The cabmen here, as in every other place I ever visited, make strenuous efforts to do the new comers. They tried it on me; so, to show them how knowing I was, I quoted their legitimate fares. "Ah, sir," says Cabby, "that's very well; but, you see, we charges more at times like these." I replied, "You've no right to raise your charges; by what authority do you do it?" "Oh, sir, we meet together and agree what is the proper thing." "But," says I, "the authorities are the people to settle those things." "The authorities don't know nothing at all about it; we can manage our own matters better than they." And they all stoutly stuck to their own charges, the effect of which was that I scarcely saw a dozen cabs employed during the ten days I was there.
Nothing could exceed the crowd in the streets, in the hotels, and everywhere; the whole atmosphere was alive with the smoke of the fragrant weed, and all the hotels were afloat with the juice thereof. The city has repeatedly been called the City of Magnificent Distances; but anything so far behind its fellow cities cannot well be imagined. It sounds incredible—nevertheless, it is a fact—that, except from the Capitol to the "White House," there is not a street-light of any kind, or a watchman. I lost my way one evening, and wandered all over the town for two hours, without seeing light or guardian of any kind. I suppose this is intended as a proof of the honest and orderly conduct of the inhabitants, but I fear it must also be taken as a proof of their poverty or want of energy. Whatever the reason may be, it certainly is a reflection on the liberality of the Government, that the capital of this Great Union should be the worst paved, worst lit, and worst guarded in the whole Republic.
The system of sweeping changes on the election of a new president tends materially to stop any increase of householders, the uncertain tenure of office making the employes prefer clustering in hotels and boarding-houses to entering on a short career of housekeeping, which will, of course, militate against any steady increase of the city, and thus diminish the tax-payers. There are several hotels, but they will not stand the least comparison with those in any of the leading towns of the Union. Like the hotels in London, they are crammed during the season—i.e., session—and during the rest of the year are comparatively empty, and consequently do not pay very well; but they are not the only establishments that make hay during the session; if report speaks truly, the bars and gambling-houses reap an immense harvest from the representatives of the people in both houses of congress.
I amused myself here, as I often had done in other towns, by taking a cigar in some decent-looking shop, and then having a chat with the owner. On this occasion the subject of conversation was drinking in the States. He said, in reply to a question I put to him, "Sir, a gentleman must live a long time in the country before he can form the slightest idea of the frightful extent to which drinking is carried, even by the decently educated and well-to-do classes. I do not say that nine-tenths of the people die drunk, but I firmly believe that with that proportion death has been very materially hastened from perpetual drinks. It is one of the greatest curses of this country, and I cannot say that I believe it to be on the decrease." One reason, doubtless, why it is so pernicious, is the constant habit of drinking before breakfast. That he was correct in his per-centage, I do not pretend to say; but I certainly have seen enough of the practice to feel sure it must have a most pernicious effect on very many. To what extent it is carried on by the lowest classes I had no opportunity of judging.
The following observations, however, made by so high an authority as Mr. Everett, must be admitted as a convincing proof that education has not been able to cope effectually with drunkenness. Speaking of ardent spirits, he says:—
"What has it done in ten years in the States of America? First, it has cost the nation a direct expense of 120,000,000l. Secondly, it has cost the nation an indirect expense of 120,000,000l. Thirdly, it has destroyed 300,000 lives. Fourthly, it has sent 100,000 children to the poor-house. Fifthly, it has consigned at least 150,000 persons to jails and penitentiaries. Sixthly, it has made at least a thousand maniacs. Seventhly, it has instigated to the commission of at least fifteen hundred murders. Eighthly, it has caused 2000 persons to commit suicide. Ninthly, it has burnt or otherwise destroyed property to the amount of 2,000,000l. Tenthly, it has made 200,000 widows, and 1,000,000 of orphan children."
When I turn from the contemplation of this sad picture, and think how many fall victims to the same vice in my own country, I cannot help feeling that the "myriad-minded poet" wrote the following lines as an especial warning and legacy to the Anglo-Saxon and the Celt:—
"Oh, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!"
I was very sorry time did not admit of my witnessing one of the new president's levees, as I much wished to see the olla podrida of attendants. It must be a quaint scene; the hack-cabman who drives you to the door will get a boy to look after his shay, and go in with you; tag-rag and bob-tail, and all their family, go in precisely as they like; neither soap nor brush is a necessary prelude. By late accounts from America, it appears that at Mr. Pierce's last levee a gentleman charged another with picking his pocket: the latter went next day with a friend to explain the mistake, which the former refusing to accept, he was struck by the accused, and, in return, shot him dead on the spot. A pleasant state of society for the metropolis of a civilized community! How changed since the days of Washington and knee-breeches! It should however be mentioned as highly creditable to the masses, that they rarely take advantage of their rights. The building is the size of a moderately wealthy country gentleman's house in England, and has one or two fine reception-rooms; between it and the water a monument is being raised to Washington. I fear it will be a sad failure; the main shaft or column suggests the idea of a semaphore station, round the base whereof the goodly things of sculpture are to be clustered. As far as I could glean from conversation with Americans, they seem themselves to anticipate anything but success.
The finest buildings here are the Capitol, Patent-office, and Post-office. Of these the Patent-office, which is modelled after the Parthenon, is the only one that has any pretensions to architecture. I fear the Anglo-Saxon of these later days, whether in the old country or here, is destined to leave no solid traces of architectural taste—vide National Gallery, London, and Post-office, Washington.
Having seen the lions of Washington, and enjoyed the hospitalities of our able and agreeable minister, I again trusted myself to the iron horse, and started for Baltimore. During my residence in Washington, I had revelled latterly in the comfort of a lodging free from the horrors of American inns. Profiting by this experience, I had applied to a friend at Baltimore to engage me rooms in some quiet place there; by this precaution I got into Guy's, in Monument-square. He keeps a restaurant, but has a few beds for friends or old customers. I found myself most comfortably housed, and the living of the cleanest and the best; besides which, my kind friends gave me the entree of the Club, which was almost next door. The hospitalities of which I had enjoyed a foretaste in November last, now thickened upon me, and though the season of Lent had put a stop to large and general parties, enough was still left to make my stay very agreeable.
The town is beautifully situated on undulating ground, commanding a lovely view of the hay; the streets are of a rational breadth, the town is rapidly increasing, the new buildings are all large and airy, and everything indicates prosperity. The cuisine of Baltimore has a very high, and, as far as I can judge, a very just reputation; not merely Maxwell Point canvas-back ducks, but the famous Terrapin also, lend their aid to the enjoyment of the inner man. In fact, so famous is the Terrapin, that a wicked wag detailed to me an account of a highly improper scene which he said took place once in the Episcopal Church here, viz., a gentleman who had a powerful voice and generally led the responses, had his heart and mind so full of the luscious little animal, that by a sad fatality he substituted "Terrapin" for "Seraphin" in the response; and so far was any one from remarking it, that the whole congregation repeated the mistake after him. The curly twinkle in the eye with which my friend told me the story, leaves an impression in my mind that it may be an exaggeration.
While here, I observed a play-bill with "The White Slave of England" printed on it, evidently intended as a set-off against the dramatizing of "Uncle Tom" in London, at some of our penny theatres. Of course I went to see it, and never laughed more in all my life.
The theatre was about the size of a six-stalled stable, and full of rowdies, &c.—no ladies; our party had a private-box. The tragedy opens by revealing the under-ground of a coal-pit in England, where is seen a fainting girl, &c. &c.: the girl is, of course, well licked by a driver; an explosion takes place; dead and dying bodies are heaped together, the driver says, "D—— 'em, let 'em lie; we'll get plenty more from the poor-house." These mines belong to a Lord Overstone; an American arrives with a negro servant, whom he leaves to seek his own amusement. He then calls on Lord Overstone, and obtains permission to visit the mines; there he finds the girl alluded to above all but dying, and, of course, rescues her. In the meantime, the nigger calls on Lord Overstone as a foreign prince, is immensely feted, the Duchess of Southernblack and her friend Lady Cunning are invited to meet his Royal Highness; the rescued girl is claimed as a slave by Lord Overstone; philanthropic Jonathan, after some difficulty, succeeds in keeping her, having first ordered Lord Overstone's servants to the right-about with all the swagger of a northern negro-driver. It appears that Jonathan was formerly a boy in the mines himself, and had conceived an affection for this girl. Lord Overstone finds out that Jonathan has papers requisite for him to prove his right to his property; he starts with his family for America, to visit him on his plantation. There the niggers exhibit a paradise such as never was; nearly the first person is his Royal Highness the nigger servant. Lady Overstone faints when he comes up to shake hands. Business proceeds; Lord Overstone bullies,—Jonathan is the milk of mildness. At last it turns out the girl is a daughter of Lord Overstone, and that the Yankee is the owner by right of Lord Overstone's property. He delivers a Buncombe speech, resigning his rights, and enlarging on the higher privilege of being in the land of true freedom—a slave plantation. The audience scream frantically, Lord and Lady Overstone go back humbled, and the curtain falls on one of the most absurd farces I ever saw; not the least absurd part being Jonathan refusing to take possession of his inheritance of 17,000l. a-year. Truly, "Diogenes in his tub" is nothing to "Jonathan in his sugar-cask."
