exhibition of heartlessness cannot be conceived, nor do I believe any other part of the world could produce its equal.
The immediate cause of the wreck was the steamer "H.R.W. Hill" running into us, owing to misunderstanding the bell signal; most providentially she caught alongside of us after striking; if she had not done so, God alone knows who could have been saved. As far as I could ascertain, all the first-class passengers were saved. Do not stare at the word first-class, for although in this country of so-called equality no difference of classes is acknowledged, poor helpless emigrants are taken as deck-passengers, and, as freight is the great object, no space is set apart for them; they are stowed away among the cargo as best they can be, with no avenue of escape in case of accidents, and with the additional prospect of being buried beneath bales and barrels. I believe fifteen passengers perished in this way: one poor English-woman among the deck-passengers fought her way through the freight, and, after being nearly drowned and trampled to death under the hoofs of the cattle, succeeded in escaping. A slave-merchant with a dozen negroes managed to save all of them, inasmuch as, being valuable, he had them stowed away in a better place. The moment the wreck was completed, we proceeded up the river, wasting no time in trying to save any part of the cargo or luggage. My own position was anything but a pleasant one, though I trust I was truly thankful for my preservation. I found I had managed to throw my desk between the two steamers, and it was therefore irrecoverably lost, with all my papers, letters of credit, journal, &c. I had also lost everything else except what T had on,—rifle, guns, clothes,—all were gone. A few things, such as money, watch, note-book, which I always kept in my pockets, were all my stock in trade. Fortunately, my friend had saved his papers, and thus our identity could be established at New Orleans. In the course of a few hours we saw a fine steamer coming down the river, in which we embarked, and again pursued our journey south.
In the afternoon we passed several pieces of the wreck: the shores were covered with the casks of pork and mustang liniment which had formed a great part of our freight. At one place, a large portion of the wreck, was made fast ashore, and being plundered by the settlers on the bank; boxes and trunks were all broken open and cleaned out; little boats were flying across the river full of pork and other prizes: it was an universal scramble in all directions, and appeared to be considered as lawful plunder by them as if they had been Cornish wreckers. It was hopeless to try and recover anything, so we continued our journey, and left our goods to the tender mercies of the landsharks on the banks. Having lost all my papers, I was obliged to forego the pleasure I had anticipated from a visit to Natchez, or rather to the gentlemen and plantations in the neighbourhood.
As you approach the lower part of the river, signs of human life become more frequent; the forest recedes, the banks of the river are leveed up, and legions of Uncle Tom's Cabins stud the banks; some, clustered near the more luxurious but still simple building wherein dwells the proprietor, surrounded by orange groves and the rich flowers and foliage of southern climes. These little spots appear like bright oases in the otherwise dreary, uninteresting flats, which extend from the banks on either side; yet it is only as a scene they are uninteresting; as a reality, they have a peculiar interest. On these Hats the negro slave expends his labour and closes his life, and from the bitter of his career the white man draws the sweet luxury of his own. How few reflect upon this, even for as many seconds as it takes to melt the clarified lump in the smoking bohea. But here we are at La Fayette, which is the upper or American end of New Orleans, where steamers always stop if there are any cattle on board, which being our case, we preferred landing and taking an omnibus, to waiting for the discharge of the live-stock. Half an hour brought us to the St. Louis Hotel, and there you may sit down a minute or two while I make some observations on the steaming in Western rivers.
The whole system and management is a most grievous reproach to the American nation. I speak not of the architecture, which is good, nor of the absurd inconsistency in uniting such palatial appearance with such absolute discomfort, which perhaps, with their institutions and ideas, it would be very difficult to remedy. My observations refer more to that by which human life is endangered, and the valuable produce of human labour recklessly destroyed. The following extract from a Louisville paper will more than justify any animadversions which I may make:—
DISASTERS ON WESTERN RIVERS.—The Louisville Courier has published a list of disasters on Western waters during the year 1852. It is a formidable one, embracing 78 steam-boats, 4 barges, 73 coal-boats, 3 salt-boats, and 4 others, flat-boats. It appears that 47 boats were lost by being snagged, 16 by explosions, 4 were burnt, and the others lost by collision and other mishaps. The greatest number of lives lost by one disaster was the explosion of the "Saluda," 100. The total loss of life exceeds 400 persons.[Q]
Here is a list of one hundred and sixty-two vessels of different kinds, and four hundred human beings, lost in one year; of which vessels it appears forty-six were snagged. You will naturally ask here, what precautions are taken to avoid such frightful casualties? The answer is short—None. They had a few boats employed once to raise the snags, but the thirst for annexation ran them into a war, and the money was wanted for that purpose. The Westerns say they are ridden over by the Easterns, and that Government will do nothing for them.[R]
It is not for me to decide the reasons, but the fact is but too clear, that in a country boasting of its wealth, its power, its resources, and not burdened with one farthing of debt, not a cent is being expended in making the slightest endeavours to remove the dangers of this gigantic artery of commerce. And what would be the cost of this national object? The captains of the boats told me that two dozen snag-boats in three years would clear the river; and that half that number could keep it clear; yet, rather than vote the money requisite, they exhibit a national indifference to the safety of life and property such as, I may confidently affirm, cannot be found in any other civilized nation. A very small tax on the steamers would pay the expenses; but the Westerns say, and say with truth, "This is not a local, this is a national question. Government builds lighthouses, harbours, &c., for the eastern board, and we are entitled to the same care for our commerce." A navigation of two thousand miles is most certainly as thoroughly a national question as a seaboard is. It should also be remembered that, if the navigable tributaries be added, the total presents an unbroken highway of internal commerce amounting to 16,700 miles—a distance which, it has been remarked, "is sufficient to encircle Europe and leave a remnant which would span the Atlantic."
