Such is the description given of these two parties by the pen of a political opponent, who found in them the greatest obstacles to the enlargement of the canal.
The name of De Witt Clinton will ever be associated with this great and useful work, by which the whole commerce of the ocean lakes is poured into the Hudson, and thence to the Atlantic. After eight years' hard struggle, and the insane but undivided opposition of the city of New York, the law for the construction of the canal was passed in the year 1817. One opponent to the undertaking, when the difficulty of supplying water was started as an objection, assisted his friend by the observation, "Give yourself no trouble—the tears of our constituents will fill it." Many others opposed the act on the ground that, by bringing the produce of the States on the lake shores so easily to New York, the property of the State would be depreciated; which appears to me, in other words, to be—they opposed it on the ground of its utility. Others again grounded their objections on the doubt that the revenue raised by the tolls would be sufficient to justify the expense. Fortunately, however, the act was carried; and in seven years, the canal, though not quite completed, was receiving tolls to the amount of upwards of 50,000l. In 1836 the canal debt was paid, and produce valued at 13,000,000l.—of which 10,000,000l. belonged to the State of New York—was carried through it; the tolls had risen to 320,000l. per annum, and 80,000l. of that sum was voted to be appropriated to the general purposes of the State, the total cost having been under one and a half million sterling.
One might imagine that such triumphant success would have made the State ready to vote any reasonable sum of money to enlarge it if required; but the old opponents took the field in force when the proposition was made. Even after a certain sum had been granted, and a contract entered into, they rescinded the grant and paid a forfeit to the contractor of 15,000l. It was in vain that the injury to commerce, resulting from the small dimensions of the canal,[BA] was represented to them; it was in vain that statistics were laid before them, showing that the 7,000,000 miles traversed by the 4500 canal-boats might, if the proposed enlargement took place, reduce the distance traversed to two millions of miles, and the boats employed to 1500; Barn-burners triumphed, and it was decided that the enlargements should only be made out of the surplus proceeds of the tolls and freight; by which arrangement this vast commercial advantage will be delayed for many years, unless the fruits of the canal increase more rapidly than even their present wonderful strides can lead one to anticipate, although amounting at this present day to upwards of 1,000,000l. yearly.[BB] Such is a short epitome of a canal through which, when the Sault St. Marie Channel between Lakes Superior and Huron is completed, an unbroken watery highway will bear the rich produce of the West from beyond the 90 deg. meridian of longitude to the Atlantic Ocean.[BC]
Although the Erie is perhaps the canal which bears the most valuable freight, it is by no means the greatest undertaking of the kind in the Union. The Chesapeake and Ohio canal, uniting Washington and Pittsburg, has nearly 400 locks, and is tunnelled four miles through the Alleghanies; and the Pennsylvania canal, as we have already seen in a former chapter, runs to the foot of the same ridge, and being unable to tunnel, uses boats in compartments, and drags them by stationary engines across the mountains. Nothing daunts American energy. If the people are once set upon having a canal, go ahead it must; "can't" is an unknown expression.[BD]
However important the works we have been considering may be to the United States, there can be no doubt that railways are infinitely more so; I therefore trust the following remarks upon them may have some interest.
By the statement of the last Census, it appears that there are no less than 13,266 miles of railroad in operation, and 12,681 in progress, giving a total of nearly 26,000 miles; the cost of those which are completed amounts to a little less than 75,000,000l., and the estimate for those in progress is a little above 44,000,000l. We thus see that the United States will possess 26,000 miles of railroad, at the cost of about 120,000,000l. In England we have 8068 miles of railway, and the cost of these amounts to 273,860,000l., or at the rate of 34,020l. per mile. This extraordinary difference between the results produced and the expenses incurred requires some little explanation. By the Census report, I learn that the average expense of the railways varies in different parts of the Union; those in the northern, or New England States, costing 9250l. per mile; those in the middle States, 8000l.; and those in the southern and western States, 4000l. per mile. The railway from Charleston to Augusta, on the Savannah River, only cost 1350l. per mile. From the above we see clearly that the expenses of their railways are materially affected by density of population and the consequent value of land, by the comparative absence of forest to supply material, and by the value of labour. If these three causes produce such material differences in a country comparatively unoccupied like the United States, it is but natural to expect that they should be felt with infinitely more force in England. Moreover, as it has been well observed by Captain D. Galton, R.E.,[BE] "railways originated in England, and therefore the experience which is always required to perfect a new system has been chiefly acquired in this country, and has increased the cost of our own railways for the benefit of our neighbours."—Some conception may be formed of the irregular nature of the expense on the lines in England from the statement subjoined, also taken from the same paper, viz.:—
Name of Railway. Land and Total Cost Compensation. Works. Rails. per Mile. L L L L
London } and } 113,500 98,000 1,000 253,000[BF] Blackwall }
Leicester } and } 1,000 5,700 700 8,700[BF] Swannington }
From the table on the opposite page, it will be seen that the cost of construction and engineering expenses amounted to 35,526,535l. out of 45,051,217l. Taking the railways quoted as representing a fair average of the whole, we ascertain that more than one-fourth of the expense of our railways is incurred for extras comparatively unknown in the United States. At a general meeting of the London and North Western, in 1854, Mr. Glyn mentioned as a fact, that a chairman of a certain line, in giving evidence, had stated that a competition for the privilege of making 28 miles of railway had cost 250,000l. Such an item of expenditure can hardly enter into the cost of a railway in a country as thinly populated as the Republic. There are also two other important facts which are apt to be overlooked: first, that a great portion of the railways in the United States are single lines; and secondly, that the labour performed is of a far less solid and enduring character. A most competent civil engineer told me that the slovenly and insecure nature of many of the railway works in the United States was perfectly inconceivable, and most unquestionably would not stand the inspection required in England. A friend of mine has travelled upon a railway in America, between Washington and Virginia, of which a great portion was composed of merely a wooden rail with a bar of iron screwed on to the surface.[BG] The carriages are also far less expensive and comfortable; a carriage in the United States, which carries fifty people, weighs twelve tons, and costs 450l.; in England it may be fairly asserted, that for every fifty people in a mixed train there is a carriage weight of eighteen tons, at a cost of 1500l.
The following Table, extracted from a Return moved for by Lord Brougham, may help to give a better general idea of the reason why our Railroads have been so costly:—
Name of London & Great Midland, South Eastern Total Railway. North Western, and 12 and 6 Western, and 3 branches branches and 12 branches branches
Length/Miles 433 215-3/4 449-1/4 198-1/2 1296-1/2
Cost of Con- struction. L 13,302,313 6,961,011 9,064,089 5,375,366 34,702,779
Conveyance and Law Charges. L 143,479 105,269 119,344 138,034 506,128
Cost of Land. L 3,153,226 1,132,964 1,764,582 1,458,627 7,509,399
Parliamentary Expenses. L 555,698 245,139 287,853 420,467 1,509,157
Engineering and Sur- veying. L 289,698 201,909 216,110 116,039 823,756
Total Cost. L 17,444,414 8,646,292 11,451,978 7,508,533 45,051,217
When all the foregoing facts are taken into consideration, it must appear clear to the reader, that until the efficiency of the work done, the actual number of miles of rail laid down, and the comfort enjoyed are ascertained, any comparison of the relative expenses of the respective railways must be alike useless and erroneous; at the same time, it can scarcely be denied that it is impossible to give the Republic too much credit for the energy, engineering skill, and economy with which they have railway-netted the whole continent. Much remains for them to do in the way of organizing the corps of officials, and in the erection of proper stations, sufficient at all events, to protect travellers from the weather, for which too common neglect the abundance of wood and their admirable machinery leave them without excuse; not that we are without sin ourselves in this last particular. The uncovered station at Warrington is a disgrace to the wealthy London and North Western Company, and the inconveniences for changing trains at Gretna junction is even more disreputable; but these form the rare exceptions, and as a general rule, there cannot be the slightest comparison between the admirably arranged corps of railway servants in England, and the same class of men in the States; nor between the excellent stations in this country, and the wretched counterpart thereof in the Republic. Increased intercourse with Europe will, it is to be hoped, gradually modify these defects; but as long as they continue the absurd system of running only one class of carriage, the incongruous hustling together of humanities must totally prevent the travelling in America being as comfortable as that in the Old World.
Let us now turn from that which carries our bodies at the rate of forty miles an hour, to that last giant stride of science by which our words are carried quick as thought itself—the Telegraph. The Americans soon discovered that this invention was calculated to be peculiarly useful to them, owing to their enormous extent of territory; and having come to this conclusion, their energy soon stretched the electric messenger throughout the length and breadth of the land, and by the last Census the telegraphic lines extend 16,735 miles, and the length of wires employed amounts to 23,281. The Seventh Census gives the expense of construction as 30l. per mile.[BH] The systems in use are Morse's, House's, and Bain's; the two former of American invention, the latter imported from this country. Of these three the system most generally employed is Morse's, the others being only worked upon about 2000 miles each. It would be out of place to enter into any scientific explanation of their different methods in these pages; suffice it to say, that all three record their messages on ribands of paper; Morse employing a kind of short-hand symbol which indents the paper; Bain, a set of symbols which by chemical agency discolour the paper instead of indenting it; and House printing Roman letters in full by the discolouring process. Those who wish for details and explanations, will find them in the works of Dr. Lardner and others on the Telegraph.