The population of Maryland has increased in whites and free negroes, and decreased in slaves, between the years 1800 and 1852, in the following manner:—
Whites. Free Negroes. Slaves. 1800 216,000 8,000 103,000 1852 500,000 74,008 90,000.
The state has nearly a thousand educational establishments; and there are sixty daily and weekly papers for the instruction of the community. Baltimore has a population of 140,000 whites, 25,000 free blacks, 3000 slaves. Among this population are nearly 30,000 Germans and 20,000 Irish. The value of the industrial establishments of the city is estimated at considerably above 4,000,000l. From the above, I leave the reader to judge of its prosperity.
The people in Baltimore who enjoy the widest—if not the most enviable—reputation, are the fire companies. They are all volunteer, and their engines are admirable. They are all jealous as Kilkenny cats of one another, and when they come together, they scarcely ever lose an opportunity of getting up a bloody fight. They are even accused of doing occasionally a little bit of arson, so as to get the chance of a row. The people composing the companies are almost entirely rowdies, and apparently of any age above sixteen: when extinguishing fires, they exhibit a courage and reckless daring that cannot be surpassed, and they are never so happy as when the excitement of danger is at its highest. Their numbers are so great, that they materially affect the elections of all candidates for city offices; the style of persons chosen, may hence be easily guessed. The cup of confusion is fast filling up; and unless some knowing hands can make a hole in the bottom and drain off the dregs, the overflow will be frightful.
[Footnote AC: I had had the good fortune to pick up an agreeable companion on board the "Isabel"—the brother of one of our most distinguished members of the House of Commons—who, like myself, had been visiting Cuba, and was hastening to Washington, to be present at the inauguration of the President Elect, and with him I spent many very pleasant days.]
Philadelphia and Richmond.
Having spent a very pleasant time at Baltimore, I took rail for Philadelphia, the city of "loving brotherhood," being provided with letters to several most amiable families in that town. I took up my abode at Parkinson's—a restaurant in Chestnut-street—where I found the people very civil and the house very clean; but I saw little of the inside of the house, except at bed and breakfast time. The hospitality for which this city is proverbial soon made me as much at home as if I had been a resident there all my life. Dinner-party upon dinner-party succeeded each other like waves of the ocean; the tables groaned under precious vintages of Madeira, dating back all but to the Flood. I have never before or since tasted such delicious wine, and in such profusion, and everybody stuck to it with such leech-like tenacity. On one occasion, having sat down to dinner at two o'clock, I found myself getting up from table half an hour after midnight, and quite as fresh as when I had sat down. There was no possibility of leaving the hospitable old General's mahogany.[AD] One kind friend, Mr. C.H. Fisher, insisted that I must make his house my hotel, either he or his wife were always at dinner at four o'clock, and my cover was always laid. The society of his amiable lady and himself made it too tempting an offer to refuse, and I need scarcely say, it added much to the pleasure of my stay in Philadelphia. The same kind friend had also a seat for me always in his box at the opera, where that most charming and lady-like of actresses, the Countess Rossi,[AE] with her sweet voice, was gushing forth soft melody to crammed houses. On every side I met nothing but kindness. Happening one day at dinner to mention incidentally, that I thought the butter unworthy of the reputation of Philadelphia—for it professes to stand pre-eminent in dairy produce—two ladies present exclaimed, "Well!" and accompanied the expression by a look of active benevolence. The next morning, as I was sitting down to breakfast, a plate arrived from each of the rivals in kindness; the dew of the morning was on the green leaf, and underneath, such butter as my mouth waters at the remembrance of, and thus it continued during my whole stay. The club doors, with all its conveniences—and to a solitary stranger they are very great—were thrown open to me: in short, my friends left me nothing to wish, except that my time had permitted me a longer enjoyment of their hospitalities.
The streets of Philadelphia, which run north and south from the Schuylkill to the Delaware, are named after the trees, a row whereof grow on each side; but whether from a poetic spirit, or to aid the memory, some of the names are changed, that the following couplet, embracing the eight principal ones, may form a handy guide to the stranger or the resident:—
"Chestnut, walnut, spruce, and pine, Market, arch, race, and vine."
Mulberry, and sassafras, and juniper, would have dished the poetry. The cross-streets are all called by numbers; thus any domicile is readily found. The principal traverse street is an exception, being called "Broad;" it looks its name well, and extends beyond the town into the country: strange as it may seem to those who associate stiff white bonnets, stiff coat-collars, and broad-brimmed hats, with Philadelphia, on the extremity of this street every Sunday afternoon, all the famous trotters may be seen dashing along at three-minute pace. The country round about is pretty and undulating, and the better-to-do inhabitants of Philadelphia have very snug little country places, in which they chiefly reside during the summer, and to which, at other seasons, they often adjourn upon the Saturday, to enjoy the quiet of Sunday in the country.
One of the first objects of interest I went to visit was the Mint, the labours of which are of course immensely increased since the working of the Californian mines. Men are coming in every day with gold in greater or lesser quantities; it is first assayed, and the per-centage for this work being deducted, the value is paid in coin to the owner. While I was there, I saw a wiry-looking fellow arrive, in bright hat and brighter satin waistcoat, with a beard as bushy as an Indian jungle, and as red as the furnace into which his precious burden was to be thrown. Two small leather bags were carefully taken out of a waist-belt, their contents emptied into a tin can, a number placed in the can, and a corresponding number given him—no words spoken: in two days he would return, and, producing his number, receive value in coin. The dust would all have gone into a good-sized coffee-cup. I asked the officer about the value. "400l., sir." He had left a New England state some eight months previous, and was going home to invest in land.
What strikes a stranger most on entering the Mint, is the absence of all extra defence round it; the building appears as open as any London house. The process is, of course, essentially the same as elsewhere; but I was astonished when the director told me that the parties employed in the establishment are never searched on leaving, though the value of hundreds of thousands of dollars is daily passing through their hands in every shape. The water in which the workmen wash their hands runs into a tank below, and from this water, value to the amount of from 60l. to 80l. is extracted annually. The sweepings, &c., after the most careful sifting, are packed in casks and sold—chiefly, I believe, to European Jews—for 4000l. annually. The only peculiarity in the Philadelphian Mint is a frame-work for counting the number of pieces coined, by which ingenious contrivance—rendered necessary by Californian pressure—one man does the work of from twenty to thirty. The operation of weighing the several pieces of coin being of a delicate nature, it is confided to the hands of the fair sex, who occupy a room to themselves, where each daughter of Eve sits with the gravity of a Chancellor opposite a delicate pair of scales. Most parts of the establishment are open to the public from ten till two, and they are only excluded from those portions of the building where intrusion would impede the operations in progress.
This city, like most others in America, is liberally supplied with water. Magnificent basins are built in a natural mound at Fairmount, nearly opposite an old family mansion of the Barings, and the water is forced up into these basins from the river by powerful water-wheels, worked by the said river, which is dammed up for the purpose of obtaining sufficient fall, as the stream is sometimes very low.
Perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the most imposing sight in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, is "The Gerard College." So singular and successful a career as that of the founder deserves a slight record.
Stephen Gerard was born of French parents, at Bordeaux, the 21st of May, 1750, and his home—owing to his mother's place having soon been filled by a step-mother—appears to have left no pleasant reminiscences. At fourteen years of age he took to the sea. Subsequently, as master and part owner of a small vessel, he arrived, in the year 1777, at Philadelphia for the first time, and commenced business as a merchant; but it appears that in 1786, he took command of one of his own vessels, leaving the management of his mercantile house to his brother. Returning in 1788, he dissolved partnership with his brother, and bade a final adieu to the sea. In the year 1793, the yellow fever raged with fury at Philadelphia; as the ravage increased, the people fled aghast. A hospital was organized at Bush Hill, in the neighbourhood, but all was confusion, for none could be found to face the dreaded enemy, till Stephen Gerard and Peter Helm boldly volunteered their services at the risk of their lives. Stephen Gerard was married, but his wife was consigned to an asylum in 1790, after various ineffectual efforts for her cure; there she remained till her death, in 1815. His mercantile pursuits prospered in every direction, and he soon became one of the most wealthy and influential men in the community; he was possessed of a vigorous constitution, and was extremely regular and abstemious in his habits. In 1830 he was knocked down by a passing vehicle as he was crossing the street; by this accident he was severely injured in the head, from which he was slowly recovering, when, in 1831, he was seized with violent influenza, and ultimately pneumonia, of which he died, the 26th of December, aged eighty-one.
His character appears to have been a curious compound. The assiduity with which he amassed wealth, coupled with his abstemious habits, and his old knee-breeches patched all over—and still to be seen in the college—strongly bespoke the miser; while his contributions to public works, and his liberal transactions in money matters, led to an opposite conclusion; and from his noble conduct during the yellow fever it is reasonable to infer he was a humane man. I do not wish to judge people uncharitably, but, I must say, I can allow but little credit to a man who legacies the bulk of his fortune away from his relations when he can no longer enjoy it himself. Mr. Gerard had very many relatives; let us see how he provided for them. The resume of his will may be thus stated: he died worth 1,500,000l., and thus disposes of it:—
Erection and endowment of college L400,000 Different institutions of charity 23,200 To his relatives and next of kin 28,000 City of Philadelphia, for improvements 100,000 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for internal improvements 60,000 Sundry friends, &c. 13,000
The residue left to the city of Philadelphia, for improvement and maintenance of his college, the establishment of better police, and to improve the city and diminish taxation. Thus, out of a fortune of one million and a half, he leaves his relatives 28,000l. Charity, in this instance, can scarcely be said to have begun at home.
