Letters from an American Farmer
Hector St. John de Crevecoeur

Part 2 out of 4

same road, his next neighbour may be a good honest plodding German
Lutheran, who addresses himself to the same God, the God of all,
agreeably to the modes he has been educated in, and believes in
consubstantiation; by so doing he scandalises nobody; he also works
in his fields, embellishes the earth, clears swamps, etc. What has
the world to do with his Lutheran principles? He persecutes nobody,
and nobody persecutes him, he visits his neighbours, and his
neighbours visit him. Next to him lives a seceder, the most
enthusiastic of all sectaries; his zeal is hot and fiery, but
separated as he is from others of the same complexion, he has no
congregation of his own to resort to, where he might cabal and
mingle religious pride with worldly obstinacy. He likewise raises
good crops, his house is handsomely painted, his orchard is one of
the fairest in the neighbourhood. How does it concern the welfare of
the country, or of the province at large, what this man's religious
sentiments are, or really whether he has any at all? He is a good
farmer, he is a sober, peaceable, good citizen: William Penn himself
would not wish for more. This is the visible character, the
invisible one is only guessed at, and is nobody's business. Next
again lives a Low Dutchman, who implicitly believes the rules laid
down by the synod of Dort. He conceives no other idea of a clergyman
than that of an hired man; if he does his work well he will pay him
the stipulated sum; if not he will dismiss him, and do without his
sermons, and let his church be shut up for years. But
notwithstanding this coarse idea, you will find his house and farm
to be the neatest in all the country; and you will judge by his
waggon and fat horses, that he thinks more of the affairs of this
world than of those of the next. He is sober and laborious,
therefore he is all he ought to be as to the affairs of this life;
as for those of the next, he must trust to the great Creator. Each
of these people instruct their children as well as they can, but
these instructions are feeble compared to those which are given to
the youth of the poorest class in Europe. Their children will
therefore grow up less zealous and more indifferent in matters of
religion than their parents. The foolish vanity, or rather the fury
of making Proselytes, is unknown here; they have no time, the
seasons call for all their attention, and thus in a few years, this
mixed neighbourhood will exhibit a strange religious medley, that
will be neither pure Catholicism nor pure Calvinism. A very
perceptible indifference even in the first generation, will become
apparent; and it may happen that the daughter of the Catholic will
marry the son of the seceder, and settle by themselves at a distance
from their parents. What religious education will they give their
children? A very imperfect one. If there happens to be in the
neighbourhood any place of worship, we will suppose a Quaker's
meeting; rather than not show their fine clothes, they will go to
it, and some of them may perhaps attach themselves to that society.
Others will remain in a perfect state of indifference; the children
of these zealous parents will not be able to tell what their
religious principles are, and their grandchildren still less. The
neighbourhood of a place of worship generally leads them to it, and
the action of going thither, is the strongest evidence they can give
of their attachment to any sect. The Quakers are the only people who
retain a fondness for their own mode of worship; for be they ever so
far separated from each other, they hold a sort of communion with
the society, and seldom depart from its rules, at least in this
country. Thus all sects are mixed as well as all nations; thus
religious indifference is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of
the continent to the other; which is at present one of the strongest
characteristics of the Americans. Where this will reach no one can
tell, perhaps it may leave a vacuum fit to receive other systems.
Persecution, religious pride, the love of contradiction, are the
food of what the world commonly calls religion. These motives have
ceased here; zeal in Europe is confined; here it evaporates in the
great distance it has to travel; there it is a grain of powder
inclosed, here it burns away in the open air, and consumes without

But to return to our back settlers. I must tell you, that there is
something in the proximity of the woods, which is very singular. It
is with men as it is with the plants and animals that grow and live
in the forests; they are entirely different from those that live in
the plains. I will candidly tell you all my thoughts but you are not
to expect that I shall advance any reasons. By living in or near the
woods, their actions are regulated by the wildness of the
neighbourhood. The deer often come to eat their grain, the wolves to
destroy their sheep, the bears to kill their hogs, the foxes to
catch their poultry. This surrounding hostility immediately puts the
gun into their hands; they watch these animals, they kill some; and
thus by defending their property, they soon become professed
hunters; this is the progress; once hunters, farewell to the plough.
The chase renders them ferocious, gloomy, and unsociable; a hunter
wants no neighbour, he rather hates them, because he dreads the
competition. In a little time their success in the woods makes them
neglect their tillage. They trust to the natural fecundity of the
earth, and therefore do little; carelessness in fencing often
exposes what little they sow to destruction; they are not at home to
watch; in order therefore to make up the deficiency, they go oftener
to the woods. That new mode of life brings along with it a new set
of manners, which I cannot easily describe. These new manners being
grafted on the old stock, produce a strange sort of lawless
profligacy, the impressions of which are indelible. The manners of
the Indian natives are respectable, compared with this European
medley. Their wives and children live in sloth and inactivity; and
having no proper pursuits, you may judge what education the latter
receive. Their tender minds have nothing else to contemplate but the
example of their parents; like them they grow up a mongrel breed,
half civilised, half savage, except nature stamps on them some
constitutional propensities. That rich, that voluptuous sentiment is
gone that struck them so forcibly; the possession of their freeholds
no longer conveys to their minds the same pleasure and pride. To all
these reasons you must add, their lonely situation, and you cannot
imagine what an effect on manners the great distances they live from
each other has! Consider one of the last settlements in its first
view: of what is it composed? Europeans who have not that sufficient
share of knowledge they ought to have, in order to prosper; people
who have suddenly passed from oppression, dread of government, and
fear of laws, into the unlimited freedom of the woods. This sudden
change must have a very great effect on most men, and on that class
particularly. Eating of wild meat, whatever you may think, tends to
alter their temper: though all the proof I can adduce, is, that I
have seen it: and having no place of worship to resort to, what
little society this might afford is denied them. The Sunday
meetings, exclusive of religious benefits, were the only social
bonds that might have inspired them with some degree of emulation in
neatness. Is it then surprising to see men thus situated, immersed
in great and heavy labours, degenerate a little? It is rather a
wonder the effect is not more diffusive. The Moravians and the
Quakers are the only instances in exception to what I have advanced.
The first never settle singly, it is a colony of the society which
emigrates; they carry with them their forms, worship, rules, and
decency: the others never begin so hard, they are always able to buy
improvements, in which there is a great advantage, for by that time
the country is recovered from its first barbarity. Thus our bad
people are those who are half cultivators and half hunters; and the
worst of them are those who have degenerated altogether into the
hunting state. As old ploughmen and new men of the woods, as
Europeans and new made Indians, they contract the vices of both;
they adopt the moroseness and ferocity of a native, without his
mildness, or even his industry at home. If manners are not refined,
at least they are rendered simple and inoffensive by tilling the
earth; all our wants are supplied by it, our time is divided between
labour and rest, and leaves none for the commission of great
misdeeds. As hunters it is divided between the toil of the chase,
the idleness of repose, or the indulgence of inebriation. Hunting is
but a licentious idle life, and if it does not always pervert good
dispositions; yet, when it is united with bad luck, it leads to
want: want stimulates that propensity to rapacity and injustice, too
natural to needy men, which is the fatal gradation. After this
explanation of the effects which follow by living in the woods,
shall we yet vainly flatter ourselves with the hope of converting
the Indians? We should rather begin with converting our back-
settlers; and now if I dare mention the name of religion, its sweet
accents would be lost in the immensity of these woods. Men thus
placed are not fit either to receive or remember its mild
instructions; they want temples and ministers, but as soon as men
cease to remain at home, and begin to lead an erratic life, let them
be either tawny or white, they cease to be its disciples.