Next on the list comes the "explosions." I have already given you an account of how the so-called examinations are too often made. Surely these inspections might be signed upon oath before a magistrate; and as surely, I should hope, men might be found who would not perjure themselves. The burnt vessels are few in number, and more than one case has, I believe, been tried on suspicion of being set fire to intentionally.
The last on the list is "collisions, &c." By the "&c.," I suppose, is mount vessels which, having run on the river till they wore only fit for firewood, still continued "just one more trip;" and then, of course, the slightest concussion, either on a bank or a floating log, would break them up like a chip basket. The examination on this point is conducted like that of the boilers, and the same remedy might readily be applied. I think, however, that the greater number of losses from collisions, &c., may be chiefly ascribed to the collisions. The cause of these collisions is easily understood, when you are informed that vessels meeting indicate the side they intend to take by sounding a bell. They have no fixed rule, like vessels meeting at sea. The sound of the toll of the second bell may easily be blended with the first, if it be struck hurriedly, which in cases of danger is more than probable; or, the sound of a single toll may find an echo and be mistaken for two tolls. The collision we met with was caused by this very misunderstanding; at least, so the captains mutually explained it. The reason given me for this unsettled system was, that, owing to banks and currents, vessels could not always take the same side. Supposing this to be so, still, a more correct indication of the side intended to be taken might be obtained by lights kept burning for that purpose in a box with a sliding front, removeable at pleasure by a line leading to the wheel-house, in the same way as the lanyard of the bell is at present fitted; and a further palpable advantage would be obtained by obliging vessels meeting in the night to stop the engines and pass at "slow speed." In addition to these precautions, a stout cork fender, extending round the bows some ten feet on each side, and fixed every night at dark, would materially lessen the chances of destruction, even if collision did take place.
There is, however, another cause of accident which the Louisville paper does not allude to, and that is overloading. We started about two and a half feet out of the water when leaving St. Louis, and, long before we met with our accident, we had taken in cargo till we were scarce five inches above the river. Not only do they cram the lower or freight deck, but the gallery outside the saloons and cabins is filled till all the use and comfort thereof is destroyed, and scarce a passage along them to be obtained. Seeing the accidents such reckless freighting must necessarily give rise to, what more simple than obliging every vessel to have a float or loading line painted from stem to stern at a certain elevation, making the captain and owners liable to a heavy penalty if the said line be brought below the water by the freight. There is one other point which I may as well notice here, and that is the manner in which these boats are allowed to carry deck-passengers. There is no clear portion of deck for them, and they are driven by necessity among the bales and boxes of freight, with no avenue of escape in case of accident. These are the people who suffer in cases of snagging and collision, &c. These hardy sons of toil, migrating with their families, are all but penniless, and therefore, despite all vaunt of equality, they are friendless. Had every deck-passenger that has perished in the agony of a crushing and drowning death been a Member of Senate or Congress, the Government would have interfered long ere this; but these miserable wretches perish in their agony, and there is no one to re-echo that cry in the halls of Congress. They are chiefly poor emigrants, and plenty more will come to fill their places.
If the Government took any such steps as those above recommended, the fear of losing insurance by neglecting them would tend greatly to make them respected. Companies would insure at a lower rate, and all parties would be gainers in the long run; for, if the Government obtained no pecuniary profit, it would gain in national character by the removal of a reproach such as no other commercial country at the present day labours under.
There is, moreover, a moral point of view to be taken of this question—viz., "the recklessness of human life engendered by things as they are."
The anecdotes which one hears are of themselves sufficient to leave little doubt on this point. Take, for instance, the following:—A vessel having been blown up during the high pressure of a race, among the witnesses called was one who thus replied to the questions put to him:—
EXAMINER.—"Were you on board when the accident took place?"
WITNESS.—"I guess I was, and nurthing else."
EXAMINER.—"Was the captain sober?"
WITNESS.—"Can't tell that, nohow."
EXAMINER.—"Did you not see the captain during the day?"
WITNESS.—"I guess I did."
EXAMINER.—"Then can, you not state your opinion whether he was drunk or not?"
WITNESS.—"I guess I had not much time for observation; he was not on board when I saw him."
EXAMINER.—"When did you see him, then?"
WITNESS.—"As I was coming down, I passed the gentleman going up."
The court, of course, was highly amused at his coolness, and called another witness.—But let us turn from this fictitious anecdote to fact.
It was only the other day that I read in a Louisville paper of a gentleman going into the Gait-house Hotel, and deliberately shooting at another in the dining-saloon when full of people, missing his aim, and the hall lodging in the back of a stranger's chair who was quietly sitting at his dinner. Again, I read of an occurrence—at Memphis, I think—equally outrageous. A man hard pressed by creditors, who had assembled at his house and were urgent in their demands, called to them to keep back, and upon their still pressing on, he seized a bowie-knife in each hand, and rushed among them, stabbing and ripping right and left, till checked in his mad career of assassination by a creditor, in self-defence, burying a cleaver in his skull.
In a Natchez paper I read as follows:—"Levi Tarver, formerly a resident of Atala county, was recently killed in Texas. Tarver interrupted a gentleman on the highway; high words ensued, when Tarver gave the gentleman the lie; whereupon the latter drew a bowie-knife, and completely severed, at one blow, Levi's head from his body."