The following anecdote will give some idea of the rapidity with which they work. A house in New York expected a synopsis of commercial news by the steamer from Liverpool. A swift boat was sent down to wait for the steamer at the quarantine ground. Immediately the steamer arrived, the synopsis was thrown into the boat, and away she went as fast as oars and sails could carry her to New York. The news was immediately telegraphed to New Orleans and its receipt acknowledged back in three hours and five minutes, and before the steamer that brought it was lashed alongside her wharf. The distance to New Orleans by telegraph is about 2000 miles. The most extensive purchases are frequently made at a thousand miles distance by the medium of the telegraph. Some brokers in Wall-street average from six to ten messages per day throughout the year. I remember hearing of a young officer, at Niagara Falls, who, finding himself low in the purse, telegraphed to New York for credit, and before he had finished his breakfast the money was brought to him. Cypher is very generally used for two reasons; first, to obtain the secrecy which is frequently essential to commercial affairs; and secondly, that by well-organized cypher a few words are sufficient to convey a long sentence.
Among other proposed improvements is one to transmit the signature of individuals, maps and plans, and even the outlines of the human face, so as to aid in the apprehension of rogues, &c. By a table of precedence, Government messages, and messages for the furtherance of justice and detection of criminals, are first attended to; then follow notices of death, or calls to a dying bed; after which, is the Press, if the news be important; if not, it takes its turn with the general, commercial, and other news. The wires in America scorn the railway apron-strings in which they are led about in this country. They thread their independent course through forests, along highways and byways, through streets, over roofs of houses,—everybody welcomes them,—appearance bows down at the shrine of utility, and in the smallest villages these winged messengers are seen dropping their communicative wires into the post-office, or into some grocer's shop where a 'cute lad picks up all the passing information—which is not in cypher—and probably retails it with an amount of compound interest commensurate with the trouble he has taken to obtain it. There is no doubt that many of these village stations are not sure means of communication, partly perhaps from carelessness, and partly from the trunk arteries having more important matter to transmit, and elbowing their weaker neighbours out of the field. Their gradual increase is, however, a sufficient proof that the population find them useful, despite the disadvantages they labour under. In some instances, they have shown a zeal without discretion, for a friend of mine, lately arrived from the Far West, informs me, that in many places the wires may be seen broken, and the poles tumbling down for miles and miles together, the use of the telegraph not being sufficient even to pay for the keeping up. This fact should be borne in mind when we give them the full benefit of the 16,735 miles according to their own statement in The Seventh Census.
The very low tariff of charge renders the use of the telegraph universal throughout the Union. In Messrs. Whitworth's and Wallis's report, they mention an instance of a manufacturer in New York, who had his office in one part of the town and his works in an opposite direction, and who, to keep up a direct communication between the two, erected a telegraph at his own expense, obtaining leave to carry it along over the tops of the intervening houses without any difficulty. The tariff alluded to above will of course vary according to the extent of the useful pressure of competition. I subjoin two of their charges as an example. From Washington to Baltimore is forty miles, and the charge is 10d. for ten words. From New York to New Orleans is two thousand miles, and the charge for ten words is ten shillings. It must be remembered that these ten words are exclusive of the names and addresses of the parties sending and receiving the message.
The extent to which the telegraph is used in the United States, induced those interested in the matter in England to send over for the most competent and practical person that could be obtained, with the view of ascertaining how far any portion of the system employed by them might be beneficially introduced into our country. The American system is that of the complete circuit, and therefore requiring only one wire; and the patent of Bain was the one experimented with, as requiring the slightest intensity of current. After considerable expense incurred in trials, the American system was found decidedly inferior to our own, solely owing to the humidity of our climate, which, after repeated trials, has been found to require a far more perfect insulation than is necessary either in the United States or on the Continent, and therefore requiring a greater outlay of capital in bringing the telegraphic wire into a practical working state; 260 miles is the greatest length that a battery is equal to working in this country in the worst weather.
Bain's system was formerly not sufficiently perfected to work satisfactorily in our climate; recent improvements are removing those objections, and the employment of it is now rapidly increasing. The advantages that Bain's possesses over Morse's are twofold: first, the intensity of current required to work it is lighter; and secondly, the discoloration it produces is far more easily read than the indentations of Morse's. The advantage Morse's possesses over Bain's is, that the latter requires damp paper to be always ready for working, which the former does not. The advantage Cook and Wheatstone's[BI] possesses over both the former is, that it does not demand the same skilled hands to wind and adjust the machine and prepare the paper; it is always ready at hand, and only needs attention at long intervals, for which reasons it is more generally employed at all minor and intermediate stations; its disadvantages are, that it does not trace the message, and consequently leaves no telegraphic record for reference, and it requires two wires, while Bain's or Morse's employs but one; the intensity of the current required to work it is the same as Bain's, and rather less than Morse's. All three admit of messages going the whole length of the line being read at all intermediate stations. The proportion of work capable of being done by Bain's, as compared with Cook and Wheatstone's, is: Bain's and one wire = 3; Cook and Wheatstone's and two wires = 5. But if Bain's had a second wire, a second set of clerks would be requisite to attend to it. The errors from the tracing telegraph are less than those from the magnetic needle; but the difference is very trifling. No extra clerk is wanted by Cook and Wheatstone's, as all messages are written out by a manifold writer. Every message sent by telegraph in England has a duplicate copy sent by rail to the "Clearing Office," at Lothbury, to be compared with the original; thanks to which precaution, clerks keep their eyes open, and the public are efficiently protected from errors.
How strange it is, that with the manifest utility of the telegraph in case of fire, and the ease with which it could be adapted to that purpose—as it has now been for some years in Boston—the authorities take no steps to obtain its invaluable services. The alarm of fire can be transmitted to every district of London at the small cost of 350l. a-year. The most competent parties are ready to undertake the contract; but it is too large a sum for a poor little village, with only 2,500,000 of inhabitants, and not losing more than 500,000l. annually by fires, to expend. The sums spent at St. Stephen's in giving old gentlemen colds, and in making those of all ages sneeze from underfoot snuff—in other words, the attempt at ventilation, which is totally useless—has cost the country more than would be necessary to supply this vast metropolis with telegraphic wire communication for a century.
In conclusion, I must state that in this country several establishments and individuals have their own private telegraphs, in a similar manner to that referred to at New York, and many more would do the same, did not vested interests interfere.
[Footnote AX: Vide observations on this subject in Chapter X.]
[Footnote AY: Extract from lecture delivered by S.B. Ruggles, at New York, October, 1852.]
[Footnote AZ: This extract is from a lecture by S.B. Ruggles to the citizens of Rochester, October, 1849.]
[Footnote BA: The neighbouring colony "whips" the Republic in canals. Vessels from 350 to 400 tons can pass the St. Lawrence and Welland Canals. Nothing above 75 tons can use the Erie Canal.]
[Footnote BB: The governor of the State, in his annual message, 1854, calls attention to the fact, that the toll on the canals is rapidly decreasing, and will be seriously imperilled if steps are not taken to enlarge it.]
[Footnote BC: By the Illinois and Michigan Canal the ocean lakes communicate with the Mississippi; and when the channel is made by Lake Nipissing, there will be an unbroken watercourse between New Orleans, New York, Bytown, and Quebec.]
[Footnote BD: There are upwards of 5000 miles of canal in America.]
[Footnote BE: Vide an able paper on railways, written by that officer and published in that valuable work, Aide Memoire to the Military Sciences; or for fuller particulars the reader is referred to Report on the Railways of the United States, by Capt. Douglas Galton, R.N., recently issued.]
[Footnote BF: This is without the expenses arising from law and parliamentary proceedings.]
[Footnote BG: I believe the railway from Charleston to Savannah was entirely laid down on this plan.]
[Footnote BH: Mr. Jones, in his Historical Sketch of the Electric Telegraph, makes the calculation 40l. a mile, and estimates that, to erect them durably, would cost 100l. a mile.]
[Footnote BI: Having alluded in the text to the systems of Morse, Bain, and House, I must apologize for omitting to add, that the system of Cook and Wheatstone consists simply of a deflecting needle—or needles—which being acted upon by the currents, are, according to the manipulations of the operator, made to indicate the required letters by a certain number of ticks to the right or left.]
America's Press and England's Censor.
In treating of a free country, the Press must ever be considered as occupying too important an influence to be passed over in silence. I therefore propose dedicating a few pages to the subject. The following Table, arranged from information given in the Census Report of 1850, is the latest account within my reach:—
Daily Tri-Weekly Semi-Weekly Weekly 254 115 31 1902
Printed Printed Printed Printed Annually Annually Annually Annually 235,119,966 11,811,140 5,565,176 153,120,708
Semi-Monthly Monthly Quarterly 95 100 19
Printed Printed Printed Annually Annually Annually 11,703,480 8,887,803 103,500
Literary and Neutral and Political Religious Scientific Miscellaneous Independent 568 88 1630 191 53
Printed Printed Printed Printed Printed Annually Annually Annually Annually Annually 77,877,276 88,023,953 221,844,133 33,645,484 4,893,932
Total number of newspapers and periodicals, 2526; and copies printed annually, 426,409,978.