Thus have I faintly and imperfectly endeavoured to trace our society
from the sea to our woods! yet you must not imagine that every
person who moves back, acts upon the same principles, or falls into
the same degeneracy. Many families carry with them all their decency
of conduct, purity of morals, and respect of religion; but these are
scarce, the power of example is sometimes irresistible. Even among
these back-settlers, their depravity is greater or less, according
to what nation or province they belong. Were I to adduce proofs of
this, I might be accused of partiality. If there happens to be some
rich intervals, some fertile bottoms, in those remote districts, the
people will there prefer tilling the land to hunting, and will
attach themselves to it; but even on these fertile spots you may
plainly perceive the inhabitants to acquire a great degree of
rusticity and selfishness.

It is in consequence of this straggling situation, and the
astonishing power it has on manners, that the back-settlers of both
the Carolinas, Virginia, and many other parts, have been long a set
of lawless people; it has been even dangerous to travel among them.
Government can do nothing in so extensive a country, better it
should wink at these irregularities, than that it should use means
inconsistent with its usual mildness. Time will efface those stains:
in proportion as the great body of population approaches them they
will reform, and become polished and subordinate. Whatever has been
said of the four New England provinces, no such degeneracy of
manners has ever tarnished their annals; their back-settlers have
been kept within the bounds of decency, and government, by means of
wise laws, and by the influence of religion. What a detestable idea
such people must have given to the natives of the Europeans! They
trade with them, the worst of people are permitted to do that which
none but persons of the best characters should be employed in. They
get drunk with them, and often defraud the Indians. Their avarice,
removed from the eyes of their superiors, knows no bounds; and aided
by the little superiority of knowledge, these traders deceive them,
and even sometimes shed blood. Hence those shocking violations,
those sudden devastations which have so often stained our frontiers,
when hundreds of innocent people have been sacrificed for the crimes
of a few. It was in consequence of such behaviour, that the Indians
took the hatchet against the Virginians in 1774. Thus are our first
steps trod, thus are our first trees felled, in general, by the most
vicious of our people; and thus the path is opened for the arrival
of a second and better class, the true American freeholders; the
most respectable set of people in this part of the world:
respectable for their industry, their happy independence, the great
share of freedom they possess, the good regulation of their
families, and for extending the trade and the dominion of our mother

Europe contains hardly any other distinctions but lords and tenants;
this fair country alone is settled by freeholders, the possessors of
the soil they cultivate, members of the government they obey, and
the framers of their own laws, by means of their representatives.
This is a thought which you have taught me to cherish; our
difference from Europe, far from diminishing, rather adds to our
usefulness and consequence as men and subjects. Had our forefathers
remained there, they would only have crowded it, and perhaps
prolonged those convulsions which had shook it so long. Every
industrious European who transports himself here, may be compared to
a sprout growing at the foot of a great tree; it enjoys and draws
but a little portion of sap; wrench it from the parent roots,
transplant it, and it will become a tree bearing fruit also.
Colonists are therefore entitled to the consideration due to the
most useful subjects; a hundred families barely existing in some
parts of Scotland, will here in six years, cause an annual
exportation of 10,000 bushels of wheat: 100 bushels being but a
common quantity for an industrious family to sell, if they cultivate
good land. It is here then that the idle may be employed, the
useless become useful, and the poor become rich; but by riches I do
not mean gold and silver, we have but little of those metals; I mean
a better sort of wealth, cleared lands, cattle, good houses, good
clothes, and an increase of people to enjoy them.

There is no wonder that this country has so many charms, and
presents to Europeans so many temptations to remain in it. A
traveller in Europe becomes a stranger as soon as he quits his own
kingdom; but it is otherwise here. We know, properly speaking, no
strangers; this is every person's country; the variety of our soils,
situations, climates, governments, and produce, hath something which
must please everybody. No sooner does an European arrive, no matter
of what condition, than his eyes are opened upon the fair prospect;
he hears his language spoke, he retraces many of his own country
manners, he perpetually hears the names of families and towns with
which he is acquainted; he sees happiness and prosperity in all
places disseminated; he meets with hospitality, kindness, and plenty
everywhere; he beholds hardly any poor, he seldom hears of
punishments and executions; and he wonders at the elegance of our
towns, those miracles of industry and freedom. He cannot admire
enough our rural districts, our convenient roads, good taverns, and
our many accommodations; he involuntarily loves a country where
everything is so lovely. When in England, he was a mere Englishman;
here he stands on a larger portion of the globe, not less than its
fourth part, and may see the productions of the north, in iron and
naval stores; the provisions of Ireland, the grain of Egypt, the
indigo, the rice of China. He does not find, as in Europe, a crowded
society, where every place is over-stocked; he does not feel that
perpetual collision of parties, that difficulty of beginning, that
contention which oversets so many. There is room for everybody in
America; has he any particular talent, or industry? he exerts it in
order to procure a livelihood, and it succeeds. Is he a merchant?
the avenues of trade are infinite; is he eminent in any respect? he
will be employed and respected. Does he love a country life?
pleasant farms present themselves; he may purchase what he wants,
and thereby become an American farmer. Is he a labourer, sober and
industrious? he need not go many miles, nor receive many
informations before he will be hired, well fed at the table of his
employer, and paid four or five times more than he can get in
Europe. Does he want uncultivated lands? thousands of acres present
themselves, which he may purchase cheap. Whatever be his talents or
inclinations, if they are moderate, he may satisfy them. I do not
mean that every one who comes will grow rich in a little time; no,
but he may procure an easy, decent maintenance, by his industry.
Instead of starving he will be fed, instead of being idle he will
have employment; and these are riches enough for such men as come
over here. The rich stay in Europe, it is only the middling and the
poor that emigrate. Would you wish to travel in independent
idleness, from north to south, you will find easy access, and the
most cheerful reception at every house; society without ostentation,
good cheer without pride, and every decent diversion which the
country affords, with little expense. It is no wonder that the
European who has lived here a few years, is desirous to remain;
Europe with all its pomp, is not to be compared to this continent,
for men of middle stations, or labourers.