In a St. Louis paper, I read of a German, Hoffman by name, who was supposed by Baker to be too intimate with his wife, and who was consequently desired to discontinue his visits. Hoffman remonstrated in his reply, assuring the husband that his suspicions were groundless. A short time after he received a letter from Mrs. Baker, requesting him to call upon her: he obeyed the summons, and was shown into her bedroom at the hotel. The moment he got there, Mrs. Baker pulled two pistols from under the pillow, and discharged both at his head. Hoffman rushed out of the house; scarce was he in the street, when Mr. Baker and three other ruffians pounced upon him, dragged him back to the hotel, and placed guards at the door to prevent any further ingress from the street. They then stripped him perfectly naked, lashed him with cow-hides till there was scarce a sound piece of flesh in his body, dashing cold water over him at intervals, and then recommencing their barbarities. When tired of this brutality, they emasculated their wretched victim with a common table-knife. And who were these ruffians? Were they uneducated villains, whom poverty and distress had hardened into crime? Far from it. Mr. Baker was the owner of a grocery store; of the others, one was the proprietor of the St. Charles hotel, New Bremen; the second was a young lawyer, the third was a clerk in the "Planter's House." Can the sinks of ignorance and vice in any community present a more bloody scene of brutality than was here deliberately enacted, by educated people in respectable positions, in the middle of the day? What can be thought of the value of human life, when I add that all these miscreants were bailed?
These are merely the accounts which have met my eye in the natural course of reading the newspaper, for I can most truthfully declare I have not taken the slightest trouble to hunt them up. The following, which bears upon the same point, was related to me in the course of conversation at dinner, and it occurred in New Orleans. Mr. A. treads on Mr. B.'s too several times; Mr. B. kicks Mr. A. down stairs, and this at a respectable evening party. Now what does Mr. A. do? He goes outside and borrows a bowie-knife from a hack-cabman, then returns to the party, watches and follows Mr. B. to the room where the hats and cloaks were placed, seizes a favourable moment, and rips Mr. B.'s bowels open. He is tried for murder, with evidence sufficient to hang a dozen men; and, to the astonishment of even the Westerns themselves, he is acquitted. These facts occurred not many years since, and they were narrated to me by a gentleman who was at the party.
When two members of the Legislature disgraced the halls at Washington, by descending into the political arena with pistols and bowie-knives, and there entering into deadly conflict, were they not two Western members? Now, what do these occurrences prove? Certainly not that all Westerns are bloodthirsty, for many of them are the most kind, quiet, and amiable men I have ever met; but, when taken in connexion with the free use of the bowie-knife, they afford strong evidence that there is a general and extraordinary recklessness of human life; and surely, common sense and experience would both endorse the assertion, that habituating men to bloody disputes or fatal accidents has a tendency to harden both actors and spectators into utter indifference. And what is the whole of the Western river navigation but one daily—I might almost say, continual—scene of accidents and loss of life, tending to nourish those very feelings which it is the duty of every government to use all possible means to allay and humanize?
The heartless apathy with which all classes of society, with scarce individual exceptions, speak of these events is quite revolting to a stranger, and a manifest proof of the injurious moral effect of familiarizing people with such horrors. The bowie-knife, the revolver, and the river accidents, mutually act and react upon each other, and no moral improvement can reasonably be expected until some great change be effected. Government can interfere with the accidents;—deadly weapons are, to a certain extent, still necessary for self-protection. Let us hope, then, that something will ore long be done to prevent disasters pregnant with so many evils to the community, and reflecting so strongly on the United States as a nation.[S] Having gone off at a tangent, like a boomerang, I had better, like the same weapon, return whence I started—in military language, "as you was."
[Footnote P: On the Mississippi a cord contains one definite quantity, being a pile 1 feet high, 4 feet broad, and 8 feet long, and does not vary in size in the same absurd manner as it does in various parts of England: the price paid is from eight to thirteen shillings, increasing as you descend the river.]
[Footnote Q: A committee of the United States calculated that, in 1846, the losses on the Mississippi amounted to 500,000l.; and as commerce has increased enormously, while precautions have remained all but stagnant, I think it may be fairly estimated, that the annual losses at the present day amount to at least 750,000l.]
[Footnote R: Vide chapter on "Watery Highways."]
[Footnote S: Since writing the above, some more stringent regulations as to inspection have appeared, similar to those advocated in the text; but they contain nothing respecting loading, steering, &c. In fact, they are general laws, having 110 especial bearing on Western waters.]
New Orleans is a surprising evidence of what men will endure, when cheered by the hopes of an ever-flowing tide of all-mighty dollars and cents. It is situated on a marsh, and bounded by the river on one side, and on the other by a continuation of the marsh on which it is built, beyond which extends a forest swamp. All sewerage and drainage is superficial—more generally covered in, but in very many places dragging its sluggish stream, under the broad light of day, along the edges of the footway. The chief business is, of course, in those streets skirting the river; and at this season—December—when the cotton and sugar mania is at its height, the bustle and activity is marvellous. Streets are piled in every direction with mounds of cotton, which rise as high as the roofs; storehouses are bursting with bales; steam and hydraulic presses hiss in your ear at every tenth step, and beneath their power the downy fibre is compressed into a substance as hard as Aberdeen granite, which semi-nude negroes bind, roll, and wheel in all directions, the exertion keeping them in perpetual self-supplying animal steam-baths. Gigantic mules arrive incessantly, dragging fresh freight for pressure; while others as incessantly depart, bearing freight for embarkation to Europe. If a pair of cotton socks could be made vocal, what a tale of sorrow and labour their history would reveal, from the nigger who picked with a sigh to the maiden who donned with a smile.
Some idea may be formed of the extent of this branch of trade, from the statistical fact that last year the export amounted to 1,435,815 bales[T]—or, in round numbers, one and a half millions—which was an increase of half a million upon the exports of the preceding twelve months. Tobacco is also an article of great export, and amounted last year to 94,000 hogsheads, being an increase of two-thirds upon the previous twelve months. The great staple produce of the neighbourhood is sugar and molasses. In good years, fifty gallons of molasses go to a thousand pounds of sugar; but, when the maturity of the cane is impeded by late rains, as was the case last year, seventy gallons go to the thousand pounds of sugar. Thus, in 1853, 10,500,000 gallons of molasses were produced, representing 210,000,000 pounds of sugar; while, in 1854, 18,300,000 gallons of molasses were produced, being nearly double the produce of the preceding year, but representing only 261,500,000 pounds of sugar,—owing, as before explained, to the wet weather. Some general idea of the commercial activity of New Orleans may be formed from the following statistics for 1853:—2266 vessels, representing 911,000 tons, entered New Orleans; and 2202 vessels, representing 930,000 tons, cleared.