A certain increase of property to the amount of 60,000l. having taken place since the date of his will, a suit was instituted by the heirs-at-law to recover the same; in which, I am happy to say, they were successful.
Perhaps one of the most extraordinary clauses in his will is the following, viz.:—
"I enjoin and require that no ecclesiastic, missionary, or Minister of any sect whatsoever, shall ever hold or exercise any station or duty whatever in the said college; nor shall any such person ever be admitted for any purpose, or as a visitor, within the premises appropriated to the purposes of the said college."
The general design of the college is taken from the Madeleine. Thirty-four columns surround it, each column six feet in diameter and fifty feet high, made of marble, and weighing 103 tons, and costing when placed 2600l. Some idea of the massiveness of the building may be formed from the fact that, measuring 111 feet by 169 feet, and 59 of height, the weight of material employed is estimated at 76,594-1/2 tons. The effect of the whole is grand and graceful; and although as an orphan asylum much money has been needlessly turned from its charitable uses, as a building it does credit to the architect and all employed upon it, and is, beyond all comparison, the best specimen of architecture I have seen in the States.
The number of orphans receiving instruction is three hundred and one; they are cleanly and comfortably lodged, and well-boarded; their ages average from ten to fourteen and a half, and the upper classes of the school are taught conic sections, geometry, chemistry, natural philosophy, navigation, astronomy, mechanics, physical geography, &c.
While in the school vein, I visited one appropriated to four hundred free negroes, whom I found of all ages, from five to fifty, males and females being kept separate. The master told me that he found the boys tolerably sharp, but very cunning, and always finding some excuse for irregular attendance. The mistress said she found the girls very docile, and the parents very anxious, but too soon satisfied with the first stages of progress. The patience and pains I saw one of the teachers exhibiting in the process of enlightening the little woolly heads was most creditable.
Having finished the negro school, I got a letter to the principal of the High School, Professor Hart, by whom I was kindly shown over that admirable institution, which is also free; but, before proceeding to any observations on the High School, it may be interesting to know something of the entire provision for instruction which exists in the city and county of Philadelphia. The number of schools is 256, teachers 727, scholars 45,383. The teachers are principally females—646; of scholars, the males rather preponderate. The annual expense of these establishments is 66,500l., and the average cost of each pupil is 26s. No pupil can be admitted into the High School without producing satisfactory testimonials from the inferior schools, as well as passing the requisite examination; the consequence of this arrangement is a vast improvement in the inferior schools, as bad conduct there would effectually bar their entry to the High School. The average age of entry is fourteen, and a lad is required to stay five years before he can take his degree as Master of Arts, one indispensable requisite for which is moral character. The school numbers about 500 of all kinds and positions in society, from the hopes of the tinsmith to the heir of the toga'd judge.
The instruction is of so high an order that no private establishment can compete with it; in short, it may be said to embrace a very fair college education. Read the following list of professors: the Principal, who is also Professor of Moral, Mental, and Political Science; Professor of Practical Mathematics; of Theoretical Science and Astronomy; of History and Belles-Lettres; of Natural History; of Latin and Greek; of French and Spanish; of Drawing, Writing, and Book-keeping; of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy; and three assistants. The highest salary received by these professors is 270l. a-year, except that of Mr. Hart the Principal, which is 400l.; and in him all the responsibilities centre. This is the only school where I ever knew the old Saxon regularly taught. Instruction is given in various other studies not enumerated in the Professors' list; thus, in the class under the Professor of Natural History, botany, and anatomy, and such medical information as may be useful on any of the emergencies of every-day life are taught. No books are brought to this class; the instruction is entirely by lecture, and the subjects treated are explained by beautifully-executed transparencies, placed before a window by day, and before a bright jet of gas by night, and thus visible easily to all. The readiness with which I heard the pupils in this class answer the questions propounded to them showed the interest they took in the subject, and was a conclusive proof of the efficiency of the system of instruction pursued; they dived into the arcana of human and vegetable life with an ease that bore the most satisfactory testimony to the skill of the instructor and the attention of the pupils.
There is a plan adopted at this school which I never saw before, and which Professor Hart told me was most admirable in its results. At the end of every three-quarters of an hour all the doors and windows in the house are opened simultaneously; the bell is then rung twice: at the first sound, all lectures, recitations, and exercises cease, and the students put their books, caps, &c., in readiness to move; at the second sound, all the classes move simultaneously from the room in which they have been studying to the room in which the next course of study is to be followed. The building is so arranged, that in passing from one room to another, they have to pass through the court round the house. This operation takes three minutes, and is repeated about eight times a-day, during which intervals all the doors and windows are open, thus thoroughly ventilating the rooms; but there is a further advantage, which is thus described in the Report,—"These movements are found very useful in giving periodically a fresh impulse both to the bodies and to the minds of the students, and in interrupting almost mechanically the dull monotony which is apt to befall school hours." The Principal told me, that, from careful observation, he looked upon this as one of the most valuable regulations in the establishment, and that it was difficult to rate its advantages too highly, the freshness of mind which it brought infinitely outweighing any loss of time, interruption, &c. I spent three interesting hours in this admirable institution.
The next establishment I visited was of a very different description; i.e., the jail of solitary confinement. I much wished to have seen some of the prisoners who had been confined for a length of time, but from some informality in the letter I brought, the guardian did not feel authorized to break through the regulations. The prisoners are sometimes confined here for twelve years; they are kept totally separate, but they are allowed to occupy themselves at different trades, &c., in their cells. My guide told me he had never seen any of them become the least idiotic or light-headed from long confinement. Their cells were clean and airy, and some had a little eight-feet-square garden attached; their food was both plentiful and good, and discipline was preserved by the rod of diet; "but," says the guide, "if they become very troublesome and obstinate we" ... what d'ye think?... "give them a shower-bath;" criminals here seem to hate fresh water as much as the tenants of the poor-houses in England do. The jail seems very well adapted for escaping; but I suppose the rifle-armed sentries at the angles of the wall keep them in sufficient awe, as I was told they very rarely get away. The number confined was two hundred and eighty.
The last place I visited was the Lunatic Asylum, which appears admirably placed and admirably conducted. The situation commands a view of two public roads, where the bustle and stir of life are continually passing before their eyes, and with no visible fence intervening, the ground being so undulating and wooded as effectually to conceal the barrier. The grounds are pleasantly laid out in walks, gardens, hothouses, &c.; a comfortable reading-room and ten-pin alley[AF] are provided on each side, one for the males, the other for the females. The rooms and dormitories are large and airy, and carriages and horses are ready for such as the physician recommends should take that exercise. The comfort of the inmates appeared fully equal to that of any similar establishment I have visited, and the position far superior, for there was no visible barrier between them and the open country.
But Time says to the traveller what the policeman says to the gathering crowd, "Move on, if you please, sir; move on." Obey is the word. Kind friends are left behind, the kettle hisses, the iron horse snorts, the Hudson is passed, New York is gained, the journey is behind me, bread, butter, and Bohea before me. "Go on," says Time. The Charleston steamer, "James Adger," is bursting to be off. Introduced to the agents, they introduced me to the skipper. The skipper seems to think I am his father; he insists upon my occupying his cabin—a jolly room, big enough to polka in—fifteen feet square. Thanks, most excellent skipper, "may your shadow never be less"—it is substantial enough now. Do you ask why I go to New York from Philadelphia to reach Charleston? The reply is simple:—to avoid the purgatory of an American railway, and to enjoy the life-giving breezes "that sweep o'er the ocean wave." The skipper was a regular trump; the service was clean, and we fed like fighting-cocks. The weather was fine, the ship a clipping good one, passengers few, but with just enough 'bacco-juice flying about the decks to remind me where I was.
One of our company was a charming rarity in his way. He was an Irish Yankee, aged eighty-three. A more perfect Paddy never existed; and so, of course, he talked about fighting, and began detailing to me the various frays in which "we whipt the Britishers." By way of chaffing him, I said, "No wonder; they were Anglo-Saxon blood, brought their courage from England, and were not only fighting at home, but with a halter round their necks." The old veteran got furious, cursed England and the Saxon blood, from Harold to the present hour; he then proved to his own satisfaction that all the great men in America, and all the soldiers, were Celts. "It was the Celts, sir, that whipt the Britishers; and, ould as I am, sure I'd like to take 20,000 men over to the ould counthree, and free it from the bloodthirsty villins, the Saxon brutes." If poor O'Brien had had half the fire of this old Yankee Paddy, he never would have been caught snoozing among the old widow's cabbages. I really thought the old gentleman would have burst outright, or collapsed from reaction; but it passed over like a white squall, and left the original octogenarian calm behind. The darkness of the third evening has closed in upon us, the struggling stream is bellowing for release, hawsers are flying about, boys running from them, and men after them; the good "James Adger" is coquetting about with those well-known young ladies, the Misses "Bakkur and Ternahed;" James seems determined to enjoy it for an unusually prolonged period this evening; but, like everything else, it must have an end, and at last good James lies snugly in his berth, alongside the wharf at Charleston. Cabmen and touters offer an infinity of services; passengers radiate—my Yankee Paddy, it is to be hoped, went to an ice-saloon. Your humble servant went to a boarding-house kept by a most worthy old lady, but where flies occupied one half the house, and the filthiest negro-boys the other. Several respectable people, out of regard to the old lady, were performing the penance of residing in her house: a trip on hot ashes from Dan to Beersheba would have been luxury by comparison. I resigned myself and got reconciled, as I saw the sincere desire of the dear old girl to make me as comfortable as she could; and by learning to eat my meals with my eyes shut, I got on tolerably well. But scarce had I set foot in this establishment which I have been describing, ere kind friends sprang up to greet me and offer me the use of their club-room, which was just opposite my boarding-house; and as this was only the prelude to endless other civilities, my lodging saw very little of me; which may be easily imagined, when it is recollected how famous Charleston is, not only for the good living which it affords, but for the liberal hospitality with which it is dispensed. A letter to one gentleman becomes, like magic, an "Open Sesame" to all the cellars and society in the place; and the only point in dispute is, who can show you most kindness.