An European, when he first arrives, seems limited in his intentions,
as well as in his views; but he very suddenly alters his scale; two
hundred miles formerly appeared a very great distance, it is now but
a trifle; he no sooner breathes our air than he forms schemes, and
embarks in designs he never would have thought of in his own
country. There the plenitude of society confines many useful ideas,
and often extinguishes the most laudable schemes which here ripen
into maturity. Thus Europeans become Americans.

But how is this accomplished in that crowd of low, indigent people,
who flock here every year from all parts of Europe? I will tell you;
they no sooner arrive than they immediately feel the good effects of
that plenty of provisions we possess: they fare on our best food,
and they are kindly entertained; their talents, character, and
peculiar industry are immediately inquired into; they find
countrymen everywhere disseminated, let them come from whatever part
of Europe. Let me select one as an epitome of the rest; he is hired,
he goes to work, and works moderately; instead of being employed by
a haughty person, he finds himself with his equal, placed at the
substantial table of the farmer, or else at an inferior one as good;
his wages are high, his bed is not like that bed of sorrow on which
he used to lie: if he behaves with propriety, and is faithful, he is
caressed, and becomes as it were a member of the family. He begins
to feel the effects of a sort of resurrection; hitherto he had not
lived, but simply vegetated; he now feels himself a man, because he
is treated as such; the laws of his own country had overlooked him
in his insignificancy; the laws of this cover him with their mantle.
Judge what an alteration there must arise in the mind and thoughts
of this man; he begins to forget his former servitude and
dependence, his heart involuntarily swells and glows; this first
swell inspires him with those new thoughts which constitute an
American. What love can he entertain for a country where his
existence was a burthen to him; if he is a generous good man, the
love of this new adoptive parent will sink deep into his heart. He
looks around, and sees many a prosperous person, who but a few years
before was as poor as himself. This encourages him much, he begins
to form some little scheme, the first, alas, he ever formed in his
life. If he is wise he thus spends two or three years, in which time
he acquires knowledge, the use of tools, the modes of working the
lands, felling trees, etc. This prepares the foundation of a good
name, the most useful acquisition he can make. He is encouraged, he
has gained friends; he is advised and directed, he feels bold, he
purchases some land; he gives all the money he has brought over, as
well as what he has earned, and trusts to the God of harvests for
the discharge of the rest. His good name procures him credit. He is
now possessed of the deed, conveying to him and his posterity the
fee simple and absolute property of two hundred acres of land,
situated on such a river. What an epocha in this man's life! He is
become a freeholder, from perhaps a German boor--he is now an
American, a Pennsylvanian, an English subject. He is naturalised,
his name is enrolled with those of the other citizens of the
province. Instead of being a vagrant, he has a place of residence;
he is called the inhabitant of such a county, or of such a district,
and for the first time in his life counts for something; for
hitherto he has been a cypher. I only repeat what I have heard many
say, and no wonder their hearts should glow, and be agitated with a
multitude of feelings, not easy to describe. From nothing to start
into being; from a servant to the rank of a master; from being the
slave of some despotic prince, to become a free man, invested with
lands, to which every municipal blessing is annexed! What a change
indeed! It is in consequence of that change that he becomes an
American. This great metamorphosis has a double effect, it
extinguishes all his European prejudices, he forgets that mechanism
of subordination, that servility of disposition which poverty had
taught him; and sometimes he is apt to forget too much, often
passing from one extreme to the other. If he is a good man, he forms
schemes of future prosperity, he proposes to educate his children
better than he has been educated himself; he thinks of future modes
of conduct, feels an ardour to labour he never felt before. Pride
steps in and leads him to everything that the laws do not forbid: he
respects them; with a heart-felt gratitude he looks toward the east,
toward that insular government from whose wisdom all his new
felicity is derived, and under whose wings and protection he now
lives. These reflections constitute him the good man and the good
subject. Ye poor Europeans, ye, who sweat, and work for the great--
ye, who are obliged to give so many sheaves to the church, so many
to your lords, so many to your government, and have hardly any left
for yourselves--ye, who are held in less estimation than favourite
hunters or useless lap-dogs--ye, who only breathe the air of nature,
because it cannot be withheld from you; it is here that ye can
conceive the possibility of those feelings I have been describing;
it is here the laws of naturalisation invite every one to partake of
our great labours and felicity, to till unrented, untaxed lands!
Many, corrupted beyond the power of amendment, have brought with
them all their vices, and disregarding the advantages held to them,
have gone on in their former career of iniquity, until they have
been overtaken and punished by our laws. It is not every emigrant
who succeeds; no, it is only the sober, the honest, and industrious:
happy those to whom this transition has served as a powerful spur to
labour, to prosperity, and to the good establishment of children,
born in the days of their poverty; and who had no other portion to
expect but the rags of their parents, had it not been for their
happy emigration. Others again, have been led astray by this
enchanting scene; their new pride, instead of leading them to the
fields, has kept them in idleness; the idea of possessing lands is
all that satisfies them--though surrounded with fertility, they have
mouldered away their time in inactivity, misinformed husbandry, and
ineffectual endeavours. How much wiser, in general, the honest
Germans than almost all other Europeans; they hire themselves to
some of their wealthy landsmen, and in that apprenticeship learn
everything that is necessary. They attentively consider the
prosperous industry of others, which imprints in their minds a
strong desire of possessing the same advantages. This forcible idea
never quits them, they launch forth, and by dint of sobriety, rigid
parsimony, and the most persevering industry, they commonly succeed.
Their astonishment at their first arrival from Germany is very
great--it is to them a dream; the contrast must be powerful indeed;
they observe their countrymen flourishing in every place; they
travel through whole counties where not a word of English is spoken;
and in the names and the language of the people, they retrace
Germany. They have been an useful acquisition to this continent, and
to Pennsylvania in particular; to them it owes some share of its
prosperity: to their mechanical knowledge and patience it owes the
finest mills in all America, the best teams of horses, and many
other advantages. The recollection of their former poverty and
slavery never quits them as long as they live.