Now, of course, the greater portion—or I might almost say the whole—of the goods exported reach New Orleans by the Mississippi, and therefore justify the assertion that the safe navigation of that river is, in the fullest sense of the term, a national and not a local interest, bearing as it does on its bosom an essential portion of the industrial produce of eleven different States of the Union.
It is quite astounding to see the legions of steamers from the upper country which are congregated here; for miles and miles the levee forms one unbroken line of them, all lying with their noses on shore—no room for broadsides. On arriving, piled up with goods mountain high, scarce does a bow touch the levee, when swarms of Irish and niggers rush down, and the mountainous pile is landed, and then dragged off by sturdy mules to its destination. Scarce is she cleared, when the same hardy sons of toil build another mountainous pile on board; the bell rings, passengers run, and she is facing the current and the dangers of the snaggy Mississippi. The labour of loading and unloading steamers is, as you may suppose, very severe, and is done for the most part by niggers and Irishmen. The average wages are from 7l. to 8l. per month; but, in times of great pressure from sudden demand, &c., they rise as high as from. 12l. to 14l. per month, which was the case just before my arrival. The same wages are paid to those who embark in the steamers to load and unload at the different stations on the river. Every day is a working day; and as, by the law, the slave has his Sunday to himself to earn what he can, the master who hires him out on the river is supposed to give him one-seventh of the wages earned; but I believe they only receive one-seventh of the ordinary wages—i.e., 1l. per month.
Let us now turn from the shipping to the town. In the old, or French part, the streets are generally very narrow; but in the American, or the La Fayette quarter, they are very broad, and, whether from indolence or some other reason, badly paved and worse cleansed; nevertheless, if the streets are dirty and muddy, the houses have the advantage of being airy. There are no buildings of any importance except the new Custom-house, and, of course, the hotels. The St. Louis is at present the largest; but the St. Charles, which is being rebuilt, was, and will again be, the hotel pride of New Orleans.[U] They are both enormous establishments, well arranged, and, with the locomotive propensities of the people, sure to be well filled during the winter months, at which period only they are open. When I arrived at the St. Louis, it was so full that the only room I could get was like a large Newfoundland dog's kennel, with but little light and less air. The hotel was originally built for an Exchange, and the rotundo in the centre is one of the finest pieces of architecture in the States. It is a lofty, vaulted hall, eighty feet in diameter, with an aisle running all round, supported by a row of fine pillars fifty feet in height; the dome rises nearly as many-feet more, and has a large skylight in the centre; the sides thereof are ornamented by well-executed works in chiaroscuro, representing various successful actions gained during the struggle for independence, and several of the leading men who figured during that eventful period. A great portion of the aisle is occupied by the all-important bar, where drinks flow as freely as the river outside; but there is another feature in the aisles which contrasts strangely with the pictorial ornaments round the dome above—a succession of platforms are to be seen, on which human flesh and blood is exposed to public auction, and the champions of the equal rights of man are thus made to endorse, as it were, the sale of their fellow-creatures.
I had only been in the hotel one day when a gentleman to whom I had a letter kindly offered me a room in his house. The offer was too tempting, so I left my kennel without delay, and in my new quarters found every comfort and a hearty welcome, rendered more acceptable from the agreeable society which it included, and the tender nursing I received at the hands of one of the young ladies during the week I was confined to the house by illness. Among all the kind and hospitable friends I met with in my travels, none have a stronger claim on my grateful recollection than Mr. Egerton and his family. When able to get out, I took a drive with mine host: as you may easily imagine, there is not much scenery to be found in a marsh bounded by a forest swamp, but the effect is very curious; all the trees are covered with Spanish moss, a long, dark, fibrous substance which hangs gracefully down from every bough and twig; it is often used for stuffing beds, pillows, &e. This most solemn drapery gave the forest the appearance of a legion of mute mourners attending the funeral of some beloved patriarch, and one felt disposed to admire the patience with which they stood, with their feet in the wet, their heads nodding to and fro as if distracted with grief, and their fibrous weeds quivering, as though convulsed with the intensity of agony. The open space around is a kind of convalescent marsh; that is, canals and deep ditch drains have been opened all through it, and into these the waters of the marsh flow, as a token of gratitude for the delicate little attention; at the same time, the adjacent soil, freed from its liquid encumbrance, courts the attractive charms of the sun, and has already risen from two and a half to three and a half feet above its marshy level.
The extremity of this open space furthest from the town has been appropriately fixed upon as the site of various cemeteries. The lugubrious forest is enough to give a man the blue devils, and the ditches and drains into which the sewers, &c., of the town are pumped, dragging their sluggish and all but stagnant course under a broiling summer gun, are sufficient to prepare most mortals for the calm repose towards which the cypress and the cenotaph beckon them with greedy welcome. The open space I have been describing is the "Hyde Park" and "Rotten Row" of New Orleans, and the drive round it is one of the best roads I ever travelled; it is called the "Shell Road," from the top-dressing thereof being entirely composed of small shells, which soon bind together and make it as smooth as a bowling-green. The Two-forty trotters—when there are any—come out here in the afternoon, and show off their paces, and if you fail in finding any of that first flight, at all events you are pretty sure to see some good teams, that can hug the three minutes very closely. Custom is second nature, and necessity is the autocrat of autocrats, which even the free and enlightened must obey; the consequence is, that the inhabitants of New Orleans look forward to the Shell-road ride, or drive, with as much interest and satisfaction as our metropolitan swells do to the Serpentine or the Row.