The minute accuracy of the number of copies issued annually is a piece of startling information: the Republic is most famous for statistics, but how, without any stamp to test the accuracy of the issues, they have ascertained the units while dealing with hundreds of millions is a statistical prodigy that throws the calculating genius of a Babbage and the miraculous powers of Herr Doebler and Anderson into the shade. I can therefore no more pretend to explain the method they employ for statistics, than I can the system adopted by Herr Doebler to mend plates by firing pistols at them. The exact quantity of reliance that can be placed upon them, I must leave to my reader's judgment.
As a general rule, it may be said that the literary, religious, and scientific portions of the Press are printed on good paper, and provided with useful matter, reflecting credit on the projectors and contributors. I wish I could say the same of the political Press; but truth compels me to give a far different account of their publications: they certainly partake more of the "cheap and nasty" style. The paper is generally abominable, the type is so small as to be painful to the eyes, and would almost lead one to suppose it had been adopted at the suggestion of a conclave of 'cute oculists: the style of language in attacking adversaries is very low: the terms employed are painfully coarse, and there is a total absence of dignity; besides which they are profuse caterers to the vanity of the nation. I do not say there are no exceptions; I merely speak generally, and as they came under my own eye, while travelling through the whole length of the States. At the same time, in justice, it must be stated, that they contain a great deal of commercial information for the very small price they cost, some of them being as low as one halfpenny in price.
I do not endorse the following extract, nor do I give it as the opinion which editors entertain generally of each other, but rather to show the language in which adverse opinions are expressed. It is taken from the columns of the The Liberator:—"We have been in the editorial harness for more than a quarter of a century, and, during that period, have had every facility to ascertain the character of the American Press, in regard to every form that has struggled for the ascendency during that period; and we soberly aver, as our conviction, that a majority of the proprietors and editors of public journals more justly deserve a place in the penitentiaries of the land than the inmates of those places generally. No felons are more lost to shame, no liars are so unscrupulous, no calumniators are so malignant and satanic."—The language of the foregoing is doubtless unmistakeably clear, but I think the style can hardly be thought defensible. On general topics of interest, if nothing occurs to stir the writer's bile, or if the theme be not calculated to excite the vanity of their countrymen, the language usually employed is perhaps a little metaphorical, but is at the same time grammatical and sufficiently clear; and, I believe, that as a general principle they expend liberally for information, and consequently the whole Republic may be said to be kept well informed on all passing events of interest.
If we turn for a moment from considering the American Press, to take a slight glimpse at our own, how startling does the difference appear! Great Britain, Ireland, and the Channel Islands, with a population exceeding that of the United States, and with wealth immeasurably greater, produce 624 papers, and of these comparatively few are daily; only 180 issue above 100,000 copies annually, only 32 circulate above 500,000, and only 12 above 1,000,000. It has further been stated, that there are 75 towns returning 115 members, and representing 1,500,000 of the population, without any local paper at all.
The information respecting the Press in England is derived from The Sixth Annual Report of the Association for promoting the Repeal of the Taxes on Knowledge, and The Newspaper Press Directory. The issues subjoined are taken from the Return ordered by the House of Commons, of newspaper stamps, which is "A Return of the Number of Newspaper Stamps at one penny, issued to Newspapers in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, for the year 1854."
The Times 15,975,739 The News of the World 5,673,525 Illustrated London News 5,627,866 Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper 5,572,897 Weekly Times 3,902,169 Reynold's Weekly 2,496,256 Morning Advertiser 2,392,780 Weekly Dispatch 1,982,933 Daily News 1,485,099 Bell's Life in London 1,161,000 Morning Herald 1,159,000 Manchester Guardian 1,066,575 Liverpool Mercury 912,000 Morning Chronicle 873,500 The Globe 850,000 The Express 841,342 Morning Post 832,500 The Sun 825,000 Evening Mail 800,000 Leeds Mercury 735,500 Stamford Mercury 689,000 Birmingham Journal 650,750 Shipping Gazette 628,000 Weekly Messenger 625,500
North British Advertiser 802,000 Glasgow Saturday Post 727,000 North British Mail 565,000 Glasgow Herald 541,000
The Telegraph 959,000 Saunders's News Letter 756,000 Daily Express 748,000 General Advertiser 598,000
Various reasons may be given for this great difference between the Press of the two countries. Many are disposed to attribute it, very naturally, to the Government stamp, and the securities which are required; some, to the machinery of Government of this country being necessarily so complicated by ancient rights and privileges, and the difficulties of raising a revenue, whereof the item of interest on the national debt alone amounts to nearly 30,000,000l.; while others, again planting one foot of the Press compass in London, show that a half circle with a radius of five hundred miles brings nearly the whole community within twenty-four hours' post of the metropolis, in which the best information and the most able writers are to be found, thereby rendering it questionable if local papers, in any numbers, would obtain sufficient circulation to enable the editors to retain the services of men of talent, or to procure valuable general information, without wholesale plagiarism from their giant metropolitan rivals. Besides, it must he remembered that in America, each State, being independent, requires a separate press of its own, while the union of all the States renders it necessary that the proceedings in each of the others should be known, in order that the constitutional limits within which they are permitted to exercise their independence, may be constantly and jealously watched; from which cause it will be seen that there is a very simple reason for the Republic requiring comparatively far more papers than this country, though by no means accounting for the very great disproportion existing.
While, however, I readily admit that the newspapers of Great Britain are greatly inferior in numbers, I am bound in justice to add, that they are decidedly superior in tone and character. I am not defending the wholesale manner in which, when it suits their purpose, they drag an unfortunate individual before the public, and crucify him on the anonymous editorial WE, which is at one and the same time their deadliest weapon and their surest shield. Such acts all honest men must alike deplore and condemn; but it must be admitted that the language they employ is more in accordance with the courtesies of civilized life, than that used by the Press of the Republic under similar circumstances; and if, in a time of excitement and hope, they do sometimes cater for the vanity of John Bull, they more generally employ their powers to "take him down a peg;" and every newspaper which has sought for popularity in the muddy waters of scurrility, has—to use an Oriental proverb—"eaten its own dirt, and died a putrid death."
Let me now turn from the Press to the literature of the United States. Of the higher order of publications, it is needless to say anything in these pages. Irving, Prescott, Ticknor, Stephens, Longfellow, Hawthorne, and writers of that stamp, are an honour to any country, and are as well known in England as they are in America, consequently any encomium from my pen is as unnecessary as it would be presumptuous.
The literature on which I propose to comment, is that which I may reasonably presume to be the popular literature of the masses, because it is the staple commodity for sale on all railways and steamboats. I need not refer again to the most objectionable works, inasmuch as the very fact of their being sold by stealth proves that, however numerous their purchasers, they are at all events an outrage on public opinion. I made a point of always purchasing whatever books appeared to me to be selling most freely among my fellow-travellers, and I am sorry to say that the mass of trash I thus became possessed of was perfectly inconceivable, and the most vulgar abuse of this country was decidedly at a premium. But their language was of itself so penny-a-liny, that they might have lain for weeks on the book-shelf at an ordinary railway-station in England—price, gratis—and nobody but a trunkmaker or a grocer would have been at the trouble of removing them.
Not content, however, with writing trash, they do not scruple to deceive the public in the most barefaced way by deliberate falsehood. I have in my possession two of these specimens of honesty, purchased solely from seeing my brother's name as the author, which of course I knew perfectly well to be false, and which they doubtless put there because the American public had received favourably the volumes he really had written. Of the contents of these works attributed to him I will only say, the rubbish was worthy of the robber. I would not convey the idea that all the books offered for sale are of this calibre; there are also magazines and other works, some of which are both interesting and well-written. If I found no quick sale going on, I generally selected some work treating of either England or the English, so as to ascertain the popular shape in which my countrymen were represented.
One work which I got hold of, called Northwood, amused me much: I there found the Englishman living under a belief that the Americans were little better than savages and Pagans, and quite overcome at the extraordinary scene of a household meeting together for domestic worship, which of course was never heard of in England. This little scene affords a charming opportunity for "buttering up" New England piety at the cheap expense of a libel upon the old country. He then is taken to hear a sermon, where for his special benefit, I suppose, the preacher expatiates on the glorious field of Bunker's Hill, foretells England's decline, and generously promises our countrymen a home in America when they are quite "used up." The Englishman is quite overcome with the eloquence and sympathy of the Church militant preacher, whose discourse being composed by the authoress, I may fairly conclude is given as a model of New England oratory in her estimation. Justice requires I should add, that the sermons I heard during my stay in those States were on religious topics, and not on revolutionary war.