The Scotch and the Irish might have lived in their own country
perhaps as poor, but enjoying more civil advantages, the effects of
their new situation do not strike them so forcibly, nor has it so
lasting an effect. From whence the difference arises I know not, but
out of twelve families of emigrants of each country, generally seven
Scotch will succeed, nine German, and four Irish. The Scotch are
frugal and laborious, but their wives cannot work so hard as German
women, who on the contrary vie with their husbands, and often share
with them the most severe toils of the field, which they understand
better. They have therefore nothing to struggle against, but the
common casualties of nature. The Irish do not prosper so well; they
love to drink and to quarrel; they are litigious, and soon take to
the gun, which is the ruin of everything; they seem beside to labour
under a greater degree of ignorance in husbandry than the others;
perhaps it is that their industry had less scope, and was less
exercised at home. I have heard many relate, how the land was
parcelled out in that kingdom; their ancient conquest has been a
great detriment to them, by over-setting their landed property. The
lands possessed by a few, are leased down ad infinitum, and the
occupiers often pay five guineas an acre. The poor are worse lodged
there than anywhere else in Europe; their potatoes, which are easily
raised, are perhaps an inducement to laziness: their wages are too
low, and their whisky too cheap.

There is no tracing observations of this kind, without making at the
same time very great allowances, as there are everywhere to be
found, a great many exceptions. The Irish themselves, from different
parts of that kingdom, are very different. It is difficult to
account for this surprising locality, one would think on so small an
island an Irishman must be an Irishman: yet it is not so, they are
different in their aptitude to, and in their love of labour.

The Scotch on the contrary are all industrious and saving; they want
nothing more than a field to exert themselves in, and they are
commonly sure of succeeding. The only difficulty they labour under
is, that technical American knowledge which requires some time to
obtain; it is not easy for those who seldom saw a tree, to conceive
how it is to be felled, cut up, and split into rails and posts.

As I am fond of seeing and talking of prosperous families, I intend
to finish this letter by relating to you the history of an honest
Scotch Hebridean, who came here in 1774, which will show you in
epitome what the Scotch can do, wherever they have room for the
exertion of their industry. Whenever I hear of any new settlement, I
pay it a visit once or twice a year, on purpose to observe the
different steps each settler takes, the gradual improvements, the
different tempers of each family, on which their prosperity in a
great nature depends; their different modifications of industry,
their ingenuity, and contrivance; for being all poor, their life
requires sagacity and prudence. In the evening I love to hear them
tell their stories, they furnish me with new ideas; I sit still and
listen to their ancient misfortunes, observing in many of them a
strong degree of gratitude to God, and the government. Many a well
meant sermon have I preached to some of them. When I found laziness
and inattention to prevail, who could refrain from wishing well to
these new countrymen, after having undergone so many fatigues. Who
could withhold good advice? What a happy change it must be, to
descend from the high, sterile, bleak lands of Scotland, where
everything is barren and cold, to rest on some fertile farms in
these middle provinces! Such a transition must have afforded the
most pleasing satisfaction.

The following dialogue passed at an out-settlement, where I lately
paid a visit:

Well, friend, how do you do now; I am come fifty odd miles on
purpose to see you; how do you go on with your new cutting and
slashing? Very well, good Sir, we learn the use of the axe bravely,
we shall make it out; we have a belly full of victuals every day,
our cows run about, and come home full of milk, our hogs get fat of
themselves in the woods: Oh, this is a good country! God bless the
king, and William Penn; we shall do very well by and by, if we keep
our healths. Your loghouse looks neat and light, where did you get
these shingles? One of our neighbours is a New-England man, and he
showed us how to split them out of chestnut-trees. Now for a barn,
but all in good time, here are fine trees to build with. Who is to
frame it, sure you don't understand that work yet? A countryman of
ours who has been in America these ten years, offers to wait for his
money until the second crop is lodged in it. What did you give for
your land? Thirty-five shillings per acre, payable in seven years.
How many acres have you got? An hundred and fifty. That is enough to
begin with; is not your land pretty hard to clear? Yes, Sir, hard
enough, but it would be harder still if it were ready cleared, for
then we should have no timber, and I love the woods much; the land
is nothing without them. Have not you found out any bees yet? No,
Sir; and if we had we should not know what to do with them. I will
tell you by and by. You are very kind. Farewell, honest man, God
prosper you; whenever you travel toward----, inquire for J.S. He
will entertain you kindly, provided you bring him good tidings from
your family and farm. In this manner I often visit them, and
carefully examine their houses, their modes of ingenuity, their
different ways; and make them all relate all they know, and describe
all they feel. These are scenes which I believe you would willingly
share with me. I well remember your philanthropic turn of mind. Is
it not better to contemplate under these humble roofs, the rudiments
of future wealth and population, than to behold the accumulated
bundles of litigious papers in the office of a lawyer? To examine
how the world is gradually settled, how the howling swamp is
converted into a pleasing meadow, the rough ridge into a fine field;
and to hear the cheerful whistling, the rural song, where there was
no sound heard before, save the yell of the savage, the screech of
the owl or the hissing of the snake? Here an European, fatigued with
luxury, riches, and pleasures, may find a sweet relaxation in a
series of interesting scenes, as affecting as they are new. England,
which now contains so many domes, so many castles, was once like
this; a place woody and marshy; its inhabitants, now the favourite
nation for arts and commerce, were once painted like our neighbours.
The country will nourish in its turn, and the same observations will
be made which I have just delineated. Posterity will look back with
avidity and pleasure, to trace, if possible, the era of this or that
particular settlement.

Pray, what is the reason that the Scots are in general more
religious, more faithful, more honest, and industrious than the
Irish? I do not mean to insinuate national reflections, God forbid!
It ill becomes any man, and much less an American; but as I know men
are nothing of themselves, and that they owe all their different
modifications either to government or other local circumstances,
there must be some powerful causes which constitute this great
national difference.