Having had our drive, let us now say a few words about the society. In the first place, you will not see such grand houses as in New York; but at the same time it is to be observed, that the tenants here occupy and enjoy all their houses, while in New York, as I have before observed, the owners of many of the finest residences live almost exclusively in the basements thereof. This more social system at New Orleans, I am inclined to attribute essentially to the French—or Creole—habits with which society is leavened, and into which, it appears to me, the Americans naturally and fortunately drop. On the other hand, the rivalry which too often taints a money-making community has found its way here. If A. gives a party which costs 200l., B. will try and get up one at 300l., and so on. This false pride—foolish enough anywhere—is more striking in New Orleans, from the fact that the houses are not calculated for such displays, and when they are attempted, it involves unfurnishing bed-rooms and upsetting the whole establishment. I should add they are comparatively rare, perhaps as rare as those parties which are sometimes given in London at the expense of six weeks' fasting, in order that the donor's name and the swells who attended the festive scene may go forth to the world in the fashionable column of the Morning Post. Whenever they do occur, they are invariably attended with some such observations as the following:—
"What did Mrs. B.'s party cost last night?"
"Not less than 300l."
"Well, I'm sure they have not the means to afford such extravagant expense; and I suppose the bed-rooms upstairs were all cleared out?"
"Oh, yes! three of them."
"Well I know that house, and, fix it how you will, if they cleared out three bed-rooms, I'm sure they must have slept on the sofas or the tables. I declare it's worse than foolish—it's wicked to have so much pride," &c.
If those who thus indulged their vanity, only heard one-half of the observations made by those who accent their hospitalities, or who strive to get invitations and cannot, they would speedily give up their folly; but money is the great Juggernaut, at the feet of which all the nations of the earth fall down and worship; whether it be the coronets that bowed themselves down in the temple of the Railway King in Hyde Park, who could afford the expense; or the free and enlightened who do homage in Mrs. ——'s temple at New Orleans, though perhaps she could not afford the expense; one thing is clear—where the money is spent, there will the masses be gathered together. General society is, however, more sober and sociable, many families opening their houses one day in the week to all their friends. The difference of caste is going out fast: the Creoles found that their intermarriages were gradually introducing a race as effete as the Bourbons appear to be in France; they are now therefore very sensibly seeking alliances with the go-ahead blood of the Anglo-Saxon, which will gradually absorb them entirely, and I expect that but little Trench will be spoken in New Orleans by the year 1900. Another advantage of the Creole element, is the taste it appears to have given for French wines. As far as I am capable of judging, the claret, champagne, and sauterne which I tasted here were superior in quality and more generally in use than I ever found them in any other city. The hours of dinner vary from half-past three to half-past five, and an unostentatious hospitality usually prevails.
Servants here are expensive articles. In the hotels you find Irishmen almost exclusively, and their wages vary from 2l. 8s. to 10l. per month. In private houses, women's wages range from 2l. 8s. to 4l. and men's from 6l. to 8l. the month. The residents who find it inconvenient to go to the north during the summer, cross the lake to their country villas at Passe Christianne, a pretty enough little place, far cooler and more shady than the town, and where they get bathing, &c. A small steamer carries you across in a few hours; but competition is much wanted, for their charges are treble those of the boats in the north, and the accommodation poor in comparison.
When crossing over in the steamer, I overheard a conversation which showed how early in life savage ideas are imbibed here. Two lads, the eldest about fifteen, had gone over from New Orleans to shoot ducks. They were both very gentlemanly-looking boys, and evidently attending some school. Their conversation of course turned upon fighting—when did schoolboys meet that it was not so? At last, the younger lad said—
"Well, what do you think of Mike Maloney?", "Oh! Mike is very good with his fists; but I can whip him right off at rough-and-tumble."
Now, what is "rough-and-tumble?" It consists of clawing, scratching, kicking, hair-pulling, and every other atrocity, for which, I am happy to think, a boy at an English school would be well flogged by the master, and sent to Coventry by his companions. Yet, here was as nice a looking lad as one could wish to see, evidently the son of well-to-do parents, glorying in this savage, and, as we should call it, cowardly accomplishment. I merely mention this to show how early the mind is tutored to feelings which doubtless help to pave the way for the bowie-knife in more mature years.
The theatres at New Orleans are neat and airy. Lola Montez succeeded in creating a great furore, at last. I say "at last," because, as there really is nothing in her acting above mediocrity, she received no especial encouragement at first, although she had chosen her own career in Bavaria as the subject in which to make her debut. She waited with considerable tact till she was approaching those scenes in which the mob triumph over order; and then, pretending to discover a cabal in the meagre applause she was receiving, she stopped in the middle of her acting, and, her eyes flashing fire, her face beaming brass, and her voice wild with well-assumed indignation, she cried—"I'm anxious to do my best to please the company; but if this cabal continues, I must retire!" The effect was electric. Thunders of applause followed, and "Bravo, Lolly!" resounded through the theatre, from the nigger-girl in the upper gallery to the octogenarian in the pit. When the clamour had subsided, some spicy attacks on kingcraft and the nobles followed most opportunely; the shouts were redoubled; her victory was complete. When the piece was over, she came forward to assure the company that the scenes she had been enacting were all facts in which she had, in reality, played the same part she had been representing that evening. Thunders of "Go it, Lolly! you're a game 'un, and nurthin' else!" rang all through the house as she retired, bowing. She did not appear in the character of "bowie-knifing a policeman at Berlin;" and of course she omitted some scenes said to have taken place during interviews with the king, and in which her conduct might not have been considered, strictly speaking, quite correct. She obtained further notoriety after my departure, by kicking and cuffing a prompter, and calling the proprietor a d—d scoundrel, a d—d liar, and a d—d thief, for which she was committed for trial. I may as well mention here, that the theatre was well attended by ladies. This fact must satisfy every unprejudiced mind how utterly devoid of foundation is the rumour of the ladies of America putting the legs of their pianofortes in petticoats, that their sensitive delicacy may not receive too rude a shock. Besides the theatres here, there is also an opera, the music of which, vocal and instrumental, is very second-rate. Nevertheless, I think it is highly to the credit of New Orleans that they support one at all, and sincerely do I wish them better success.