Perhaps it may be said that Northwood was written some years ago, I will therefore pass from it to what at the present day appears to be considered a chef d'oeuvre among the popular style of works of which I have been speaking. I ground my opinion of the high estimation in which it is held from the flattering encomiums passed upon it by the Press throughout the whole Republic from Boston to New Orleans. Boston styles it a "vigorous volume;" Philadelphia, a "delightful treat;" New York, "interesting and instructive;" Albany admires the Author's "keen discriminating powers;" Detroit, "a lively and racy style;" The Christian Advocate styles it "a skinning operation" and then adds, it is a "retort courteous" to Uncle Tommyism; Rochester honours the author with the appellation of "the most chivalrous American that ever crossed the Atlantic." New Orleans winds up a long paragraph with the following magnificent burst of editorial eloquence:—"The work is essentially American. It is the type, the representative, THE AGGREGATE OUTBURST OF THE GREAT AMERICAN HEART, so well expressed, so admirably revealing the sentiment of our whole people—with the exception of some puling lovers he speaks of-—that it will find sympathy in the mind of every true son of the soil." The work thus heralded over the Republic with such perfect e pluribus unum concord is entitled English Items; and the embodiment of the "aggregate outburst of the great American heart" is a Mr. Matthew F. Ward, whose work is sent forth to the public from one of the most respectable publishers in New York—D. Appleton and Co., Broadway.
Before I present the reader specimens of ore from this valuable mine I must make a few observations. The author is the son of one of the wealthiest families in Kentucky, a man of education and travel, and has appeared before the public in a work entitled The Three Continents: I have given extracts from the opinions of the Press at greater length than I otherwise should have done, because I think after the reader has followed me through a short review of English Items, he will see what strong internal testimony they bear to the truth of my previous observations. I would also remark that I am not at all thin-skinned as to travellers giving vent to their true feelings with regard to my own country. All countries have their weaknesses, their follies, and their wickednesses. Public opinion in England, taken as a whole, is decidedly good, and therefore the more the wrong is laid bare the more hope for its correction; but, while admitting this right in its fullest extent, it is under two conditions: one that the author speak the truth, the other that his language be not an outrage on decency or good manners. Now then, come forth, thou aggregate outburst of the great American heart![BJ] Speak for thyself—let the public be thy judge.
The following extracts are from the chapter on "Our Individual Relations with England," the chaste style whereof must gratify the reader:—"I am sorry to observe that it is becoming more and more the fashion, especially among travelled Americans, to pet the British beast; ... instead of treating him like other refractory brutes, they pusillanimously strive to soothe him by a forbearance he cannot appreciate; ... beasts are ruled through fear, not kindness: they submissively lick the hand that wields the lash." Then follow instructions for his treatment, so terrible as to make future tourists to America tremble:—"Seize him fearlessly by the throat, and once strangle him into involuntary silence, and the British lion will hereafter be as fawning as he has been hitherto spiteful." He then informs his countrymen that the English "cannot appreciate the retiring nature of true gentility ... nor can they realize how a nation can fail to be blustering except from cowardice." Towards the conclusion of the chapter he explains that "hard blows are the only logic the English understand;" and then, lest the important fact should be forgotten, he clothes the sentiment in the following burst of genuine American eloquence:—"To affect their understandings, we must punch their heads." So much for the chapter on "Our Individual Relations with England," which promise to be of so friendly a nature that future travellers had better take with them a supply of bandages, lint, and diachylon plaster, so as to be ready for the new genuine American process of intellectual expansion.
Another chapter is dedicated to "Sixpenny Miracles in England," which is chiefly composed of rechauffees from our own press, and with which the reader is probably familiar; but there are some passages sufficiently amusing for quotation:—"English officials are invariably impertinent, from the policeman at the corner to the minister in Downing-street ... a stranger might suppose them paid to insult, rather than to oblige ... from the clerk at the railway depot to the secretary of the office where a man is compelled to go about passports, the same laconic rudeness is observable." How the American mind must have been galled, when a cabinet minister said, "not at home" to a free and enlightened citizen, who, on a levee day at the White House, can follow his own hackney-coachman into the august presence of the President elect. Conceive him strolling up Charing Cross, then suddenly stopping in the middle of the pavement, wrapt in thought as to whether he should cowhide the insulting minister, or give him a chance at twenty yards with a revolving carbine. Ere the knotty point is settled in his mind, a voice from beneath a hat with an oilskin top sounds in his ear, "Move on, sir, don't stop the pathway!" Imagine the sensations of a sovereign citizen of a sovereign state, being subject to such indignities from stipendiary ministers and paid police. Who can wonder that he conceives it the duty of government so to regulate public offices, &c., "as to protect not only its own subjects, but strangers, from the insults of these impertinent hirelings." The bile of the author rises with his subject, and a few pages further on he throws it off in the following beautiful sentence:—"Better would it be for the honour of the English nation if they had been born in the degradation, as they are endued with the propensities, of the modern Egyptians."
At last, among other "sixpenny miracles," he arrives at the Zoological Gardens,—the beauty of arrangement, the grandness of the scale, &c., strike him forcibly; but his keen inquiring mind, and his accurately recording pen, have enabled him to afford his countrymen information which most of my co-members in the said Society were previously unconscious of. He tells them, "It is under control of the English Government, and subject to the same degradation as Westminster, St. Paul's, &c."—Starting from this basis, which only wants truth to make it solid, he complains of "the meanness of reducing the nation to the condition of a common showman;" the trifling mistake of confounding public and private property moves his democratic chivalry, and he takes up the cudgels for the masses. I almost fear to give the sentence publicity, lest it should shake the Ministry, and be a rallying-point for Filibustero Chartists. My anticipation of but a moderate circulation for this work must plead my excuse for not withholding it. "The Government basely use, without permission, the authority of the people's name, to make them sharers in a disgrace for which they alone are responsible. A stranger, in paying his shilling for admission into an exhibition, which has been dubbed nation (by whom?) in contradistinction from another in the Surrey Gardens, very naturally suspects that the people are partners in this contemptible transaction.... The English people are compelled to pay for the ignominy with which their despotic rulers have loaded them." Having got his foot into this mare's nest, he finds an egg a little further on, which he thus hatches for the American public: "Englishmen not only regard eating as the most inestimable blessing of life, when they enjoy it themselves, but they are always intensely delighted to see it going on. The Government charge an extra shilling at the Zoological Gardens on the days that the animals are fed in public; but, as much as an Englishman dislikes spending money, the extraordinary attraction never fails to draw," &c.
From the Gardens he visits Chelsea Hospital, where his keen discriminating powers having been sharpened by the demand for a shilling—the chief object of which demand is to protect the pensioners from perpetual intrusion—he bursts forth in a sublime magnifico Kentuckyo flight of eloquence: "Sordid barbarians might degrade the wonderful monuments of their more civilized ancestors by charging visitors to see them; but to drag from their lowly retreat these maimed and shattered victims of national ambition, to be stared at, and wondered at, like caged beasts, is an outrage against humanity that even savages would shrink from." And then, a little further on, he makes the following profound reflection, which no doubt appears to the American mind peculiarly appropriate to Chelsea Hospital: "Cringing to the great, obsequious to the high, the dwarfed souls of Englishmen have no wide extending sympathy for the humble, no soothing pity for the lowly," &c. It would probably astonish some of the readers who have been gulled by his book, could they but know that the sum paid by Great Britain for the support and pension of her veterans by sea and land costs annually nearly enough to buy, equip, and pay the whole army and navy of the United States.[BK]
The next "sixpenny miracle" he visits is Chatsworth, which calls forth the following vigorous attack on sundry gentlemen, clothed in the author's peculiarly lively and racy language: "The showy magnificence of Chatsworth, Blenheim, and the gloomy grandeur of Warwick and Alnwick Castles, serve to remind us, like the glittering shell of the tortoise, what worthless and insignificant animals often inhabit the most splendid mansions." He follows up this general castigation of the owners of the above properties with the infliction of a special cowhiding upon the Duke of Devonshire, who, he says, "would, no doubt, be very reluctant frankly to confess to the world, that although he had the vanity to affect liberality, he was too penurious to bear the expense of it. Like the ostrich, he sticks his head in the sand, and imagines himself in the profoundest concealment." He then begs the reader to understand, that he does not mean to intimate "that any portion of the large amounts collected at the doors of Chatsworth actually goes into the pocket of His Grace, but they are, nevertheless, remarkably convenient in defraying the expense of a large household of servants.... The idea of a private gentleman of wealth and rank deriving a profit from the exhibition of his grounds must be equally revolting to all classes." These truthful observations are followed by a description of the gardens; and the whole is wound up in the following chivalrous and genuine American reflection: "Does it not appear extraordinary that a man dwelling in a spot of such fairy loveliness should retain and indulge the most grovelling instincts of human nature's lowest grade?" What a delightful treat these passages must be to the rowdy Americans, and how the Duke must writhe under—what The Christian Advocate lauds as—the skinning operation of the renowned American champion![BL]
The Press-bespattered author then proceeds to make some observations on various subjects, in a similar vein of chaste language, lighting at last upon the system of the sale of army commissions. His vigour is so great upon this point, that had he only been in the House of Commons when the subject was under consideration, his eloquence must have hurled the "hireling ministers" headlong from the government. I can fancy them sitting pale and trembling as the giant orator thus addressed the House: "She speculates in glory as a petty hucksterer does in rancid cheese; but the many who hate, and the few who despise England, cannot exult over her baseness in selling commissions in her own army. There is a degree of degradation which changes scorn into pity, and makes us sincerely sympathize with those whom we most heartily despise." The annexed extract from his observations on English writers on America is an equally elegant specimen of genuine American feeling:—"When the ability to calumniate is the only power which has survived the gradual encroachment of bowels upon intellect in Great Britain, it would be a pity to rob the English even of this miserable evidence of mind ... she gloats over us with that sort of appetizing tenderness which might be supposed to have animated a sow that had eaten her nine farrow." The subjoined sentiment, if it rested with the author to verify, would doubtless be true; and I suppose it is the paragraph which earned for his work the laudations of The Christian Advocate:—"Mutual enmity is the only feeling which can ever exist between the two nations.... She gave us no assistance in our rise.... She must expect none from us in her decline." How frightful is the contemplation of this omnipotent and Christian threat! It is worthy of the consideration of my countrymen whether they had not better try and bribe the great Matt. Ward to use his influence in obtaining them recognition as American territory. The honour of being admitted as a sovereign state is too great to be hoped for. He has already discovered signs of our decay, and therefore informs the reader that "the weaker rival ever nurses the bitterest hate." This information is followed by extracts from various English writers commenting upon America, at one of whom he gets so indignant, that he suggests as an appropriate American translation of the F.R.S. which is added to the author's name, "First Royal Scavenger."