Agreeable to the account which several Scotchmen have given me of
the north of Britain, of the Orkneys, and the Hebride Islands, they
seem, on many accounts, to be unfit for the habitation of men; they
appear to be calculated only for great sheep pastures. Who then can
blame the inhabitants of these countries for transporting themselves
hither? This great continent must in time absorb the poorest part of
Europe; and this will happen in proportion as it becomes better
known; and as war, taxation, oppression, and misery increase there.
The Hebrides appear to be fit only for the residence of malefactors,
and it would be much better to send felons there than either to
Virginia or Maryland. What a strange compliment has our mother
country paid to two of the finest provinces in America! England has
entertained in that respect very mistaken ideas; what was intended
as a punishment, is become the good fortune of several; many of
those who have been transported as felons, are now rich, and
strangers to the stings of those wants that urged them to violations
of the law: they are become industrious, exemplary, and useful
citizens. The English government should purchase the most northern
and barren of those islands; it should send over to us the honest,
primitive Hebrideans, settle them here on good lands, as a reward
for their virtue and ancient poverty; and replace them with a colony
of her wicked sons. The severity of the climate, the inclemency of
the seasons, the sterility of the soil, the tempestuousness of the
sea, would afflict and punish enough. Could there be found a spot
better adapted to retaliate the injury it had received by their
crimes? Some of those islands might be considered as the hell of
Great Britain, where all evil spirits should be sent. Two essential
ends would be answered by this simple operation. The good people, by
emigration, would be rendered happier; the bad ones would be placed
where they ought to be. In a few years the dread of being sent to
that wintry region would have a much stronger effect than that of
transportation.--This is no place of punishment; were I a poor
hopeless, breadless Englishman, and not restrained by the power of
shame, I should be very thankful for the passage. It is of very
little importance how, and in what manner an indigent man arrives;
for if he is but sober, honest, and industrious, he has nothing more
to ask of heaven. Let him go to work, he will have opportunities
enough to earn a comfortable support, and even the means of
procuring some land; which ought to be the utmost wish of every
person who has health and hands to work. I knew a man who came to
this country, in the literal sense of the expression, stark naked; I
think he was a Frenchman, and a sailor on board an English man-of-
war. Being discontented, he had stripped himself and swam ashore;
where, finding clothes and friends, he settled afterwards at
Maraneck, in the county of Chester, in the province of New York: he
married and left a good farm to each of his sons. I knew another
person who was but twelve years old when he was taken on the
frontiers of Canada, by the Indians; at his arrival at Albany he was
purchased by a gentleman, who generously bound him apprentice to a
tailor. He lived to the age of ninety, and left behind him a fine
estate and a numerous family, all well settled; many of them I am
acquainted with.--Where is then the industrious European who ought
to despair?

After a foreigner from any part of Europe is arrived, and become a
citizen; let him devoutly listen to the voice of our great parent,
which says to him, "Welcome to my shores, distressed European; bless
the hour in which thou didst see my verdant fields, my fair
navigable rivers, and my green mountains!--If thou wilt work, I have
bread for thee; if thou wilt be honest, sober, and industrious, I
have greater rewards to confer on thee--ease and independence. I
will give thee fields to feed and clothe thee; a comfortable
fireside to sit by, and tell thy children by what means thou hast
prospered; and a decent bed to repose on. I shall endow thee beside
with the immunities of a freeman. If thou wilt carefully educate thy
children, teach them gratitude to God, and reverence to that
government, that philanthropic government, which has collected here
so many men and made them happy. I will also provide for thy
progeny; and to every good man this ought to be the most holy, the
most powerful, the most earnest wish he can possibly form, as well
as the most consolatory prospect when he dies. Go thou and work and
till; thou shalt prosper, provided thou be just, grateful, and


Let historians give the detail of our charters, the succession of
our several governors, and of their administrations; of our
political struggles, and of the foundation of our towns: let
annalists amuse themselves with collecting anecdotes of the
establishment of our modern provinces: eagles soar high--I, a
feebler bird, cheerfully content myself with skipping from bush to
bush, and living on insignificant insects. I am so habituated to
draw all my food and pleasure from the surface of the earth which I
till, that I cannot, nor indeed am I able to quit it--I therefore
present you with the short history of a simple Scotchman; though it
contain not a single remarkable event to amaze the reader; no
tragical scene to convulse the heart, or pathetic narrative to draw
tears from sympathetic eyes. All I wish to delineate is, the
progressive steps of a poor man, advancing from indigence to ease;
from oppression to freedom; from obscurity and contumely to some
degree of consequence--not by virtue of any freaks of fortune, but
by the gradual operation of sobriety, honesty, and emigration. These
are the limited fields, through which I love to wander; sure to find
in some parts, the smile of new-born happiness, the glad heart,
inspiring the cheerful song, the glow of manly pride excited by
vivid hopes and rising independence. I always return from my
neighbourly excursions extremely happy, because there I see good
living almost under every roof, and prosperous endeavours almost in
every field. But you may say, why don't you describe some of the
more ancient, opulent settlements of our country, where even the eye
of an European has something to admire? It is true, our American
fields are in general pleasing to behold, adorned and intermixed as
they are with so many substantial houses, flourishing orchards, and
copses of woodlands; the pride of our farms, the source of every
good we possess. But what I might observe there is but natural and
common; for to draw comfortable subsistence from well fenced
cultivated fields, is easy to conceive. A father dies and leaves a
decent house and rich farm to his son; the son modernises the one,
and carefully tills the other; marries the daughter of a friend and
neighbour: this is the common prospect; but though it is rich and
pleasant, yet it is far from being so entertaining and instructive
as the one now in my view.

I had rather attend on the shore to welcome the poor European when
he arrives, I observe him in his first moments of embarrassment,
trace him throughout his primary difficulties, follow him step by
step, until he pitches his tent on some piece of land, and realises
that energetic wish which has made him quit his native land, his
kindred, and induced him to traverse a boisterous ocean. It is there
I want to observe his first thoughts and feelings, the first essays
of an industry, which hitherto has been suppressed. I wish to see
men cut down the first trees, erect their new buildings, till their
first fields, reap their first crops, and say for the first time in
their lives, "This is our own grain, raised from American soil--on
it we shall feed and grow fat, and convert the rest into gold and
silver." I want to see how the happy effects of their sobriety,
honesty, and industry are first displayed: and who would not take a
pleasure in seeing these strangers settling as new countrymen,
struggling with arduous difficulties, overcoming them, and becoming

Landing on this great continent is like going to sea, they must have
a compass, some friendly directing needle; or else they will
uselessly err and wander for a long time, even with a fair wind: yet
these are the struggles through which our forefathers have waded;
and they have left us no other records of them, but the possession
of our farms. The reflections I make on these new settlers recall to
my mind what my grandfather did in his days; they fill me with
gratitude to his memory as well as to that government, which invited
him to come, and helped him when he arrived, as well as many others.
Can I pass over these reflections without remembering thy name, O
Penn! thou best of legislators; who by the wisdom of thy laws hast
endowed human nature, within the bounds of thy province, with every
dignity it can possibly enjoy in a civilised state; and showed by
thy singular establishment, what all men might be if they would
follow thy example!