The town is liberally supplied with churches of all denominations. I went one Sunday to a Presbyterian church, and was much struck on my entry at seeing all the congregation reading newspapers. Seating myself in my pew, I found a paper lying alongside of me, and, taking it up, I discovered it was a religious paper, full of anecdotes and experiences, &c., and was supplied gratis to the congregation. There were much shorter prayers than in Scotland, more reading of the Bible, the same amount of singing, but performed by a choir accompanied by an organ, the congregation joining but little. The sermon was about the usual length of one in Scotland, lasting about an hour, and extemporized from notes. The preacher was eloquent, and possessed of a strong voice, which he gave the reins to in a manner which would have captivated the wildest Highlander. The discourse delivered was in aid of foreign missions, and the method he adopted in dealing with it was—first, powerfully to attack monarchical forms of government and priestly influence, by which soft solder he seemed to win his way to their republican hearts; and from this position, he secondly set to work and fed their vanity freely, by glowing encomiums on their national deeds and greatness, and the superior perfections of their glorious constitution; whence he deduced, thirdly, that the Almighty had more especially committed to them the great work of evangelizing mankind. This discourse sounded like the political essay of an able enthusiast, and fell strangely on my ears from the lips of a Christian minister, whose province, I had always been taught to consider, was rather to foster humility than to inflame vanity. It is to be presumed he knew his congregation well, and felt that he was treading the surest road to their dollars and cents.
Among other curiosities in this town is a human one, known as the Golden Man, from the quantity of that metal with which he bedizens waistcoat, fingers, &c. During my stay at New Orleans, he appeared decked with such an astounding gem, that it called forth the following notice from the press:—
ANOTHER RING.—The "gold" individual who exhibits himself and any quantity of golden ornaments, of Sunday mornings, in the vicinity of the Verandah and City Hotels, will shortly appear with a new wonder wherewith to astonish the natives. One would think that he had already ornaments enough to satisfy any mortal; but he, it appears, is not of the stuff every-day people are made of, and he could not rest satisfied until his fingers boasted another ring. The new prodigy is, like its predecessors, of pure solid gold. It is worth 500 dollars, and weighs nearly, if not quite, a pound. This small treasure is intended for the owner's "little" finger. It is the work of Mr. Melon, jeweller and goldsmith, on Camp-street, and is adorned with small carved figures, standing out in bold relief, and of very diminutive size, yet distinct and expressive. The right outer surface represents the flight of Joseph, the Virgin, and the infant Jesus into Egypt. Joseph, bearing a palm-branch, leads the way, the Virgin follows, seated on a donkey, and holding the Saviour in her lap. On the left outer edge of the ring is seen the prophet Daniel, standing between two lions. The prophet has not got a blue umbrella under his arm to distinguish him from the lions. The face of the ring exhibits an excellent design of the crucifixion, with the three crosses and the Saviour and the two thieves suspended thereto. This ring is certainly a curiosity.
There is a strong body of police here, and some of their powers are autocratically autocratic: thus, a person once committed as a vagrant is liable to be re-imprisoned by them if met in the street unemployed. Now, as it is impossible to expect that people in business will take the trouble to hunt up vagrants, what can be conceived more cruelly arbitrary than preventing them from hunting up places for themselves? Yet such is the law in this democratic city.[V] A gentleman told me of a vagrant once coming to him and asking for employment, and, on his declining to employ him, begging to be allowed to lie concealed in his store during the day, lest the police should re-imprison him before he could get on board one of the steamers to take him up the river to try his fortunes elsewhere. At the same time, a person in good circumstances getting into difficulties can generally manage to buy his way out.
The authorities, on the return of Christmas, having come to the conclusion that the letting off of magazines of crackers in the streets by the juvenile population was a practice attended with much inconvenience and danger to those who were riding and driving, gave orders that it should be discontinued. The order was complied with in some places, but in others the youngsters set it at defiance. It will hardly be credited that, in a nation boasting of its intelligence and proud of its education, the press should take part with the youngsters, and censure the magistrates for their sensible orders. Yet such was the case at New Orleans. The press abused the authorities for interfering with the innocent amusements of the children, and expressed their satisfaction at the latter having asserted their independence and successfully defied the law. The same want of intelligence was exhibited by the press in censuring the authorities for discontinuing the processions on the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans—"a ceremony calculated to excite the courage and patriotism of the people." They seem to lose sight of the fact, that it is a reflection on the courage of their countrymen to suppose that they require such processions to animate their patriotism, and that the continuance of such public demonstrations parading the streets betokens rather pride of past deeds than confidence in their power to re-enact them. Although such demonstrations may be readily excused, or even reasonably encouraged, in an infant community struggling for liberty, they are childish and undignified in a powerful nation. What would be more ridiculous than Scotland having grand processions on the anniversary of Bannockburn, or England on that of Waterloo? Moreover, in a political point of view, it should not be lost sight of, that if such demonstrations have any effect at all on the community, it must be that of reviving hostile feelings towards those to whom they are united most closely by the ties of blood, sense, and—though last, not least—cents. I merely mention these trivial things to show the punyizing effects which the democratic element has on the press.
Formerly, duels were as innumerable here as bales of cotton; they have considerably decreased latterly, one cause of which has been, the State of Louisiana passing a law by which any person engaging in a duel is at once deprived of his vote, and disabled from holding any state employment. John Bull may profit by this hint.