The town is conveniently situated between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, with a population of 25,000 whites and the same number of blacks; it is a mixture of all that is lovely and annoying. The houses have mostly little gardens attached to them, sparkling with tropical flowers, and the streets are shaded with avenues of trees. This is all very lovely to look upon; but when you go out to enjoy a stroll, if the air is still, a beefsteak would frizzle on the crown of your hat; and if there is the slightest breeze, the sandy dust, like an Egyptian khamseen, laughs at all precautions, blinding your eyes, stuffing your nose, filling your mouth, and bringing your hide to a state which I can find no other comparison for but that of a box intended to represent a stone pedestal, and which, when the paint has half dried, is sprinkled with sand to perfect the delusion. Thus you can understand the lovely and the annoying of which I have spoken. When the inhabitants wish to take a drive, there is a plank road about six miles long, which enables them to enjoy this luxury. If they are not content with this road, they must seek their pleasure with the carriages up to their axles in sand. There are three old royalist buildings still standing—viz., the Episcopal church, the Court-house, and the Exchange. The first reminds one warmly of the dear old parish church in England, with its heavy oak pulpit and the square family pews, and it sobers the mind as it leads the memory to those days when, if the church was not full of activity, it was not full of strife—when parishioners were not brought to loggerheads as to the colour of the preacher's gown—when there was no triangular duel (vide Marryat) as to candles, no candles, and lit candles—when, in short, if there was but moderate zeal about the substance, there was no quarrelling about the shadows of religion; and if we were not blessed with the zeal of a Bennet, we were not cursed with the strife of a Barnabas. At the time the colonists kicked us out of this place, by way of not going empty-handed, we bagged the church-bells as a trophy—(query, is not robbing a church sacrilege?)—and they eventually found their way into a merchant's store in England, where they remained for years. Not long since, having been ferreted out, they were replaced in their original position, and now summon the Republicans of the nineteenth century to their devotions as lustily as they did the Royalists in the eighteenth. There is nothing remarkable in the two other buildings, except their antiquity, and the associations arising therefrom.[AG]
One of the most striking sights here is the turn-out of the Fire Companies on any gala day. They consist of eight companies, of one hundred each; their engines are brilliantly got up, and decorated tastefully with flowers; banners flying; the men, in gay but business-like uniform, dragging their engines about, and bands playing away joyously before them. The peculiarity of the Charleston firemen is that, instead of being composed of all the rowdies of the town, as is often the case in the large eastern cities, they are, generally speaking, the most respectable people in the community. This may partly be accounted for by the militia service being so hard, and the fines for the neglect of the same so heavy, from which all those serving in the Fire Companies are exempt.[AH] The South Carolinians, in anticipation of any insurrection among the negroes, or in case of being driven into secession by success attending the efforts of the Abolitionists, have very prudently established a little miniature West Point institution,[AI] where lads from fifteen to twenty receive a thorough military education, and then retire into private life and follow any pursuits they choose. By this means the nucleus of military officers requisite for an army is obtained, and the frequent drilling of the militia forms a solid groundwork for that latter, should the hour of necessity unfortunately arrive. The gay time of Charleston is during the races, which take place in February, and have a considerable reputation, although, perhaps, not quite so high as they had some few years back. I have never seen any of their racing studs; but, as they import from England some of the finest stallions that come into the market, and as the breed of horse in America is very active and enduring, their racers, it is to be presumed, make a very good show.
Having impregnated my system with turtle, terrapin, mint-julep, and Madeira—the latter such as only America can show—I bade adieu to my kind and hospitable friends, and started for Virginia. The first part of the journey—i.e., as far as Wilmington—I performed in a wretched little steamer, anything but seaworthy, with horrid cribs, three one above the other, to sleep in, and a motley mixture of passengers, as usual. No particular incident occurred; and having fine weather, we escaped wrecking or putting back. On ascending the river to Wilmington, you see royal—I beg pardon, republican—sturgeons jumping about in all directions, and of all sizes, from three to five feet in length. We reached the town in time to catch the train, and off we started. When about six miles on our journey, a curious motion of the carriages, added to their "slantingdicular" position and accompanied by a slight scream, proclaimed that we were off the rails. Thank God! no lives were lost or limbs broken. The first person that I saw jump from the train was a Spanish colonel, who shot out with an activity far beyond his years, hugging to his bosom a beloved fiddle, which was the joy of his heart, and about the safety of which he was evidently as anxious as about his own. He sat down by the side of the carriages, a ludicrous picture of alarm and composure combined. He was on his way to England with the intention of presenting some musical compositions to the Queen, and possibly had a floating idea he might do a bit of Paganini before Her Gracious Majesty. Gradually, all the party unkenneled; and it was then discovered that, had we run off the rails a few yards further on, we should have had a nasty cropper down a thirty-feet bank; fortunately, we ran off on the level, and merely stuck in the sand.
Upon inquiry as to the cause of the accident, I ascertained that it was in consequence of a point for turning off on to another set of rails being broken. Upon examining the said point, I found it was as worn and rotten as time could make it. I mentioned this to the engineer, who told me he was perfectly aware of it, and had reported it to the superintendent a fortnight before, but that he—the superintendent—had guessed it would do very well for some time yet; consequently, the engineer always went slower when approaching the spot, to avoid, if possible, an accident. By this precaution we had been saved the capsize over the bank, which otherwise would inevitably have been our fate. Thus, for the sake of twenty shillings, they had smashed an engine, doing damage to the amount of twenty pounds at least, besides risking the lives of all the passengers. What was to be done? There was nothing for it but to go back to Wilmington, chew the cud of disgust, and hope the rascally superintendent might break every bone in his body the first favourable opportunity. This done, and a night's rest over, we again tempted fate, and continued our journey, which for a long time ran through large pine-forests, every member of which community was a victim of laceration, inflicted on him for the purpose of drawing off his life's blood, which dribbled into a box at the root, and, when full, was carried off to make turpentine.
Arrived at Peterborough, we found the population so far behind the American age, that they would not allow a railroad to pass through their town; we were consequently constrained to shift into omnibuses, and drive some three miles to the station on the other side. As this trip was peculiarly barren of incident, it may gratify the reader to be informed, that in the confusion of shifting from one station to the other I lost my best and only hat. I hope this simple record will be received as conclusive evidence of the monotony and dullness of the journey. I do not mention it to excite sympathy, for I am happy to say that I have since purchased a new and a better one; and in case my old one is found, I hereby will and bequeath the same to the mayor of Peterborough, his heirs and successors, hoping that they may wear no other until a railroad round or through the town connects the termini. Again we mount the iron horse—time flies—light mingles with darkness—and at nine o'clock I alight at the Royal Exchange Hotel, Richmond. Soap and water, tea and bed, follow in quick succession, and then comes the land of dreams and oblivion.
Richmond is a lovely spot, situated on the northern bank of James River, one hundred and fifty miles from the sea, and is the capital of Virginia. It contains nearly 30,000 inhabitants of whom 1000 are slaves. Being built upon several hills, it is free from the eternal sameness of level and regularity of lines which tire the eye so much in New York, Philadelphia, &c., and its site resembles more that of Boston or Baltimore. The James River is navigable for small vessels as high as Richmond; but just above the town there is a barrier which arrests alike the navigator's course and the traveller's eye. This barrier is called the Rapids, and is a most beautiful feature in the scenery.
The Rapids are about three-quarters of a mile in extent, having a fall of more than one hundred feet in that distance. The stream is broad, and interspersed with endless little wooded islands and rocks, around and above which it dashes the spray and foam in its impetuous descent. The climate is lovely, the atmosphere pearly; and when, from the height above, you look down upon the panorama spread beneath your feet, it recalls to the mind the beautiful view so many of us must have frequently been entranced with, while inhaling the meditative weed and strolling along Richmond-terrace on a summer afternoon, gazing on old Father Thames glowing in the rays of a setting sun, and looking doubly bright from the sombre shade of the venerable timber which fringes the margin of this sluggish stream. Pardon this digression; those only who have wandered so far away can feel the indefinite, indescribable pleasure with which one grasps at anything that recals the home of one's affections, the scenes of early days, and the dear friends who are still enjoying them.