In the year 1770, I purchased some lands in the county of----, which
I intended for one of my sons; and was obliged to go there in order
to see them properly surveyed and marked out: the soil is good, but
the country has a very wild aspect. However I observed with
pleasure, that land sells very fast; and I am in hopes when the lad
gets a wife, it will be a well-settled decent country. Agreeable to
our customs, which indeed are those of nature, it is our duty to
provide for our eldest children while we live, in order that our
homesteads may be left to the youngest, who are the most helpless.
Some people are apt to regard the portions given to daughters as so
much lost to the family; but this is selfish, and is not agreeable
to my way of thinking; they cannot work as men do; they marry young:
I have given an honest European a farm to till for himself, rent
free, provided he clears an acre of swamp every year, and that he
quits it whenever my daughter shall marry. It will procure her a
substantial husband, a good farmer--and that is all my ambition.

Whilst I was in the woods I met with a party of Indians; I shook
hands with them, and I perceived they had killed a cub; I had a
little Peach brandy, they perceived it also, we therefore joined
company, kindled a large fire, and ate an hearty supper. I made
their hearts glad, and we all reposed on good beds of leaves. Soon
after dark, I was surprised to hear a prodigious hooting through the
woods; the Indians laughed heartily. One of them, more skilful than
the rest, mimicked the owls so exactly, that a very large one
perched on a high tree over our fire. We soon brought him down; he
measured five feet seven inches from one extremity of the wings to
the other. By Captain----I have sent you the talons, on which I have
had the heads of small candlesticks fixed. Pray keep them on the
table of your study for my sake.

Contrary to my expectation, I found myself under the necessity of
going to Philadelphia, in order to pay the purchase money, and to
have the deeds properly recorded. I thought little of the journey,
though it was above two hundred miles, because I was well acquainted
with many friends, at whose houses I intended to stop. The third
night after I left the woods, I put up at Mr.----'s, the most worthy
citizen I know; he happened to lodge at my house when you was
there.--He kindly inquired after your welfare, and desired I would
make a friendly mention of him to you. The neatness of these good
people is no phenomenon, yet I think this excellent family surpasses
everything I know. No sooner did I lie down to rest than I thought
myself in a most odoriferous arbour, so sweet and fragrant were the
sheets. Next morning I found my host in the orchard destroying
caterpillars. I think, friend B., said I, that thee art greatly
departed from the good rules of the society; thee seemeth to have
quitted that happy simplicity for which it hath hitherto been so
remarkable. Thy rebuke, friend James, is a pretty heavy one; what
motive canst thee have for thus accusing us? Thy kind wife made a
mistake last evening, I said; she put me on a bed of roses, instead
of a common one; I am not used to such delicacies. And is that all,
friend James, that thee hast to reproach us with?--Thee wilt not
call it luxury I hope? thee canst but know that it is the produce of
our garden; and friend Pope sayeth, that "to enjoy is to obey." This
is a most learned excuse indeed, friend B., and must be valued
because it is founded upon truth. James, my wife hath done nothing
more to thy bed than what is done all the year round to all the beds
in the family; she sprinkles her linen with rose-water before she
puts it under the press; it is her fancy, and I have nought to say.
But thee shalt not escape so, verily I will send for her; thee and
she must settle the matter, whilst I proceed on my work, before the
sun gets too high.--Tom, go thou and call thy mistress Philadelphia.
What. said I, is thy wife called by that name? I did not know that
before. I'll tell thee, James, how it came to pass: her grandmother
was the first female child born after William Penn landed with the
rest of our brethren; and in compliment to the city he intended to
build, she was called after the name he intended to give it; and so
there is always one of the daughters of her family known by the name
of Philadelphia. She soon came, and after a most friendly
altercation, I gave up the point; breakfasted, departed, and in four
days reached the city.

A week after news came that a vessel was arrived with Scotch
emigrants. Mr. C. and I went to the dock to see them disembark. It
was a scene which inspired me with a variety of thoughts; here are,
said I to my friend, a number of people, driven by poverty, and
other adverse causes, to a foreign land, in which they know nobody.
The name of a stranger, instead of implying relief, assistance, and
kindness, on the contrary, conveys very different ideas. They are
now distressed; their minds are racked by a variety of
apprehensions, fears, and hopes. It was this last powerful sentiment
which has brought them here. If they are good people, I pray that
heaven may realise them. Whoever were to see them thus gathered
again in five or six years, would behold a more pleasing sight, to
which this would serve as a very powerful contrast. By their
honesty, the vigour of their arms, and the benignity of government,
their condition will be greatly improved; they will be well clad,
fat, possessed of that manly confidence which property confers; they
will become useful citizens. Some of the posterity may act
conspicuous parts in our future American transactions. Most of them
appeared pale and emaciated, from the length of the passage, and the
indifferent provision on which they had lived. The number of
children seemed as great as that of the people; they had all paid
for being conveyed here. The captain told us they were a quiet,
peaceable, and harmless people, who had never dwelt in cities. This
was a valuable cargo; they seemed, a few excepted, to be in the full
vigour of their lives. Several citizens, impelled either by
spontaneous attachments, or motives of humanity, took many of them
to their houses; the city, agreeable to its usual wisdom and
humanity, ordered them all to be lodged in the barracks, and plenty
of provisions to be given them. My friend pitched upon one also and
led him to his house, with his wife, and a son about fourteen years
of age. The majority of them had contracted for land the year
before, by means of an agent; the rest depended entirely upon
chance; and the one who followed us was of this last class. Poor
man, he smiled on receiving the invitation, and gladly accepted it,
bidding his wife and son do the same, in a language which I did not
understand. He gazed with uninterrupted attention on everything he
saw; the houses, the inhabitants, the negroes, and carriages:
everything appeared equally new to him; and we went slow, in order
to give him time to feed on this pleasing variety. Good God! said
he, is this Philadelphia, that blessed city of bread and provisions,
of which we have heard so much? I am told it was founded the same
year in which my father was born; why, it is finer than Greenock and
Glasgow, which are ten times as old. It is so, said my friend to
him, and when thee hast been here a month, thee will soon see that
it is the capital of a fine province, of which thee art going to be
a citizen: Greenock enjoys neither such a climate nor such a soil.
Thus we slowly proceeded along, when we met several large Lancaster
six-horse waggons, just arrived from the country. At this stupendous
sight he stopped short, and with great diffidence asked us what was
the use of these great moving houses, and where those big horses
came from? Have you none such at home, I asked him? Oh, no; these
huge animals would eat all the grass of our island! We at last
reached my friend's house, who in the glow of well-meant
hospitality, made them all three sit down to a good dinner, and gave
them as much cider as they could drink. God bless this country, and
the good people it contains, said he; this is the best meal's
victuals I have made a long time.--I thank you kindly.