He then gets into a fever about the remarks made by travellers upon what they conceive to be the filthy practice of indiscriminate spitting. He becomes quite furious because he has never found any work in which "an upstart inlander has ever preached a crusade against the Turks because they did not introduce knives and forks at their tables," &c. Even Scripture—and this, be it remembered, by the sanction of The Christian Advocate—is blasphemously quoted to extenuate the American practice of expectoration. "What, after all, is there so unbearably revolting about spitting? Our Saviour, in one of his early miracles, 'spat upon the ground and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And he said unto him, Go wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore and washed, and came seeing.' I have with a crowd of pilgrims gone down to drink from this very pool, for the water had borrowed new virtue from the miracle." He then states his strong inclination to learn to chew tobacco in order to show his contempt for the opinions of travellers. What a beautiful picture to contemplate—a popular author with a quid of Virginia before him; Nausea drawing it back with one hand, and Vengeance bringing it forward with the other! Suddenly a bright idea strikes him: others may do what he dare not; so he makes the following stirring appeal to his countrymen: "Let us spit out courageously before the whole world ... let us spit fearlessly and profusely. Spitting on ordinary occasions may be regarded by a portion of my countrymen as a luxury: it becomes a duty in the presence of an Englishman. Let us spit around him—above him—beneath him—everywhere but on him, that he may become perfectly familiar with the habit in all its phases. I would make it the first law of hospitality to an Englishman, that every tobacco-twist should be called into requisition, and every spittoon be flooded, in order thoroughly to initiate him into the mysteries of chewing. Leave no room for imagination to work. Only spit him once into a state of friendly familiarity with the barbarous custom," &c. What a splendid conception!—the population of a whole continent organized under the expectorating banner of the illustrious Matt. Ward: field-days twice a week; ammunition supplied gratis; liberal prizes to the best marksmen. The imagination is perfectly bewildered in the contemplation of so majestic an aggregate outburst of the great American mouth. I would only suggest that they should gather round the margin of Lake Superior, lest in their hospitable entertainment of the "upstart islanders" they destroyed the vegetation of the whole continent.
In another chapter he informs his countrymen that the four hundred and thirty nobles in England speak and act for the nation; his knowledge of history, or his love of truth, ignoring that little community called the House of Commons. Bankers and wealthy men come under the ban of his condemnation, as having no time for "enlightened amusements;" he then, with that truthfulness which makes him so safe a guide to his readers, adds that "they were never known to manifest a friendship, except for the warehouse cat; they have no time to talk, and never write except on business; all hours are office-hours to them, except those they devote to dinner and sleep; they know nothing, they love nothing, and hope for nothing beyond the four walls of their counting-room; nobody knows them, nobody loves them; they are too mean to make friends, and too silent to make acquaintances," &c. What very interesting information this must be for Messrs. Baring and their co-fraternity!
In another part of this volume, the author becomes suddenly impressed with deep reverence for the holy localities of the East, and he falls foul of Dr. Clarke for his scepticism on these points, winding up his remarks in the following beautiful Kentucky vein:—"A monster so atrocious could only have been a Goth or an Englishman." How fortunate for his countryman, Dr. Robinson, that he had never heard of his three learned tomes on the same subject! though, perhaps, scepticism in an American, in his discriminating mind, would have been deep erudition correcting the upstart islanders. The great interest which he evinces for holy localities—accompanied as it is by an expression of horror at some English traveller, who, he asserts, thought that David picked up his pebbles in a brook between Jordan and the Dead Sea, whereas he knew it was in an opposite direction—doubtless earned for him the patronage of The Christian Advocate; and the pious indignation he expresses at an Englishman telling him he would get a good dinner at Mount Carmel, is a beautiful illustration of his religious feelings.
The curious part of this portion of Mr. Ward's book is, that having previously informed his countrymen, in every variety of American phraseology, that the English are composed of every abominable compound which can exist in human nature, he selects them as his companions, and courts their friendship to enjoy the pleasure of betraying it. Of course, if one is to judge by former statements made in the volume, which are so palpably and ridiculously false, one may reasonably conclude that truth is equally disregarded here; but it looks to me rather as if my countrymen had discovered his cloven hoof, as well as his overweening vanity and pretensions, and, when he got pompously classical, in his trip through Greece, they amused themselves at his expense by suggesting that the Acropolis "was a capital place for lunch;" Parnassus, "a regular sell;" Thermopylae, "great for water-cresses." Passing on from his companions—one of whom was a fellow of Oxford, and the other a captain in Her Majesty's service—he becomes grandly Byronic, and consequently quite frantic at the idea of Mr. A. Tennyson supplanting him! "Byron and Tennyson!—what an unholy alliance of names!—what sinful juxtaposition! He who could seriously compare the insipid effusions of Mr. Tennyson with the mighty genius of Byron, might commit the sacrilege of likening the tricks of Professor Anderson to the miracles of Our Saviour."
Having delivered himself of this pious burst, he proceeds to a castigation of the English for their observations on the nasal twang of his countrymen, and also for their criticism upon the sense in which sundry adjectives are used; and, to show the superior purity of the American language, he informs the reader that in England "the most elegant and refined talk constantly of "fried 'am" ... they seem very reluctant to hacknowledge this peculiarly hexceptionable 'abit, and hinsist that hit his confined to the low and hignorant of the country." He then gets indignant that we call "stone" "stun," and measure the gravity of flesh and blood thereby. "To unsophisticated ears, 21 stone 6 pounds sounds infinitely less than three hundred pounds, which weight is a fair average of the avoirdupois density of the Sir Tunbelly Clumsies of the middle and upper classes."
From this elegant sentence he passes on to the evils of idleness, in treating of which he supplies The Christian Advocate with the true cause of original sin. "Does any one imagine that the forbidden fruit would ever have been tasted if Adam had been daily occupied in tilling the earth, and Eve, like a good housewife, in darning fig-leaf aprons for herself and her husband? Never!" The observation would lead one to imagine that the Bible was a scarce article in Kentucky. He passes on from Adam to the banker and merchant of the present day, and informs the reader that they command a high respect in society, but it would be deemed a shocking misapplication of terms to speak of any of them as gentlemen. After which truthful statement, he enters into a long definition of a gentleman, as though he thought his countrymen totally ignorant on that point: he gets quite chivalrous in his description: "He ought to touch his hat to his opponent with whom he was about to engage in mortal combat."[BM] After which remark he communicates two pieces of information—the one as true as the other is modest: "Politeness is deemed lessening to the position of a gentleman in England; in America it is thought his proudest boast." Of course he only alludes to manner; his writings prove at every page that genuine American feeling dispenses with it in language. His politeness, I suppose, may be described in the words Junius applied to friendship:—"The insidious smile upon the cheek should warn you of the canker in the heart." By way of encouraging civility, he informs the reader that an Englishman "never appears so disgusting as when he attempts to be especially kind; ...in affecting to oblige, he becomes insulting." He confesses, however, "I have known others in America whom you would never suspect of being Englishmen—they were such good fellows; but they had been early transplanted from England. If the sound oranges be removed from a barrel in which decay has commenced, they may be saved; but if suffered to remain, they are all soon reduced to the same disgusting state."
His discriminating powers next penetrate some of the deep mysteries of animal nature: he discovers that the peculiarities of the bullock and the sheep have been gradually absorbed into the national character, as far as conversation is concerned. "They have not become woolly, nor do they wear horns, but the nobility are eternally bellowing forth the astounding deeds of their ancestors, whilst the muttonish middle classes bleat a timorous approval.... Such subjects constitute their fund of amusing small talk," &c. From the foregoing elegant description of conversation, he passes onwards to the subject of gentility, and describes a young honourable, on board a steamer, who refused to shut a window when asked by a sick and suffering lady, telling the husband, "he could not consent to be suffocated though his wife was sick." And having cooked up the story, he gives the following charming reason for his conduct: "He dreaded the possibility of compromising his own position and that of his noble family at home by obliging an ordinary person." He afterwards touches upon English visitors to America, who, he says, "generally come among us in the undisguised nakedness of their vulgarity. Wholly freed from the restraints imposed upon them at home by the different grades in society, they indolently luxuriate in the inherent brutality of their nature. They constantly violate not only all rules of decorum, but the laws of decency itself.... They abuse our hospitality, insult our peculiar institutions, set at defiance all the refinements of life, and return home, lamenting the social anarchy of America, and retailing their own indecent conduct as the ordinary customs of the country.... The pranks which, in a backwoods American, would be stigmatized as shocking obscenity, become, when perpetrated by a rich Englishman, charming evidence of sportive humour," &c.