The best place for reviewing the Rapids is from the drive leading to the Cemetery, which here, as in most large American towns, is one of the prettiest spots in the neighbourhood; but the Rapids are not only ornamental, they are eminently useful. They afford a water-power to several mills, one of which, the Gallego Flour-Mill, is a splendid establishment, six stories high, nearly one hundred feet square, and capable of sending out daily 1200 barrels of flour. The flour is of very superior quality, the brand fetching a higher price than that of most others in the country. There are also rolling-mills, cotton and tobacco factories; the latter of course in great quantities, as tobacco is one of the chief products of the state, and rapidly increasing. The produce entered in Richmond, which in 1851 was under 16,000 hogsheads, in 1852 amounted to more than 24,000, and is now very probably above 30,000. Virginia has the honour of being the first State that raised cotton, the cultivation whereof was commenced in the year 1662.
Let us pass on to the hill at the eastern extremity of the city, commanding a panoramic view of the river below the town, and all the surrounding country. One spot arrests the attention, a spot closed with the deepest and most romantic interest. A solitary tree, to which no sacrilegious hand has yet dared to apply the axe, stands a few miles down the river, on the same side as the town, and marks the site of the lodge of the venerable old chieftain, Powhattan, when as yet the colony was in its infancy, and when the Indian and the white man—the spoiler and the spoiled—were looking at each other with mutual distrust, deep fear on one side and dark foreboding on the other. The Indian is no more; and nought remains as a memorial of this chief who once ruled this fertile land with absolute sway, except this solitary tree;—and what an episode in the history of colonization does that tree recal! Who can forget that, when despair was the Colonists' daily bread, when nought but the energy and genius of Smith—a man of very ordinary name, but of no ordinary character—kept hope flickering in its socket, an attack of Indians made him a prisoner, and left them hopeless. Then, how romantic the tale of his captivity! He betrayed no fear, but retained perfect self-possession; and remembering how easy their superstitious minds could be worked upon, he drew forth, and with great solemnity commenced looking steadily at his pocket-compass, and thence to heaven, alternating between the two, until he impressed them with a feeling of awe, as though he were a superior being communing with the Great Spirit. This feeling gradually wearing off, the captors insisted upon his death, as an expiation for the many injuries they had experienced at the hands of the whites. The tribe meet, the block is prepared, the captive's neck is laid ready, the upraised tomahawk, held by a brawny Indian arm, whose every muscle quivers with revenge, glitters in the sunbeams; swarthy figures around, thirsting for blood, anxiously await the sacrifice of the victim, already too long delayed. Hope has fled from the captive's breast, and he is communing in earnest with the Great Spirit into whose presence he is about to be so sadly and speedily ushered. Suddenly a shriek is heard! At that well-known voice the savage arm falls helpless at its side, as, stretched upon the neck of the despairing captive, lies the lovely daughter of Powhattan, with tearful eye, and all the wild energy of her race, vowing she will not survive the butchery of her kindest friend. Ruthless hands would tear her away, and complete the bloody tragedy. Who dares lay even a finger upon the noble daughter of their adored chief? They stand abashed, revenge and doubt striving in their hearts; the eloquence of love and mercy pleading irresistibly from the eyes of Pocahontas. The tomahawk, upraised by man's revenge for the work of a captive's death, descends, when moved by woman's tears, to cut a captive's bonds.
Callous indeed must that man's heart be, who can gaze upon the spot where the noble Pocahontas—reared among savages, 'mid the solemn grandeur of the forest, and beneath, the broad canopy of heaven, with no Gospel light to guide and soften—received the holy impulses of love and mercy fresh from her Maker's hand; and how gratifying to remember, that she who had thus early imbibed these sacred feelings, became soon after a convert to Christianity. Alas! how short her Christian career. Marrying Mr. J. Rolfe, she died in childbirth ere she had reached her twenty-fifth year, and from her many of the oldest families in Virginia at this day have their origin. Virginia, as is well known, has always been considered an aristocratic State; and it is a kind of joke—in allusion to this Indian origin—for other States to speak disparagingly of the F.F.Vs.—alias first families of Virginia. Let those who sneer, seek carefully amid their musty ancestral rolls for a nobler heart than that of Pocahontas, the joy of Powhattan's house and the pride of all his tribe. How strange, that a scene so well known as the foregoing, and a life so adventurous as that of Smith, has never yet engaged the pen of a Cooper or a Bulwer!
One of my friends in New York had given me a letter to a gentleman in Richmond, at whose house I called soon after my arrival, as my stay was necessarily short. He was out in the country, at his plantation. This disappointment I endeavoured to rectify by enclosing the letter; but when I had done so, Sambo could not tell me how to address it, as he was in ignorance both of the place and its distance. In this dilemma, and while ransacking my brain-box how to remedy the difficulty, a lady came in, and having passed me, Sambo—grinning through a chevaux-de-frise of snow-white ivories—informed me that was "his Missus." I instantly sent the letter in to her to receive its direction, and in lieu of my letter received an immediate summons to walk in. Nothing could be more lady-like and cordial than the reception she gave me. Shy as I am, she immediately put me quite at my ease; in less than a quarter of an hour I felt I was in the society of an old friend; and during my stay in Richmond, each day found me in the same snug corner of the sofa, near the fire, enjoying the society of one of the most amiable and agreeable ladies it has ever been my good fortune to meet. The husband soon returned from the plantation, and then all the hospitalities of the house were as much at my disposal as if it had been my own, and one or the other of these kind friends, if not both, daily lionized me over Richmond or its neighbourhood. I feel sure, that any of my countrymen who have visited this city when Mr. and Mrs. Stanard were staying in town, will readily hear testimony to their kind hospitality and agreeable society.
There are various public buildings here, among the most conspicuous of which is the Capitol, built in the great public square, and from its summit commanding a splendid panoramic view. There are also about thirty churches, one of which, the Monumental Church—which is Episcopalian—stands upon ground of melancholy recollections; for here, in 1811, stood the theatre, which during that year was utterly consumed by a fire, in which the governor and scores of other human beings perished. One great cause of the destruction of life was, having the doors of the building fitted to open inwards—a custom, the folly of which is only equalled by its universality. At the cry of fire, the rush to the doors was so great that it was impossible to open them, owing to the pressure. The only avenues of escape were the windows, in retreating through which, the greater number of those few who succeeded in escaping suffered the most serious injuries. How is this absurd practice of doors opening inwards to be stopped? What think you if Insurance Companies would combine, and make people forfeit their insurance if they entered any public building whose doors were so fitted; or perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer might bring in a bill to levy a very heavy tax on all public buildings the doors of which opened in this dangerous manner, and containing a stringent clause compelling managers and all parties concerned to support the widows and orphans, and pay the doctors' fees, arising from accidents caused therefrom. Alas! I fear until—as Sydney Smith would say—we reduce a few cabinet ministers and a leading member or two of the House of Peers to cinders, we shall go on in our folly, because our ancestors did so before us.
Among other places I went to was the public billiard-room, and on entering, my sympathies were immediately aroused by seeing a lad about thirteen or fourteen, with a very extensive flaming choker on, above which was a frightful large swelling. Not being a medical man, I was very much puzzled when I saw the said swelling move about like a penny roll in a monkey's cheek; presently the sympathy fled, and the puzzle was solved, as a shower of 'bacco juice deluged the floor. Poor boy! it must have taken him an hour's hard work to have got the abominable mass in, and it could only have been done by instalments: the size it had reached would have broken any jaw to remove in the lump; but he seemed to have no idea of parting with his treasure, which, to do him justice, he rolled about with as much ease as if he had had a monkey-teacher before him from his cradle; nor did it prevent his betting away in a style that quite astonished a steady old gentleman like myself.
The State of Virginia, like all the other States of the Union, is undergoing the increasing pressure of democracy:[AJ] one of its features—which is peculiarly obnoxious to the more sober-minded of the community—is the new arrangement for the division of the electoral districts, and which goes by the name of "Gerymander." In the early days of the Republic, all divisions were made by straight lines, or as near straight as possible; but that fair and natural mode of division is not considered by the autocratic democracy as sufficiently favourable to their views; and the consequence is, that other divisions have been substituted, most irregular in shape, so as if possible to annihilate entirely the already weakened opposition. This operation, my informant told me, acquired a kind of celebrity in Massachusetts some years ago; and, in the discussions upon the subject in their State legislature, one of the speakers is said to have compared some of these arbitrary divisions to a salamander which, in their outline they somewhat resembled. The governor of the State was of the democratic party, and therefore supporting and encouraging these changes, and his name was "Gery;" so a wag interrupted the speaker, exclaiming, "Don't say salamander; call it Gerymander,"—by which name it has been known since that day.