I was much amused, during my stay at New Orleans, by hearing the remarks of the natives upon the anti-slavery meeting at Stafford House, of which the papers were then full. If the poor duchess and her lady allies had been fiends, there could scarcely have been more indignation at her "presumptuous interference" and "mock humility." Her "sisters, indeed! as if she would not be too proud to stretch out her hand to any one of them," &c. Then another would break out with, "I should like to know by what right she presumes to interfere with us and offer advice? If she wants to do good, she has opportunities enough of exercising her charity in London. Let any one read The Times, and then visit a plantation here, and say whether the negroes are not happier and better off than one-half of the lower classes in England," &c. If every animadversion which the duchess and her colleagues' kind intentions and inoffensive wording of them called forth in America had been a pebble, and if they had all been gathered together, the monument of old Cheops at Ghizeh would have sunk into insignificance when contrasted with the gigantic mass; in short, no one unacquainted with the sensitiveness of the American character can form a conception of the violent state of indignation which followed the perusal of the proceedings of that small conclave of English lady philanthropists. Mrs. Jones, Smith, Adams, and Brown might have had their meeting on the same subject without producing much excitement; but when the aristocratic element was introduced, it acted as a spark in a barrel of gunpowder. As an illustration of the excitement produced, I subjoin an extract from one of their daily papers, under the heading of "Mrs. Stowe in Great Britain:"—
"The principles of free government developed here, and urging our people on with unexampled rapidity in the career of wealth and greatness, have always been subjects of alarm to monarchs and aristocracies—of pleasure and hope to the people. It has, of course, been the object of the former to blacken us in every conceivable way, and to make us detestable in the eyes of the world. There has been nothing since the revolution so well calculated to advance this end, as the exhibition which Mrs. Stowe is making in England.
"It is because they have a deep and abiding hostility to this country, and to republicanism in general, that the aristocracy, not only of England, but of all Europe, have seized with so much avidity upon Uncle Tom, and have been at so much pains to procure a triumphal march for its author through all the regions she may choose to visit. They are delighted to see a native of the United States—of that republic which has taught that a people can flourish without an aristocracy or a monarch—of that republic, the example of whose prosperity was gradually undermining thrones and digging a pit for privileged classes—describing her country as the worst, the most abandoned, the most detestable that ever existed. Royalty draws a long breath, and privilege recovers from its fears. Among the people of the continent, especially among the Germans, Italians, and Russians, there are thousands who believe that murder is but a pastime here—that the bowie-knife and pistol are used upon any provocation—that, in fact, we are a nation of assassins, without law, without morality, and without religion. They are taught to believe these things by their newspapers, which, published under the eye of Government, allow no intelligence but of murders, bowie-knife fights, &c., coming from America, to appear in their columns. By these, therefore, only is America known to their readers; and they are very careful to instil the belief, that if America is a land of murderers, it is so because it has had the folly to establish a republican form of government.
"These ideas are very general in England, even where the hostility is greater than it is on the Continent. To British avarice we owe slavery in this country. To British hatred we owe the encouragement of anti-slavery agitation now. The vile hypocrisy which has characterised the whole proceeding is not the least objectionable part of it. The English care not one farthing about slavery. If they did, why do they keep it up in such a terrific form in their own country? Where was there ever true charity that did not begin at home? It is because there is a deep-rooted hostility to this country pervading the whole British mind, that these things have taken place."
The wounded sensitiveness, however, which the foregoing paragraph exhibits, found some consolation from an article which appeared in The Times. They poured over its lines with intense delight, soothing themselves with each animadversion it made upon the meeting, and deducing from the whole—though how, I could never understand—that they had found in the columns of that journal a powerful advocate for slavery. Thus was peace restored within their indignant breasts, and perhaps a war with the ladies of the British aristocracy averted. Of two facts, however, I feel perfectly certain; one is, that the animadversions made in America will not in the least degree impair her Grace's healthy condition; and the other is, that the meeting held at Stafford House will in no way improve the condition of the negro.
There are two or three clubs established here, into one of which strangers are admitted as visitors, but the one which is considered the "first chop" does not admit strangers, except by regular ballot; one reason, I believe, for their objecting to strangers, is the immense number of them, and the quality of the article. Their ideas of an English gentleman, if formed from the mass of English they see in this city, must be sufficiently small: there is a preponderating portion of the "cotton bagman," many of whom seek to make themselves important by talking large. Although probably more than nine out of ten never have "thrown their leg" over anything except a bale of cotton, since the innocent days of the rocking-horse, they try to impress Jonathan by pulling up their shirt-collar consequentially, and informing him,—"When I was in England, I was used to 'unt with the Dook's 'ounds; first-rate, sir, first-rate style—no 'ats, all 'unting-caps." Then, passing his left thumb down one side of his cheek, his fingers making a parallel course down the opposite cheek, with an important air and an expression indicative of great intimacy, he would condescendingly add,—"The Dook wasn't a bad chap, after all: he used to give me a capital weed now and then." With this style of John Bull in numerical ascendency, you cannot wonder at the club-doors not being freely opened to "the Dook's friends," or at the character of an English gentleman being imperfectly understood.
Time hurries on, a passport must be obtained, and that done, it must be vised before the Spanish consul, as Cuba is my destination. The Filibusteros seem to have frightened this functionary out of his proprieties. A Spaniard is proverbially proud and courteous—the present specimen was neither; perhaps the reason may have been that I was an Englishman, and that the English consul had done all his work for him gratis when the Filibustero rows obliged him to fly. Kindness is a thing which the Spaniards as a nation find it very difficult to forgive. However, I got his signature, which was far more valuable than his courtesy; most of his countrymen would have given me both, but the one sufficed on the present occasion. Portmanteaus are packed—my time is come.