What part of Scotland dost thee come from, friend Andrew, said Mr.
C.? Some of us come from the main, some from the island of Barra, he
answered--I myself am a Barra man. I looked on the map, and by its
latitude, easily guessed that it must be an inhospitable climate.
What sort of land have you got there, I asked him? Bad enough, said
he; we have no such trees as I see here, no wheat, no kine, no
apples. Then, I observed, that it must be hard for the poor to live.
We have no poor, he answered, we are all alike, except our laird;
but he cannot help everybody. Pray what is the name of your laird?
Mr. Neiel, said Andrew; the like of him is not to be found in any of
the isles; his forefathers have lived there thirty generations ago,
as we are told. Now, gentlemen, you may judge what an ancient family
estate it must be. But it is cold, the land is thin, and there were
too many of us, which are the reasons that some are come to seek
their fortunes here. Well, Andrew, what step do you intend to take
in order to become rich? I do not know, Sir; I am but an ignorant
man, a stranger besides--I must rely on the advice of good
Christians, they would not deceive me, I am sure. I have brought
with me a character from our Barra minister, can it do me any good
here? Oh, yes; but your future success will depend entirely on your
own conduct; if you are a sober man, as the certificate says,
laborious, and honest, there is no fear but that you will do well.
Have you brought any money with you, Andrew? Yes, Sir, eleven
guineas and an half. Upon my word it is a considerable sum for a
Barra man; how came you by so much money? Why seven years ago I
received a legacy of thirty-seven pounds from an uncle, who loved me
much; my wife brought me two guineas, when the laird gave her to me
for a wife, which I have saved ever since. I have sold all I had; I
worked in Glasgow for some time. I am glad to hear you are so saving
and prudent; be so still; you must go and hire yourself with some
good people; what can you do? I can thresh a little, and handle the
spade. Can you plough? Yes, Sir, with the little breast plough I
have brought with me. These won't do here, Andrew; you are an able
man; if you are willing you will soon learn. I'll tell you what I
intend to do; I'll send you to my house, where you shall stay two or
three weeks, there you must exercise yourself with the axe, that is
the principal tool the Americans want, and particularly the back-
settlers. Can your wife spin? Yes, she can. Well then as soon as you
are able to handle the axe, you shall go and live with Mr. P. R., a
particular friend of mine, who will give you four dollars per month,
for the first six, and the usual price of five as long as you remain
with him. I shall place your wife in another house, where she shall
receive half a dollar a week for spinning; and your son a dollar a
month to drive the team. You shall have besides good victuals to
eat, and good beds to lie on; will all this satisfy you, Andrew? He
hardly understood what I said; the honest tears of gratitude fell
from his eyes as he looked at me, and its expressions seemed to
quiver on his lips.--Though silent, this was saying a great deal;
there was besides something extremely moving to see a man six feet
high thus shed tears; and they did not lessen the good opinion I had
entertained of him. At last he told me, that my offers were more
than he deserved, and that he would first begin to work for his
victuals. No, no, said I, if you are careful and sober, and do what
you can, you shall receive what I told you, after you have served a
short apprenticeship at my house. May God repay you for all your
kindnesses, said Andrew; as long as I live I shall thank you, and do
what I can for you. A few days after I sent them all three to----,
by the return of some waggons, that he might have an opportunity of
viewing, and convincing himself of the utility of those machines
which he had at first so much admired.

The further descriptions he gave us of the Hebrides in general, and
of his native island in particular; of the customs and modes of
living of the inhabitants; greatly entertained me. Pray is the
sterility of the soil the cause that there are no trees, or is it
because there are none planted? What are the modern families of all
the kings of the earth, compared to the date of that of Mr. Neiel?
Admitting that each generation should last but forty years, this
makes a period of 1200; an extraordinary duration for the
uninterrupted descent of any family! Agreeably to the description he
gave us of those countries, they seem to live according to the rules
of nature, which gives them but bare subsistence; their
constitutions are uncontaminated by any excess or effeminacy, which
their soil refuses. If their allowance of food is not too scanty,
they must all be healthy by perpetual temperance and exercise; if
so, they are amply rewarded for their poverty. Could they have
obtained but necessary food, they would not have left it; for it was
not in consequence of oppression, either from their patriarch or the
government, that they had emigrated. I wish we had a colony of these
honest people settled in some parts of this province; their morals,
their religion, seem to be as simple as their manners. This society
would present an interesting spectacle could they be transported on
a richer soil. But perhaps that soil would soon alter everything;
for our opinions, vices, and virtues, are altogether local: we are
machines fashioned by every circumstance around us.

Andrew arrived at my house a week before I did, and I found my wife,
agreeable to my instructions, had placed the axe in his hands, as
his first task. For some time he was very awkward, but he was so
docile, so willing, and grateful, as well as his wife, that I
foresaw he would succeed. Agreeably to my promise, I put them all
with different families, where they were well liked, and all parties
were pleased. Andrew worked hard, lived well, grew fat, and every
Sunday came to pay me a visit on a good horse, which Mr. P. R. lent
him. Poor man, it took him a long time ere he could sit on the
saddle and hold the bridle properly. I believe he had never before
mounted such a beast, though I did not choose to ask him that
question, for fear it might suggest some mortifying ideas. After
having been twelve months at Mr. P. R.'s, and having received his
own and his family's wages, which amounted to eighty-four dollars;
he came to see me on a week-day, and told me, that he was a man of
middle age, and would willingly have land of his own, in order to
procure him a home, as a shelter against old age: that whenever this
period should come, his son, to whom he would give his land, would
then maintain him, and thus live altogether; he therefore required
my advice and assistance. I thought his desire very natural and
praiseworthy, and told him that I should think of it, but that he
must remain one month longer with Mr. P. R., who had 3000 rails to
split. He immediately consented. The spring was not far advanced
enough yet for Andrew to begin clearing any land even supposing that
he had made a purchase; as it is always necessary that the leaves
should be out, in order that this additional combustible may serve
to burn the heaps of brush more readily.