I may here as well mention a little occurrence I witnessed, which, however pleasant it may have been to the democratic rowdies enacting it, must have been anything but agreeable to those operated upon. A fire company was out trying its engine and hoses, and followed of course by a squad of the idle and unwashed. Arrived at the market-place, they tried its range; that appeared satisfactory enough; but the idea seems to have struck the man who held the hose-end, that range without good aim was useless: he accordingly looked round for a target, and a glass coach passing by at the time, it struck him as peculiarly suited for his experiment. Two elderly females were inside, and a white Jehu on the box. In the most deliberate manner he pointed his weapon, amidst encouraging shouts from bystanders, and increasing zeal on the part of the pumpers; lucidly the windows were closed, or the ladies would have been drenched; as it was, the gushing stream rattled against the carriage, then fixed itself steadily upon poor Jehu, frightening the horses and nearly knocking him off the box. Naturally enough Jehu was highly incensed, and pulled up; then getting off the box, he walked up to his assailants, who received him with shouts of laughter; the horses, left without a ruler, started off at a gallop, Jehu ran after them, but luckily another person and myself rushed up, and stopped them before any accident occurred.
All this took place at noonday, and not a voice was raised against it. If I had presumed to interfere with this liberty of the subject, the chances are I should have been tied to one of the posts of the market-place and made to stand target for an hour. It must be a charming thing when the masses rule supreme. Fancy St. James's-street, upon a drawing-room day, full of a pleasant little water-dispensing community such as this;—what cheers they would raise as a good shot took off some Jarvy's cocked-hat and bob-wig, or sent his eighteen-inch-diameter bouquet flying into the street!—then what fun to play upon the padded calves and silk stockings of Patagonian John, as he stood behind!—and only imagine the immense excitement, if by good luck they could smash some window and deluge a live aristocrat! What a nice thing a pure democracy must be! how the majority must enjoy themselves! how the minority must rejoice at the mild rule of bone over brain! What a glorious idea, equality! only excelled by that gigantic conception of Messrs. Cobden and Co., yclept the Peace Society, upon which such a bloody comment was enacted before Sevastopol.
[Footnote AD: General Cadwallader, whose hospitality is well known to all strangers visiting Philadelphia.]
[Footnote AE: Alas! she has since met a melancholy death, being accidentally poisoned in Mexico, on the 18th of June, 1854; but her fame is as imperishable as her life was stainless.]
[Footnote AF: The origin of ten-pins is amusing enough, and is as follows:—The State having passed an act, during a time when religious fervour was at high pressure, prohibiting nine-pin alleys, a tenth pin was added, and the law evaded. In the meantime, high pressure went below the boiling point, and the ten-pin alley remains to this day, an amusement for the people, and a warning to indiscreet legislators.]
[Footnote AG: The commercial prosperity of South Carolina appears to be increasing steadily, if not rapidly. The cotton produce was—
In 1847. In 1852. Bales, main land 336,562 472,338 Ditto, sea islands 13,529 20,500 ———- ———- Total 350,091 492,838 ———- ———-
Rice in 1847 146,260 tierces. Do. in 1852 137,497 ditto.
The average value of the bale (450lbs.) of main land cotton is from 6l. to 8l. sterling; of the sea-island cotton, from 30l to 36l. sterling. The average price of a tierce of rice (600lbs.) is from 3l. 5s. to 4l.]
[Footnote AH: Independent of the enormous charge of fifty per cent. on the taxes you pay, there is also a small fine for each parade missed.]
[Footnote AI: Vide chapter on "Military Education."]
[Footnote AJ: Vide chapter on "The Constitution."]
From a River to a Racecourse.
Having enjoyed as much of the hospitalities of my kind friends as time permitted, I obtained a letter of introduction, and, embarking in a steamer, started for Williamsburg, so called after King William III. On our way down, we picked up as healthy and jolly a set of little ducks in their 'teens as one could wish to see. On inquiring what this aggregate of rosy cheeks and sunny smiles represented, I was informed they were the sum total of a ladies' school at Williamsburg—and a very charming sum total they were. Having a day's holiday, they had come up by the early steamer to pic-nic on the banks, and were now returning to chronology and crotchet-work, or whatever else their studies might be. Landing at King's Mills, a "'bus" took us all up to Williamsburg, a distance of three or four miles, one half of which was over as dreary a road as need be, and the other through a shady forest grove.
This old city is composed of a straight street, at one end of which is the establishment occupied by the rosy cheeks of whom we have been speaking, and which is very neat and clean-looking; at the other end—only with half a mile of country intervening—is the college. On each side of the said street is a crescent of detached houses, with a common before them. The population is 1500, and has not varied—as far as I could learn—in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. I naturally felt very much interest in visiting this place, as it was originally the seat of the royal government, and my grandfather had been the last governor of the state. The body of the old palace was burnt down by accident, while occupied by French troops, in 1782. The foundations, which were six feet thick, are still traceable, although most of the bricks have been used for the buildings in the neighbourhood. The outlines of the old garden and its terraces may also be traced, and a very charming spot it must have been. There are two beautiful lime-trees in a thriving state, which, I was told, he had planted himself from seeds he had brought from home. His thoughts were evidently on that far-off home when he planted them; for, as to position relatively to each other and distance from the old palace, they precisely coincide with two beneath which many of my early days were passed, at the old family mansion of Glenfinarl, on Loch Fine, which has since become the property of Mr. Douglas.
There is an old ditch in the neighbourhood, which goes by the name of Lord Dunmore's Ditch. The history which my informant gave me thereof is absurd enough, and there is a negro of the name of Isaac still living who remembers all the circumstances. It appears that Lord Dunmore, having found fault with an Irish labourer for not doing sufficient work, Paddy replied, "'Faith, if 'twas yer 'onnur that had the shpade in yer hand, maybe one-half would satisfy yer 'onnur." The Governor, who happened to be a man of iron frame, and not at all averse to a joke, immediately took up Paddy's challenge, and replied, "Paddy, I'll work four hours against you in a ditch for a month's wages." The combatants set to work the following morning, and at the end of four hours Paddy was obliged to confess himself beaten, and the result of my grandfather's labours goes by the name of Lord Dunmore's Ditch to this day.
The only parts of the old palace still standing are the two wings, one of which is now the parsonage, and the other a school, which is kept by an Englishman, educated at one of our universities, and living here for his health. This place is both a well-chosen and a favourite locality for schools, being situated upon a high plateau of land, with James River on one side and York River on the other; consequently, the air is peculiarly healthy and pure.
The most imposing, if not the most useful, of the scholastic establishments is the college, which was founded by William and Mary in the year 1692. It contains a very fair library of old books, but comparatively few additions appear to have been made in latter years. The building bears every internal mark of neglect and dilapidation, defaced walls, broken plaster, &c. Upon entering the lecture-room, a quantity of eighteen-inch square boxes full of moisture suggest the idea of a rainy day and a roofless chamber. Be not deceived: these are merely receptacles for the discharge of the students' 'bacco juice; and the surrounding floor gives painful demonstration that their free spirits scorn the trammels of eighteen-inch boundaries, however profusely supplied. From what causes I cannot say, but the college has been all but deserted until lately. The present authorities are striving to infuse into it a little vitality of usefulness. With these simple facts before me, it was amusing to read, in an American gazetteer of the day, that the college "is at present in a flourishing condition."
In front of the college there is an enclosed green, and in the centre a statue, erected in honour of one of the old royal governors, Berkeley, Lord Bowtetort. Whether from a desire to exhibit their anti-aristocratic sentiments, or from innate Vandalism, or from a childish wish to exhibit independence by doing mischief, the said statue is the pistol-mark for the students, who have exhibited their skill as marksmen by its total mutilation, in spite of all remonstrances from the authorities. The college was formerly surrounded by magnificent elms, but a few years since a blight came which destroyed every one of them, leaving the building in a desert-like nakedness. The inn at Williamsburg is a miserable building, but it is kept by as kind-hearted, jolly old John-Bull-looking landlord as ever was seen, and who rejoices in the name of Uncle Ben. Meat is difficult to get at, as there are no butchers; the cream and butter are, however, both plentiful and excellent. The house is almost entirely overshadowed by one magnificent elm, which has fortunately escaped the blight that annihilated nearly all its fellows.
After the hustle of most American cities, there was to me an unspeakable charm in the quiet of this place. Sitting at the inn-door, before you lies the open green, with its daisies and buttercups; horses and cattle are peaceably grazing; in the background are the remaining wings of the old palace; to your left stands the old village church, built with bricks brought from England, and long since mellowed by the hand of time, around which the clinging ivy throws the venerable mantle of its dark and massive foliage. Now, the summoning church-bell tolls its solemn note; school children, with merry laugh and light step, cross the common; the village is astir, and a human tide is setting towards its sacred portals: all, all speaks to the heart and to the imagination of happy days and happy scenes in a far-off land. You close your eyes, the better to realize the dream which fancy is painting. When they open upon the reality again, the illusion is dispelled by the sight of a brawny negro, with a grin on his face which threatens to split his ears, jogging merrily along the street with a huge piece of sturgeon for his Sunday feast. My friends, however, left me little time to indulge in a contemplative mood, for good old Madeira, a hearty welcome, and a stroll about and around the place, filled up the day; while the fragrant weed and the social circle occupied no small portion of the evening. Having spent a few but very pleasant days here, I took leave of my hospitable friends—not forgetting that jovial soul, Uncle Ben; then embarking in a steamer, and armed with a solitary letter of introduction, I started off to visit a plantation on the banks of James River.