Adieu, New Orleans!—adieu, kind host and amiable family, and a thousand thanks for the happy days I spent under your roof. Adieu, all ye hospitable friends, not forgetting my worthy countryman the British consul. The ocean teapot is hissing, the bell rings, friends cry, kiss, and smoke—handkerchiefs flutter in the breeze, a few parting gifts are thrown on board by friends who arrive just too late; one big-whiskered fellow with bushy moustache picks up the parting cadeau—gracious me! he opens it, and discloses a paper bag of lollipops; another unfolds a precious roll of chewing tobacco. Verily, extremes do meet. The "Cherokee" is off, and I'm aboard. Down we go, sugar plantations studding either shore; those past, flat dreary banks succeed; ships of all nations are coming up and going down by the aid of tugboats; two large vessels look unpleasantly "fixed"—they are John Bull and Jonathan, brothers in misfortune and both on a bank.
"I guess the pilots will make a good thing out of that job!" says my neighbour.—
"Pilots!" I exclaimed, "how can that be? I should think they stood a fair chance of losing their licence."
"Ah! sir, we don't fix things that way here; the pilots are too 'cute, sir." Upon inquiry, I found that, as the banks were continually shifting, it was, as my friend said, very difficult "to fix the pilots,"—a fact which these worthies take every advantage of, for the purpose of driving a most profitable trade in the following manner. Pilot goes to tug and says, "What do you charge for getting a ship off?" The price understood, a division of the spoil is easily agreed upon. Away goes the pilot, runs the ship on shore on the freshest sandbank, curses the Mississippi and everything else in creation; a tug comes up very opportunely, a tidy bargain is concluded; the unfortunate pilot forfeits 100l., his pilotage from the ship, and consoles himself the following evening by pocketing 500l. from the tugman as his share of the spoil, and then starts off again in search of another victim. Such, I was informed by practical people, is a common feature in the pilotage of these waters, and such it appears likely to continue.
The "Cherokee" is one of those vessels which belong to Mr. Law, of whom I could get no information, expect that he had sprung up like a mushroom to wealth and Filibustero notoriety. He is also the custodian, I believe, of the three hundred thousand stand of arms ordered by Kossuth for the purpose of "whipping" Russia and Austria, and establishing the Republic of Hungary, unless by accident he found brains enough to become a Hungarian Louis Napoleon; but Mr. Law's other vessel, called the "Crescent City," and the Cuban Black Douglas, yclept "Purser Smith," are perhaps better known. Peradventure, you imagine this latter to be a wild hyena-looking man, with radiant red hair, fiery ferret eyes, and his pockets swelled out with revolutionary documents for the benefit of the discontented Cubans; but I can inform you, on the best authority, such is not the case, for he was purser of the "Cherokee" this voyage. He looks neither wild nor rabid, and is a grey-headed man, about fifty years of age, with a dash of the Israelite in his appearance: he may or he may not have Filibustero predilections—I did not presume to make inquiry on the subject. And here I cannot but remark upon the childish conduct of the parties concerned in the ridiculous "Crescent City and Cuba question," although, having taken the view they did, the Spaniards were of course perfectly right in maintaining it. It was unworthy of the Spanish nation to take notice of the arrival of so uninfluential a person as Purser Smith; and it was imprudent, inasmuch as it made him a person of importance, and gave the party with whom he was supposed to be connected a peg to hang grievances upon, and thus added to their strength. It was equally unworthy of Mr. Law, when objection was made, and a notification sent that Mr. Smith would not be admitted nor the vessel that carried him, to persist in a course of conduct obnoxious to a friendly power; and it was imprudent, when it must have been obvious that he could not carry his point; thereby eventually adding strength to the Spanish authority. When, all the fuss and vapour was made by Mr. Law and his friends, they seemed to have forgotten the old adage, "People who live in glass houses should not throw stones." President Filmore, in his statesmanlike observations, when the subject was brought before him, could not help delicately alluding to Charleston, a city of America. Americans at Charleston claim to exercise the right—what a prostitution of the term right!—of imprisoning any of the free subjects of another nation who may enter their ports, if they are men of colour. Thus, if a captain arrives in a ship with twenty men, of whom ten are black, he is instantly robbed of half his crew during his whole stay in the harbour; and on what plea is this done? Is any previous offence charged against them? None whatever. The only plea is that it is a municipal regulation which their slave population renders indispensable. In other words, it is done lest the sacred truth should spread, that man has no right to bind his fellow-man in the fetters of slavery.[W]
Was there ever such a farce as for a nation that tolerates such a municipal regulation as this to take umbrage at any of their citizens being, on strong suspicions of unfriendly feeling, denied entry into any port? Why, if there was a Chartist riot in monarchical England, and the ports thereof were closed against the sailors of republican America, they could have no just cause of offence, so long as the present municipal law of Charleston exists. What lawful boast of freedom can there ever be, where contact with freemen is dreaded, be their skins black or any colour of the rainbow? Why can England offer an asylum to the turbulent and unfortunate of all countries and climes?—Because she is perfectly free! Don't be angry, my dear Anglo-Saxon brother; you know, "if what I say bayn't true, there's no snakes in Warginny." I feel sure you regret it; but then why call forth the observations, by supporting the childish obstinacy in the "Crescent City" affair. However, as the housemaids say, in making up quarrels, "Let bygones be bygones." Spain has maintained her rights; you have satisfied her, and quiet Mr. Smith enters the Havana periodically, without disturbing the Governor's sleep or exciting the hopes of the malcontents. May we never see the Great Empire States in such an undignified position again!
Here we are still in the "Cherokee;" she is calculated to hold some hundreds of passengers. Thank God! there are only some sixty on board; but I do not feel equally grateful for their allowing me to pay double price for a cabin to myself when two-thirds of them are empty, not to mention that the single fare is eight guineas. She is a regular old tub of a boat; the cabins are profitably fitted with three beds in each, one above the other; the consequence is, that if you wish to sneeze at night, you must turn on your side, or you'll break your nose against the bed above you in the little jerk that usually accompanies the sternutatory process. The feeding on board is the worst I ever saw—tough, cold, and greasy, the whole unpleasantly accompanied with dirt.