A considerable portion of the volume is dedicated to Church matters; for which subject the meek and lowly style which characterizes his writing pre-eminently qualifies him, and to which, doubtless, he is indebted for the patronage of The Christian Advocate. I shall only indulge the reader with the following beautiful description of the Established Church:—"It is a bloated, unsightly mass of formalities, hypocrisy, bigotry, and selfishness, without a single charitable impulse or pious aspiration." After this touching display of genuine American feeling, he draws the picture of a clergyman in language so opposite, that one is reminded of a certain mysterious personage, usually represented with cloven feet, and who is said to be very apt at quoting Scripture.
Heraldry and ancestry succeed the Church in gaining a notice from his pen; and his researches have gone so deep, that one is led to imagine—despite his declarations of contempt—that he looks forward to becoming some day The Most Noble the Duke of Arkansas and Mississippi, with a second title of Viscount de' Tucky and Ohio;[BN] the "de" suggestive of his descent from The Three Continents. One of the most remarkable discoveries he has made, is, that "the soap-makers and the brewers are the compounders of the great staple commodities of consumption in Great Britain, and therefore surpass even Charles himself in the number of their additions to the Peerage." This valuable hint should not be lost upon those employed in these useful occupations, as hope is calculated to stimulate zeal and ambition.
The last quotations I propose making from this vigorous volume are taken from the seventh chapter, headed, "English Devotion to Dinner." On this subject the author seems to have had his keen discriminating powers peculiarly sharpened; and the observations made are in most lively and racy style, and—according to the Press—perfectly courteous. The Englishman "is never free till armed with a knife and fork; indeed, he is never completely himself without them[BO] ... which may he as properly considered integral portions of an Englishman, as claws are of a cat; ... they are not original even in their gluttony; ... they owe to a foreign nation the mean privilege of bestial indulgence; ... they make a run into Scotland for the sake of oatmeal cakes, and sojourn amongst the wild beauties of Switzerland in order to be convenient to goat's milk.... Like other carnivorous animals, an Englishman is always surly over his meals. Morose at all times, he becomes unbearably so at that interesting period of the day, when his soul appears to cower among plates and dishes; ... though he gorges his food with the silent deliberation of the anaconda, yet, in descanting upon the delicacies of the last capital dinner, he makes an approach to animation altogether unusual to him; ... when, upon such auspicious occasions, he does go off into something like gaiety, there is such fearful quivering of vast jelly mounds of flesh, something so supernaturally tremendous in his efforts, that, like the recoil of an overloaded musket, he never fails to astound those who happen to be near him." But his keen observation has discovered a practice before dinner, which, being introduced into the centre of various censures, may also be fairly supposed to be considered by him and his friends of the Press as most objectionable, and as forming one of the aggregate Items which constitute the English beast. "For dinner, he bathes, rubs, and dresses." How filthy! Yet be not too hard upon him, reader, for this observation; I have travelled in his neighbourhood, on the Mississippi steamers, and I can, therefore, well understand how the novelty of the operation must have struck him with astonishment, and how repugnant the practice must have been to his habits.
Among other important facts connected with this great question, his discriminating mind has ascertained that an Englishman "makes it a rule to enjoy a dinner at his own expense as little as possible." Armed with this important discovery, he lets drive the following American shell, thus shivering to atoms the whole framework of our society. The nation may tremble as it reads these withering words of Kentucky eloquence:—"When it is remembered that of all the vices, avarice is most apt to corrupt the heart, and gluttony has the greatest tendency to brutalize the mind, it no longer continues surprising that an Englishman has become a proverb of meanness from Paris to Jerusalem. The hatred and contempt of all classes of society as necessarily attend him in his wanderings as his own shadow.... Equally repulsive to every grade of society, he stands isolated and alone, a solitary monument of the degradation of which human nature is capable."
Feeling that ordinary language is insufficient to convey his courteous and chivalrous sentiments, he ransacks natural history in search of a sublime metaphor: his triumphant success he records in this beautifully expressed sentence—"The dilating power of the anaconda and the gizzard of the cassowary are the highest objects of his ambition." But neither ordinary language nor metaphor can satisfy his lofty aspirations: it requires something higher, it requires an embodiment of genuine American feeling, vigorous yet courteous; his giant intellect rises equal to the task. He warns my countrymen "to use expletives oven with the danger of being diffuse, rather than be so blunt and so vulgar;" and then—by way, I suppose, of showing them how to be sarcastic without being either blunt or vulgar—he delivers himself of the following magnificent bursts:—"If guts could perform the function of brains, Greece's seven wise men would cease to be proverbial, for England would present to the world twenty-seven millions of sages.... To eat, to drink, to look greasy, and to grow fat, appear to constitute, in their opinion, the career of a worthy British subject.... The lover never asks his fair one if she admires Donizetti's compositions, but tenderly inquires if she loves beef-steak pies. This sordid vice of greediness is rapidly brutalizing natures not originally spiritual; every other passion is sinking, oppressed by flabby folds of fat, into helplessness. All the mental energies are crushed beneath the oily mass. Sensibility is smothered in, the feculent steams of roast beef, and delicacy stained by the waste drippings of porter. The brain is slowly softening into blubber, and the liver is gradually encroaching upon the heart. All the nobler impulses of man are yielding to those animal propensities which must soon render Englishmen beasts in all save form alone."
I have now finished my Elegant Extracts from the work of Mr. Ward. The reader can judge for himself of Boston's "vigorous volume," of Philadelphia's "delightful treat," of Rochester's "chivalrous and genuine Amercan feeling," of The Christian Advocate's "retort courteous," and of New Orleans' "aggregate outburst of the great American heart," &c. These compliments from the Press derive additional value from the following passage in the work they eulogize. Pages 96, 97, Mr. Ward writes: "It is the labour of every author so to adapt his style and sentiments to the tastes of his readers, as most probably to secure their approbation.... The consciousness that his success is so wholly dependent on their approval, will make him, without his being aware of it, adapt his ideas to theirs." And the New Orleans Press endorses all the author's sentiments, and insults American gentlemen and American intelligence, by asserting that it "admirably reveals the sentiments of the whole people, and will find sympathy in the mind of every true son of the soil."
Before taking a final leave of English Items, I owe some apology to the reader for the length at which I have quoted from it. My only excuse is, that I desired to show the grounds upon which I spoke disparagingly of a portion of the Press, and of the low popular literature of the country. I might have quoted from various works instead of one; but if I had done so, it might fairly have been said that I selected an isolated passage for a particular purpose; or else, had I quoted largely, I might have been justly charged with being tedious. Besides which, to corroborate my assertions regarding the Press, I should have been bound to give their opinion also upon each book from which I quoted; and, beyond all these reasons, I felt that the generality of the works of low literature which I came across were from the pen of people with far less education than the author I selected, who, as I have before remarked, belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Kentucky, and for whom, consequently, neither the want of education nor the want of opportunities of mixing in respectable society—had he wished to do so—can be offered as the slightest extenuation.[BP]
I feel also that I owe some apology to my American friends for dragging such a work before the public; but I trust they will find sufficient excuse for my doing so, in the explanation thus afforded, of the way the mind of Young America gets poisoned, and which will also partly account for the abuse of this country that is continually appearing in their Press. I feel sure there is hardly a gentleman in America, whose acquaintance I had the pleasure of making, who would read even the first twenty pages of the book; and I am in justice hound to say, that among all the works of a similar class which I saw, English Items enjoys unapproachable pre-eminence in misrepresentation and vulgarity, besides being peculiarly contemptible, from the false being mixed up with many true statements of various evils and iniquities still existing in England, and which, being quoted from our own Press, are calculated to give the currency of truth to the whole work, among that mass of his countrymen who, with all their intelligence, are utterly ignorant of England, either socially or politically.
The subsequent career of this censor of English manners and morals is too remarkable to be passed over in silence. I therefore now proceed to give you a short epitome of it, as a specimen of morals and manners in Kentucky, as exhibited by him, and his trial. My information is taken from the details of the trial published at full length, a copy of which I obtained in consequence of the extraordinary accounts of the transaction which I read in the papers. Professor Butler had formerly been tutor in the family of the Wards, and was equally esteemed by them and the public of Louisville generally. At the time of the following occurrence the Professor was Principal of the High School in that city.