A planter's home, like the good Highland laird's, seems made of India rubber. Without writing to inquire whether the house is full, or your company agreeable, you consider the former improbable and the latter certain. When you approach your victim, a signal is thrown out; the answer is a boat; in you get, bag and baggage; you land at the foot of his lawn or of some little adjoining pier, and thus apparently force yourself upon his hospitality. Reader, if it is ever your good fortune to be dropped with a letter of introduction at Shirley, one glance from the eye of the amiable host and hostess, accompanied by a real shake of the hand, satisfy you beyond doubt you are truly and heartily welcome. A planter's house on James River reminds one in many ways of the old country. The building is old, the bricks are of the brownest red, and in many places concealed by ivy of colonial birth; a few venerable monarchs of the forest throw their ample shade over the greensward, which slopes gently down to the water. The garden, the stables, the farm-yard, the old gates, the time-honoured hues of everything,—all is so different from the new facing and new painting which prevails throughout the North, that you feel you are among other elements; and if you go inside the house, the thoughts also turn homeward irresistibly as the eye wanders from object to object. The mahogany table and the old dining-room chairs, bright with that dark ebony polish of time which human ingenuity vainly endeavours to imitate; the solid bookcases, with their quaint gothic-windowly-arranged glass-doors, behind which, in calm and dusty repose, lie heavy patriarchal-looking tomes on the lower shelves, forming a sold basis above which to place lighter and less scholastic literature; an arm-chair, that might have held the invading Caesar, and must have been second-hand in the days of the conquering William; a carpet, over whose chequered face the great Raleigh might have strolled in deep contemplation; a rug, on whose surface generations of spinsters might have watched the purrings of their pet Toms or gazed on the glutinous eyes and inhaled the loaded breeze that came from the fat and fragrant Pug: whichever way the eye turned, whatever direction the imagination took, the conviction forced upon the mind was, that you were in an inheritance, and that what the wisdom and energy of one generation had gathered together, succeeding generations had not yet scattered to the winds by the withering blast of infinitesimal division. With the imagination thus forcibly filled with home and its associations, you involuntarily feel disposed to take a stroll on the lawn; but on reaching the door, your ears are assailed by wild shouts of infantine laughter, and, raising your eyes, you behold a dozen little black imps skylarking about in every direction, their fat faces, bright eyes, and sunny smiles beaming forth joyousness and health. Home and its varying visions fly at the sight, giving place to the reality that you are on a slave plantation. Of the slaves I shall say nothing here beyond the general fact that they appeared healthy, well fed, and well clothed on all the plantations I visited. Having enjoyed the hospitalities of Shirley for a few days, it was agreed that I should make a descent upon another property lower down the river. So, bidding adieu to my good friends at Shirley, I embarked once more on the steamer, and was landed at the pier of Brandon, in the most deluging rain imaginable. A walk of a quarter of a mile brought me to the door like a drowned rat, a note from my Shirley friends secured me an immediate and cordial welcome.
Brandon is perhaps the plantation which is more thoroughly kept up than any other on the James River, and which consequently has altered less. I am alluding now to the house and grounds about, not to the plantation at large; for I believe the proprietor at Shirley is reckoned A1 as a farmer. I have before alluded to the blight which destroyed so many fine elms on both shores of the James River. The withering insect appeared at Brandon; but the lady of the house soon proved that she knew the use of tobacco as well as the men, by turning a few hogsheads of the said weed into water, making thereby a murderous decoction, with which, by the intervention of a fire-engine, she utterly annihilated the countless hosts of the all-but invisible enemy, and thus saved some of the finest elms I ever saw in my life, under the shade of which the old family mansion had enjoyed shelter from many a summer's sun. Brandon is the only place I visited where the destroyer had not left marks of his ravages. The lawn is beautifully laid out, and in the style of one of our country villas of the olden time, giving every assurance of comfort and every feeling of repose. The tropical richness and brightness of leaf and flower added an inexpressible charm to them, as they stood out in bold relief against the pure and cloudless air around, so different from that indistinct outline which is but too common in our moist atmosphere. Then there was the graceful and weeping willow, the trembling aspen, the wild ivy, its white bloom tinged as with maiden's blush; the broad-leafed catalpa; the magnolia, rich in foliage and in flower; while scattered around were beds of bright and lovely colours. The extremes of this charming view were bounded, either by the venerable mansion over whose roof the patriarchal elms of which we have been speaking threw their cool and welcome shade, or by the broad stream whose bosom was ever and anon enlivened with some trim barque or rapid-gliding steamer, and whose farther shore was wooded to the water's edge. There is one of the finest China rose-trees here I ever beheld; it covers a space of forty feet square, being led over on trellis-work, and it might extend much beyond that distance: it is one mass of flowers every year. Unfortunately, I was a week too late to see it in its glory; but the withered flowers gave ample evidence how splendid it must have been.
In one of my drives, I went to see an election which took place in the neighbourhood. The road for some distance lay through a forest full of magnificent timber; but, like most forest timber, that which gives it a marketable value destroys its picturesque effect. A few noble stems—however poor their heads—have a fine effect when surrounded by others which have had elbow-room; but a forest of stems, with Lilliputian heads—great though the girth of the stem may be—conveys rather the idea of Brobdingnagian piles driven in by giants, and exhibiting the last flickerings of vitality in a few puny sprouts at their summit. The underwood was enlivened by shrubs of every shade and hue, the wild flowering ivy predominating. The carriage-springs were tested by an occasional drop of the wheels into a pit-hole, on merging from which you came sometimes to a hundred yards of rut of dimensions similar to those of military approaches to a citadel; nevertheless, I enjoyed my drive excessively. The place of election was a romantic spot near a saw-mill, at the edge of what, in a gentleman's park in England, would be called a pretty little lake, styled in America a small pond. As each party arrived, the horse was hitched to the bough of some tree, and the company divided itself into various knots; a good deal of tobacco was expended in smoke and juice; there was little excitement; all were jolly and friendly; and, in short, the general scene conveyed the idea of a gathering together for field-preaching; but that was speedily replaced by the idea of a pleasant pic-nic of country farmers, as a dashing charge was made by the whole posse comitatus upon a long table which was placed under a fine old elm, and lay groaning beneath the weight of substantial meat and drink. As for drunkenness, they were all as sober as washerwomen. So much for a rural election-scene in Virginia.
By way of making time pass agreeably, it was proposed to take a sail in a very nice yacht, called "The Breeze," which belonged to a neighbouring planter. We all embarked, in the cool of the evening, and the merry laugh would soon have told you the fair sex was fairly represented. Unfortunately, the night was so still that not a breath rippled the surface of the river, except as some inquisitive zephyr came curling along the stream, filling us with hope, and then, having satisfied its curiosity, suddenly disappeared, as though in mockery of our distress. The name of the yacht afforded ample field for punning, which was cruelly taken advantage of by all of us; and if our cruise was not a long one, at all events it was very pleasant, and full of fun and frolic. Pale Cinthia was throwing her soft and silvery light over the eastern horizon before we landed.
Walking up the lawn, the scene was altogether lovely; the fine trees around were absolutely alive with myriads of fire-flies. These bright and living lights, darting to and fro 'mid the dark foliage, formed the most beautiful illumination imaginable—at one time clustering into a ball of glowing fire, at another streaking away in a line of lightning flame; then, bursting into countless sparks, they would for a moment disappear in the depths of their sombre bower, to come forth again in some more varied and more lovely form.
Pleasant indeed were the hours I passed here; lovely was the climate, beautiful was the landscape, hearty was the welcome: every day found some little plan prepared to make their hospitality more pleasant to the stranger; nature herself seemed to delight in aiding their efforts, for though I arrived in a deluge, I scarce ever saw a cloud afterwards. As the morning light stole through my open window in undimmed transparency, the robin, the blue-bird, the mocking-bird, the hosts of choral warblers, held their early oratorio in the patriarchal elms. If unskilled in music's science, they were unfettered by its laws, and hymned forth their wild and varied notes as though calling upon man to admire and adore the greatness and the goodness of his Maker, and to
"Shake off dull sloth, and early rise, To pay his morning sacrifice."
If such were their appeal, it was not made in vain; for both morning and evening—both here and at Shirley—every member and visitor gathered round the family altar, the services of which were performed with equal cheerfulness and reverence. I felt as if I could have lingered on and on in this charming spot, and amid such warm hospitality, an indefinite period; it was indeed with sincere regret I was obliged to bid adieu to my agreeable hosts, and once more embark on board the steamer.
The river James lacks entirely those features that give grandeur to scenery; the river, it is true, by its tortuous windings, every now and then presents a broad sheet of water; the banks are also prettily wooded; but there is a great sameness, and a total absence of that mountain scenery so indispensable to grandeur. The only thing that relieves the eye is a glimpse, from time to time, of some lovely spot like the one I have just been describing; but such charming villas, like angel's visits, are "few and far between." Here we are, at Norfolk. How different is this same Norfolk from the other eastern ports I have visited!—there all is bustle, activity, and increase,—here all is dreariness, desolation, and stagnation. It is, without exception, the most uninteresting town I ever set foot in; the only thing that gives it a semblance of vitality is its proximity to the dockyard, and the consequent appearance of officers in uniform; but in spite of this impression, which a two-days' residence confirmed me in, I was told, on good authority, that it is thriving and improving. By the statistics which our consul, Mr. James, was kind enough to furnish me, it appears that 1847 was the great year of its commercial activity, its imports in that year valuing 94,000l., and its exports 364,000l. In 1852, the imports were under 25,000l. and the exports a little more than 81,000l., which is certainly, by a comparison with the average of the ten years preceding, an evidence of decreasing, rather than increasing, commercial prosperity. Its population is 16,000; and that small number—when it is remembered that it is the port of entry for the great state of Virginia—is a strong argument against its asserted prosperity. Not long before my arrival they had been visited with a perfect deluge of rain, accompanied with a waterspout, which evidently had whirled up some of the ponds in the neighbourhood; for quantities of cat-fish fell during the storm, one of which, measuring ten inches, a friend told me he had himself picked up at a considerable distance from any water.
The only real object of interest at Norfolk is the dockyard, which of course I visited. Mr. James was kind enough to accompany me, and it is needless to say we were treated with the utmost courtesy, and every facility afforded us for seeing everything of interest, after which we enjoyed an excellent lunch at the superintendent's. They were building a splendid frigate, intended to carry 58-inch guns; her length was 250 feet, and her breadth of beam 48. Whether the manifest advantages of steam will induce them to change her into a screw frigate, I cannot say. The dockyard was very clean and the buildings airy. Steam, saw-mills, &c., were in full play, and anchors forging under Nasmyth's hammer, I found them making large masts of four pieces—one length and no scarfings—the root part of the tree forming the mast-head, and a very large air-hole running up and down the centre. The object of this air-hole is to allow the mast to season itself; the reader may remember that the mast of the "Black Maria" is made the same way. As far as I know, this is a plan we have not yet tried in our dockyards. I find that they use metallic boats far more than we do. I saw some that had returned after being four years in commission, which were perfectly sound. To say that I saw fine boats and spars here, would be like a traveller remarking he saw a great many coals at Newcastle. All waste wood not used in the yard is given away every Saturday to any old woman who will come and take it; and no searching of people employed in the dockyard is ever thought of. The cattle employed in and for the dockyard have a most splendid airy stable, and are kept as neat and clean as if in a drawing-room. Materials are abundant; but naturally there is little bustle and activity when compared to that which exists in a British yard. Their small navy can hardly find them enough work to keep their "hands in;" but doubtless the first knell of the accursed tocsin of war, while it gave them enough to do, would soon fill their dockyards with able and willing hands to do it. Commodore Ringold's surveying expedition, consisting of a corvette, schooner, steamer, &c., was fitting out for service, and most liberally and admirably were they supplied with all requisites and comforts for their important duties.
During my stay I enjoyed the kind hospitalities of our consul, Mr. G.P.E. James, who is so well known to the literary world. He was indulging the good people of Norfolk with lectures, which seem to be all the fashion with the Anglo-Saxon race wherever they are gathered together. The subject which I heard him treat of was "The Novelists," handling some favourites with severity and others with a gentler touch, and winding up with a glowing and just eulogy upon the author of My Novel. Altogether I spent a very pleasant hour and a half.
I may here mention a regulation of the Foreign-office, which, however necessary it may be considered, every one must admit presses very hardly on British employes in the Slave States. I allude to the regulation by which officials are prevented from employing other people's slaves as their servants. White men soon earn enough money to be enabled to set up in some trade, business, or farm, and, as service is looked down upon, they seize the first opportunity of quitting it, even although their comforts may be diminished by the change. Free negroes won't serve, and the official must not employ a slave; thus, a gentleman sent out to look after the interest of his country, and in his own person to uphold its dignity, must either submit to the dictation and extortion of his white servant—if even then he can keep him—or he may be called upon suddenly, some fine morning, to do all the work of housemaid, John, cook, and knife and button boy, to the neglect of those duties he was appointed by his country to perform, unless he be a married man with a large family, in which case he may perhaps delegate to them the honourable occupations, above named. Surely there is something a little puritanical in the prohibition. To hold a slave is one thing, but to employ the labour of one who is a slave, and over whose hopes of freedom you have no control, is quite another thing; and I hold that, under the actual circumstances, the employment of another's slave could never he so distorted in argument as to bring home a charge of connivance in a system we so thoroughly repudiate.
Go to the East, follow in imagination your ambassadors, ministers, and consular authorities. Behold them on the most friendly terms—or striving to be so—with people in high places, who are but too often revelling in crimes, with the very name of which they would scorn even to pollute their lips; and I would ask, did such a monstrous absurdity ever enter into any one's head as to doubt from these amicable relations whether the Government of this country or its agents repudiated such abomination of abominations? If for political purposes you submit to this latter, while for commercial purposes you refuse to tolerate the former, surely you are straining at a black gnat while swallowing a beastly camel. Such, good people of the Foreign-office, is my decided view of the case; and if you profit by the hint, you will do what I believe no public body ever did yet. Perhaps, therefore, the idea of setting the fashion may possibly induce you to reconsider and rectify an absurdity, which, while no inconvenience to you, is often a very great one to those you employ. It is wonderful, the difference in the view taken of affairs by actors on the spot and spectators at a distance. A man who sees a fellow-creature half crushed to death and crippled for life by some horrible accident, is too often satisfied with little more than a passing "Good gracious!" but if, on his returning homeward, some gigantic waggon-wheel scrunch the mere tip of his toes, or annihilate a bare inch of his nose, his ideas of the reality of an accident become immensely enlarged.
Let the Foreign Secretary try for a couple of days some such regime as the following:—
5 A.M. Light fires, fetch water, and put kettle on. 6 " Dust room and make beds. 7 " Clean shoes, polish knives, and sand kitchen. 7:30 " Market for dinner. 8:30 " Breakfast. 9 " To Downing-street, light fires, and dust office. 10 " Sit down comfortably(?) to work. 1:30 P.M. Off to coal-hole for more coals. 4 " Sweep up, and go home. 5 " Off coat, up sleeves, and cook. 6:30 " Eat dinner. 7 " Wash up. 8 " Light your pipe, walk to window, and see your colleague over the way, with a couple of Patagonian footmen flying about amid a dozen guests, while, to give additional zest to your feelings of enjoyment, a couple of buxom lassies are peeping out of the attics, and singing like crickets. 9 " Make your own reflections upon the Government that dooms you to personal servitude, while your colleague is allowed purchaseable service. Sleep over the same, and repeat the foregoing regime on the second day; and, filled with the happy influences so much cause for gratitude must inspire, give reflection her full tether, and sleep over her again. On the third morning, let your heart and brain dictate a despatch upon the subject of your reflections to all public servants in slave-holding communities, and, while repudiating slavery, you will find no difficulty in employing the services of the slave, under peculiar circumstances, and with proper restrictions.
I embarked from Norfolk per steamer for Baltimore, and thence by rail through Philadelphia to New York. I took a day's hospitality among my kind friends at Baltimore. At Philadelphia I was in such a hurry to pass on, that I exhibited what I fear many will consider a symptom of inveterate bachelorship; but truth bids me not attempt to cloak my delinquency. Hear my confession:—
My friend Mr. Fisher, whose hospitality I had drawn most largely upon during my previous stay, invited me to come and pay him and his charming lady a visit, at a delightful country house of his a few miles out of town. Oh, no! that was impossible; my time was so limited; I had so much to see in the north and Canada. In vain he urged, with hearty warmth, that I should spend only one night: it was quite impossible—quite. That point being thoroughly settled, he said, "It is a great pity you are so pressed for time, because the trotting champion, 'Mac,' runs against a formidable antagonist, 'Tacony,' to-morrow." In half an hour I was in his waggon, and in an hour and a half I was enjoying the warm greeting of his amiable wife in their country-house, the blush of shame and a guilty conscience tinging my cheeks as each word of welcome passed from her lips or flashed from her speaking eyes. Why did I thus act? Could I say, in truth, "'Twas not that I love thee less, but that I love Tacony more?" Far from it. Was it that I was steeped in ingratitude? I trust not. Ladies, oh, ladies!—lovely creatures that you are—think not so harshly of a penitent bachelor. You have all read of one of your sex through whom Evil—which takes its name from, her—first came upon earth, and you know the motive power of that act was—curiosity. I plead guilty to that motive power on the present occasion; and, while throwing myself unreservedly on your clemency, I freely offer myself as a target for the censure of each one among you who, in the purity of truth can say, "I never felt such an influence in all my life." Reader, remember you cannot be one of these, for the simple fact of casting your eyes over this page affords sufficient presumptive evidence for any court of law to bring you in guilty of a curiosity to know what the writer has to say.—To resume.
The race-course at Philadelphia is a road on a perfect level, and a circle of one mile; every stone is carefully removed, and it looks as smooth and clean as a swept floor. The stand commands a perfect view of the course; but its neglected appearance shows clearly that trotting-matches here are not as fashionable as they used to be, though far better attended than at New York. Upon the present occasion the excitement was intense; you could detect it even in the increased vigour with which the smoking and spitting was carried on. An antagonist had been found bold enough to measure speed with "Mac"—the great Mac who, while "Whipping creation," was also said never to have let out his full speed. He was thorough-bred, about fifteen and a half hands, and lighter built than my raw-boned friend Tacony, and he had lately been sold for 1600l. So sure did people apparently feel of Mac's easy victory, that even betting was out of the question. Unlike the Long Island affair, the riders appeared in jockey attire, and the whole thing was far better got up. Ladies, however, had long ceased to grace such scenes.