One of the boys at the school was William—brother of Mr. Matt. F. Ward: it appears that in the opinion of the Professor the boy had been guilty of eating nuts in the school and denying it, for which offence he was called out and whipped, as the master told him, for telling a lie. Whether the charge or the punishment was just is not a point of any moment, though I must say the testimony goes far to justify both. William goes home, complains to his brother Matt. F., not so much of the severity of the punishment, as of being called a liar. The elder brother becomes highly indignant, and determines to go to the Professor and demand an apology. It must be remembered that the father was all this time in Louisville, and of course the natural person to have made any remonstrance with his old friend the Professor. Matt. F.'s family remind him that he is very weakly, and that one of the masters at the school is an enemy of his. They therefore beg of him to be calm, and to take his intermediate brother Robert with him, in case of accidents. He consents. He then goes to the gun-store of Messrs. Dixon and Gilmore, and purchases of the latter, about 9 A.M., two small pocket-pistols, three inches long in the barrel. These he gets Mr. Gilmore to load, but purchases no further ammunition. After this he proceeds with his brother Robert, who is armed with a bowie-knife, to the school. Not wishing to be unjust to Mr. Matt. F. Ward, I give the statement of the subsequent occurrence in the words of his brother Robert's evidence in court.[BQ]
"On entering the school-room,[BR] Matt. asked for Butler. He came. Matt. remarked, I wish to have a talk with you. Butler said, Come into my private room. Matt. said, No; here is the place. Mr. Butler nodded. Matt. said, What are your ideas of justice? Which is the worst, the boy who begs chestnuts, and throws the shells on the floor, and lies about it, or my brother who gives them to him? Mr. Butler said he would not he interrogated, putting his pencil in his pocket and buttoning up his coat. Matt, repeated the question. Butler said, There is no such boy here. Matt. said, That settles the matter: you called my brother a liar, and for that I must have an apology. Butler said he had no apology to make. Is your mind made up? said Matt. Butler said it was. Then, said Matt., you must hear my opinion of you. You are a d——d scoundrel and a coward. Butler then struck Matt. twice, and pushed him back against the door. Matt. drew his pistol and fired. Butler held his hand on him for a moment. As the pistol fired, Sturgus[BS] came to the door. I drew my knife, and told him to stand back." Thus was Professor Butler, Principal of the High School of Louisville, shot by the author of English Items, with a pistol bought and loaded only an hour and a half previous, in broad daylight, and in the middle of his scholars. The Professor died during the night.
The details of the trial are quite unique as to the language employed by jury, counsel, and evidence; but I purposely abstain from making extracts, though I could easily quote passages sufficiently ridiculous and amusing, and others which leave a painful impression of the state of law in Kentucky. My reason for abstaining is, that if I quoted at all, I ought to do so at greater length than the limits of a book of travels would justify: suffice it that I inform you that Mr. Matthew F. Ward was tried and acquitted.
When the result of the trial was made known, an indignation meeting was held in Louisville, presided over by General Thomas Strange, at which various resolutions were passed unanimously. The first was in the following terms:—"Resolved—That the verdict of the jury, recently rendered in the Hardin County Court, by which Matt. F. Ward was declared innocent of any crime in the killing of William H.G. Butler, is in opposition to all the evidence in the case, contrary to our ideas of public justice, and subversive of the fundamental principles of personal security guaranteed to us by the constitution of the State.
"Secondly: Resolved—That the published evidence given on the trial of Matt. F. Ward shows, beyond all question, that a most estimable citizen, and a most amiable, moral, and peaceable man has been wantonly and cruelly killed while in the performance of his regular and responsible duties as a teacher of youth; and, notwithstanding the verdict of a corrupt and venal jury, the deliberate judgment of the heart and conscience of this community pronounces that killing to be murder." The committee appointed by the meeting also requested Mr. Wolfe, one of the counsel for the prisoner, to resign his seat in the State Senate, and the Honourable Mr. Crittenden, another counsel, to resign his place in the Senate of the United States; effigies of the two brothers Ward were burnt, and a public subscription opened to raise a monument to the murdered Professor. I cannot, of course, decide how far the conclusions of the committee are just, as I do not pretend to know Kentucky law. I have, however, given the trial to members of the Bar in this country accustomed to deal with such cases, and they have without hesitation asserted that not one man in ten who has been hanged in England has been condemned on more conclusive evidence. It is also apparent that in some parts of the Union the same opinion prevails, as the following paragraph from the New York Daily Times will clearly show:—"The trial is removed from the scene of the homicide, so that the prisoners shall Dot be tried by those who knew them best, but is taken to a distant country. The Press is forbidden, against all law and right, to publish a report of the proceedings while the trial is in progress. Every particle of evidence in regard to Butler's character is excluded; while a perfect army of witnesses—clergymen, colonels, members of Congress, editors, cabinet officers, &c., who had enjoyed the social intimacy of the Wards—testified ostentatiously to the prisoner's mildness of temper, declaring him, with anxious and undisguised exaggeration, to be gentle and amiable to a fault. All these preparations, laboriously made and steadily followed up, were for the purpose, not of determining the truth, which is the only proper object of judicial inquiry—not of ascertaining accurately and truly whether Matthew Ward did or did not murder Butler—but to secure impunity for his act. This whole drama was enacted to induce the jury to affirm a falsehood; and it has succeeded. We do not believe John J. Crittenden entertains in his heart the shadow of a doubt that Butler was murdered: we do not believe that a single man on that jury believes that the man they have acquitted is innocent of the crime laid to his charge. We regard the issue of this trial as of the gravest importance: it proves that in one State of this Union, wealth is stronger than justice; that Kentucky's most distinguished sons take to their hearts and shield with all their power a murderer who has money and social position at his command; and that under their auspices, legal tribunals and the most solemn forms of justice have been made to confer impunity on one of the blackest and most wanton murders which the annals of crime record."
I add no comment, leaving the reader to make his own, deductions, and I only hope, if the foregoing lines should ever meet the eye of a citizen belonging to the sovereign State of Kentucky, they may stir him up to amend the law or to purify the juries.
[Footnote BJ: The reader is requested to remember that all the words printed in italics—while dealing with English Items—are so done to show that they are quotations from the eulogies of the American press. They are as thoroughly repudiated by me as they must be by every American gentleman.]
[Footnote BK: Did Mr. Ward ever read any account in the gazettes of his own country, of the poor soldiers going to "Washington to procure land warrants, and after being detained there till they were reduced to beggary, receiving no attention? Let me commend the following letter, taken from the press of his own country, dated July 6, 1853, and addressed to the President:—
"DEAR SIR,—In the humblest tone do I implore your charity for three cents, to enable me to procure something to eat. Pray be so kind, and receive the grateful thanks of your humble supplicant of Shenandoah County, Va."]
[Footnote BL: The reader will be astonished to know that these remarks are from the pen of a Kentucky man; in which State there is a large hole in the ground, made by Providence, and called "The Mammoth Cave;" it is situated on private property, and for the privilege of lionizing it, you pay 10s. So carefully is it watched, that no one is even allowed to make a plan of it, lest some entrance should be found available on the adjoining property.]
[Footnote BM: I must beg the reader to remember this last sentence when he comes to the interview between the Kentucky author and his old friend, the schoolmaster.]
[Footnote BN: Kentucky is the State of his birth and family, Arkansas the State of his adoption, and "The Three Continents" the fruit of his pen.]
[Footnote BO: The reader will find that, in his interview with the schoolmaster, his brother was "completely himself" with a bowie-knife only.]
[Footnote BP: One other instance I must give of the coolness with which an American writer can pen the most glaring falsehood; vide "English Traits," by R.W. Emerson. I might quote many fake impressions conveyed, but I shall confine myself to one of his observations upon a religious subject, where at least decency might have made him respect truth. At page 126 I find the following sentence:—"They put up no Socratic prayer, much less any saintly prayer, for the Queen's mind; ask neither for light nor right, but say bluntly, 'grant her in health and wealth long to live.'" Now, I will not ask whether the author of this passage ever saw our Book of Common Prayer, because printing the words in inverted commas is proof sufficient; nor will I go out of my way to show the many prayers put up for the bestowal of purely spiritual blessings; but, when I find the previous sentence to the one quoted by him to be as follows, "Endow her plenteously with heavenly gifts," what can I say of such a writer? Either that by heavenly gifts he understands dollars and cents, or that he has wilfully sacrificed religious truth at the shrine of democratic popularity. Having placed him on these two horns of a dilemma, I leave him to arrange his seat.]
[Footnote BQ: Of course the evidence of the brother is the most favourable to Mr. M.F.W. that the trial produces.]
[Footnote BR: It appears in evidence that the scene described took place about half-past ten A.M.]
[Footnote BS: Mr. Sturgus is the master who was supposed to be unfriendly to Mr. Matthew F. Ward.]
The Institution of Slavery.
There is one subject which no person who pretends to convey to the reader the honest thoughts and impressions which occupied his mind during his travels in this vast Republic, can pass over in silence; and that subject, I need scarcely observe, is Slavery. It is an institution which deserves most serious consideration; for while a general unity of sentiment binds the various States together in a manner that justifies the national motto, "E pluribus unum," the question of slavery hangs fearfully over their Union; and the thread by which it is suspended is more uncertain than the fragile hair of the sword of Damocles, for it is dependent upon the angry passions of angry man.
So true do I feel this to be, that were I a citizen of one of the Free States of America, I might hesitate before I committed my opinions to the Press. I trust, however, that I may so treat the subject that no cause for ill-blood may be given. Unquestionably, the origin of the evil is wholly with the mother country. We entered into the diabolical traffic of our fellow-creatures, and forced the wretched negro upon a land which had never before received the impress of a slave's foot; and this we did despite all the remonstrances of the outraged and indignant colonists; and with this revolting sin upon our shoulders, it is but natural we should feel deeply interested in the sable ivy-shoot we planted, and which now covers the whole southern front of the stately edifice of the Giant Republic. Time was when a Newcastle collier might have carried the sable shoot back to the soil whence it had been stolen; now, the keels of many nations combined would scarce suffice to move the rapid growth.
But, while at England's door lies the original guilt, America has since put the solemn seal of her paternity upon it; every foot of land which, in the rapid career of her aggrandisement, has been sullied with the footsteps of the slave for the first time, mars the beauty of the cap of liberty, and plants a slave-trader's star in the banner of the nation. She is only doing a century later what we wickedly did a century before—viz., planting slavery on a soil hitherto free, and enlarging the market for the sale of flesh and blood. The futile excuse sometimes offered, that they were merely moved from one part to another of the same country, cannot be admitted; or, if it be, upon the same principle all the Free States might return again to slavery. If it be no sin to introduce slavery into a free Sovereign State, then was England not so guilty in the first instance, for she sent slaves from a land of ignorance, cruelty, and idolatry, to an enlightened and Christian colony. It is in vain for either England or the United States to shirk the guilty responsibility of introducing slaves on free soil. England has the additional guilt of having acted against the wishes of the colonists; the United States has the additional guilt of increasing slave territory a century later, and when the philanthropists of every country were busied in endeavours to solve the problem, "How can slavery be abolished?"
Without dwelling further upon respective guilt, I will at once proceed to review the crusades which have been made against the institution, and the hopes of the slave under it; after which, I will offer for consideration such proposals as appear to me worthy the attention of all the true friends of the negro, whether owners or not. While thus treating the subject, I beg to observe that I fully recognise each individual State as possessing plenipotentiary powers within the limits of that constitution by which they are all bound together: and I trust that, in any observations I may make, no one expression will be so misconstrued as to give offence; for I know full well the stupendous difficulties with which the whole question is surrounded, and I feel it is one which should be approached only in a true spirit of charity and kindness towards the much-maligned gentlemen of the South.
I open the question by asking—what is the meaning of the cry raised by the fanatics of the North—the abolition crusaders? In words, it is freedom to the slave; in fact, it is spoliation of their neighbours. Had the proposition come from wild Arabs who live in houses they carry on their backs, and feed on the milk of flocks that pasture at their side, I might have comprehended the modest proposal; but coming from those whose energy for business is proverbial, and whose acuteness in all matters of dollars and cents is unsurpassed, if equalled, by the shrewdest Hebrew of the Hebrews, I confess it is beyond my puny imagination to fathom. Were it accompanied with any pecuniary offer adequate to the sacrifice proposed, I might be able to comprehend it: but for those, or the descendants of those, who, as they found white labour more profitable, sold their sable brethren to their southern neighbours, and thus easily and profitably removed slavery from their borders,—for those, I say, to turn round and preach a crusade for the emancipation of the negro, in homilies of contumely, with the voice of self-righteousness, exhibits a degree of assurance that cannot be surpassed. Had they known as much of human nature as of the laws of profit and loss, they might have foreseen that in every epithet heaped upon their southern countrymen, they were riveting a fresh bolt in the slave's fetters. On what plea did the American colony rebel? Was it not, as a broad principle, the right of self-government? Does not their constitution allow independent action to each State, subject only to certain obligations, binding alike on all? If those are complied with, on what principle of patriotism or honour do individuals or societies hurl torches of discord among their southern co-citizens?
No person who has watched or inquired into the social state of the slaves during the present century, can fail to have observed that much has been done to improve their condition among the respectable holders thereof, both as regards common education and religious instruction; at the same time, they will perceive that the first law of nature—self-preservation—compelled them to make common education penal, as soon as fanatical abolitionists inundated the country with firebrand pamphlets. No American can deny, that when an oppressed people feel their chains galling to them, they have a right to follow the example of the colonists, and strike for freedom. This right doubtless belongs to the negro, and these inflammable publications were calculated to lead them on to make the effort. But what reflecting mind can fail to foresee the horrors consequent upon such a hopeless endeavour? More especially must it have presented itself to the mind of the slave-masters; and could they, with sure visions before their eyes of the fearful sacrifice of human life, the breaking-up of whatever good feeling now exists between master and slave, and the inauguration of a reign of terror and unmitigated severity—could they, I say, with such consequences staring them in the face, have taken a more mild, sensible, and merciful step than checking that education, through the instrumentality of which, the abolitionists were hastening forward so awful a catastrophe?
The following extract may suffice to prove the irritation produced by the abolitionists in Virginia, though, of course, I do not pretend to insinuate that the respectable portion of the community in that State would endorse its barbarous ravings:—
"SLAVERY IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM.—The (American) Richmond Examiner, in connexion with the recent trial of Ward of Kentucky, has the following theory on the extinction of schoolmasters in general:—'The South has for years been overrun with hordes of illiterate, unprincipled graduates of the Yankee free schools (those hot-beds of self-conceit and ignorance), who have, by dint of unblushing impudence, established themselves as schoolmasters in our midst. So odious are some of these "itinerant ignoramuses" to the people of the South; so full of abolitionism and concealed incendiarism are many of this class; so full of guile, fraud, and deceit,—that the deliberate shooting one of them down, in the act of poisoning the minds of our slaves or our children, we think, if regarded as homicide at all, should always be deemed perfectly justifiable; and we imagine the propriety of shooting an abolition schoolmaster, when caught tampering with our slaves, has never been questioned by any intelligent Southern man. This we take to be the unwritten common law of the South, and we deem it advisable to promulgate the law, that it may be copied into all the abolition papers, thundered at by the three thousand New England preachers, and read with peculiar emphasis, and terrible upturning of eyes, by Garrison, at the next meeting of the anti-slavery party at Faneuil Hall. We repeat, that the shooting of itinerant abolition schoolmasters is frequently a creditable and laudable act, entitling a respectable Southern man to, at least, a seat in the Legislature or a place in the Common Council. Let all Yankee schoolmasters who propose invading the South, endowed with a strong nasal twang, a long scriptural name, and Webster's lexicographic book of abominations, seek some more congenial land, where their own lives will be more secure than in the "vile and homicidal Slave States." We shall be glad if the ravings of the abolition press about the Ward acquittal shall have this effect.'"
We now see that the abolitionists have rendered the education of the negro, with a view to his ultimate fitness for freedom or self-government, utterly impracticable, however anxious the slave-owner might have otherwise been to instruct him. Thus, by their imprudent violence, they have effectually closed the educational pathway to emancipation. It should not either be forgotten that the Southerners may have seen good reason to doubt the Christian sincerity of those who clamoured so loudly for loosening the fetters of the slaves. The freed slaves in the Northern States must have frequently been seen by them, year after year, as they went for "the season" to the watering-places, and could they observe much in his position there to induce the belief that the Northerners are the friends of the negro? In some cities, he must not drive a coach or a car; in others, he must not enter a public conveyance; in places of amusement, he is separated from his white friend; even in the house of that God with whom "there is no respect of persons," he is partitioned off as if he were an unclean animal; in some States he is not admitted at all.
With such evidences of friendship for the negro, might they not question the honesty of Northern champions of emancipation? Could they really place confidence in the philanthropic professions of those who treat the negro as an outcast, and force on him a life of wretchedness instead of striving to raise him in the social scale? If a negro had the intellect of a Newton—if he were clothed in purple and fine linen, and if he came fresh from an Oriental bath, and fragrant as "Araby's spices," a Northerner would prefer sitting down with a pole-cat—he would rather pluck a living coal from the fire than grasp the hand of the worthiest negro that ever stepped. Whoever sees a negro in the North smile at the approach of the white man? Who has not seen a worthy planter or slave-owner returning from a short absence, greeted with smiles in abundance, or perhaps receiving a broad grin of pride and pleasure as the worthy owner gave his hand to some old faithful slave?
I think I have shown, in the foregoing remarks, that the Southern has three solid and distinct grounds of objection to the Free States abolitionist. First,—The natural spirit of man, which rebels against wholesale vituperation and calumny. Secondly,—The obstacle they have placed in the way of giving the slave simple education, by introducing most inflammable pamphlets. Thirdly,—The questionable sincerity of their professed sympathy for the slave, as evidenced by the antipathy they exhibit towards the free negro, and by the palpable fact that he is far worse off in a free than in a slave State.
The same objection cannot justly be taken against English abolitionists, because they act and think chiefly upon the evidence furnished by American hands; besides which, slavery in the West Indian colonies was felt by the majority of the nation to be so dark a stain upon our national character, that, although burdened with a debt such as the world never before dreamt of, the sum of 20,000,000l. was readily voted for the purposes of emancipation. Whether the method in which the provisions of the act were carried out was very wise or painfully faulty, we need not stop to inquire: the object was a noble one, and the sacrifice was worthy of the object.