A few days after, it happened that the whole family of Mr. P. R.
went to meeting, and left Andrew to take care of the house. While he
was at the door, attentively reading the Bible, nine Indians just
come from the mountains, suddenly made their appearance, and
unloaded their packs of furs on the floor of the piazza. Conceive,
if you can, what was Andrew's consternation at this extraordinary
sight! From the singular appearance of these people, the honest
Hebridean took them for a lawless band come to rob his master's
house. He therefore, like a faithful guardian, precipitately
withdrew and shut the doors, but as most of our houses are without
locks, he was reduced to the necessity of fixing his knife over the
latch, and then flew upstairs in quest of a broadsword he had
brought from Scotland. The Indians, who were Mr. P. R.'s particular
friends, guessed at his suspicions and fears; they forcibly lifted
the door, and suddenly took possession of the house, got all the
bread and meat they wanted, and sat themselves down by the fire. At
this instant Andrew, with his broadsword in his hand, entered the
room; the Indians earnestly looking at him, and attentively watching
his motions. After a very few reflections, Andrew found that his
weapon was useless, when opposed to nine tomahawks; but this did not
diminish his anger, on the contrary; it grew greater on observing
the calm impudence with which they were devouring the family
provisions. Unable to resist, he called them names in broad Scotch,
and ordered them to desist and be gone; to which the Indians (as
they told me afterwards) replied in their equally broad idiom. It
must have been a most unintelligible altercation between this honest
Barra man, and nine Indians who did not much care for anything he
could say. At last he ventured to lay his hands on one of them, in
order to turn him out of the house. Here Andrew's fidelity got the
better of his prudence; for the Indian, by his motions, threatened
to scalp him, while the rest gave the war hoop. This horrid noise so
effectually frightened poor Andrew, that, unmindful of his courage,
of his broadsword, and his intentions, he rushed out, left them
masters of the house, and disappeared. I have heard one of the
Indians say since, that he never laughed so heartily in his life.
Andrew at a distance, soon recovered from the fears which had been
inspired by this infernal yell, and thought of no other remedy than
to go to the meeting-house, which was about two miles distant. In
the eagerness of his honest intentions, with looks of affright still
marked on his countenance, he called Mr. P. R. out, and told him
with great vehemence of style, that nine monsters were come to his
house--some blue, some red, and some black; that they had little
axes in their hands out of which they smoked; and that like
highlanders, they had no breeches; that they were devouring all his
victuals, and that God only knew what they would do more. Pacify
yourself, said Mr. P. R., my house is as safe with these people, as
if I was there myself; as for the victuals, they are heartily
welcome, honest Andrew; they are not people of much ceremony; they
help themselves thus whenever they are among their friends; I do so
too in their wigwams, whenever I go to their village: you had better
therefore step in and hear the remainder of the sermon, and when the
meeting is over we will all go back in the waggon together.

At their return, Mr. P. R., who speaks the Indian language very
well, explained the whole matter; the Indians renewed their laugh,
and shook hands with honest Andrew, whom they made to smoke out of
their pipes; and thus peace was made, and ratified according to the
Indian custom, by the calumet.

Soon after this adventure, the time approached when I had promised
Andrew my best assistance to settle him; for that purpose I went to
Mr. A. V. in the county of----, who, I was informed, had purchased a
tract of land, contiguous to----settlement. I gave him a faithful
detail of the progress Andrew had made in the rural arts; of his
honesty, sobriety, and gratitude, and pressed him to sell him an
hundred acres. This I cannot comply with, said Mr. A. V., but at the
same time I will do better; I love to encourage honest Europeans as
much as you do, and to see them prosper: you tell me he has but one
son; I will lease them an hundred acres for any term of years you
please, and make it more valuable to your Scotchman than if he was
possessed of the fee simple. By that means he may, with what little
money he has, buy a plough, a team, and some stock; he will not be
incumbered with debts and mortgages; what he raises will be his own;
had he two or three sons as able as himself, then I should think it
more eligible for him to purchase the fee simple. I join with you in
opinion, and will bring Andrew along with me in a few days.

Well, honest Andrew, said Mr. A. V., in consideration of your good
name, I will let you have an hundred acres of good arable land, that
shall be laid out along a new road; there is a bridge already
erected on the creek that passes through the land, and a fine swamp
of about twenty acres. These are my terms, I cannot sell, but I will
lease you the quantity that Mr. James, your friend, has asked; the
first seven years you shall pay no rent, whatever you sow and reap,
and plant and gather, shall be entirely your own; neither the king,
government, nor church, will have any claim on your future property:
the remaining part of the time you must give me twelve dollars and
an half a year; and that is all you will have to pay me. Within the
three first years you must plant fifty apple trees, and clear seven
acres of swamp within the first part of the lease; it will be your
own advantage: whatever you do more within that time, I will pay you
for it, at the common rate of the country. The term of the lease
shall be thirty years; how do you like it, Andrew? Oh, Sir, it is
very good, but I am afraid, that the king or his ministers, or the
governor, or some of our great men, will come and take the land from
me; your son may say to me, by and by, this is my father's land,
Andrew, you must quit it. No, no, said Mr. A. V., there is no such
danger; the king and his ministers are too just to take the labour
of a poor settler; here we have no great men, but what are
subordinate to our laws; but to calm all your fears, I will give you
a lease, so that none can make you afraid. If ever you are
dissatisfied with the land, a jury of your own neighbourhood shall
value all your improvements, and you shall be paid agreeably to
their verdict. You may sell the lease, or if you die, you may
previously dispose of it, as if the land was your own. Expressive,
yet inarticulate joy, was mixed in his countenance, which seemed
impressed with astonishment and confusion. Do you understand me
well, said Mr. A. V.? No, Sir, replied Andrew, I know nothing of
what you mean about lease, improvement, will, jury, etc. That is
honest, we will explain these things to you by and by. It must be
confessed that those were hard words, which he had never heard in
his life; for by his own account, the ideas they convey would be
totally useless in the island of Barra. No wonder, therefore, that
he was embarrassed; for how could the man who had hardly a will of
his own since he was born, imagine he could have one after his
death? How could the person who never possessed anything, conceive
that he could extend his new dominion over this land, even after he
should be laid in his grave? For my part, I think Andrew's amazement
did not imply any extraordinary degree of ignorance; he was an actor
introduced upon a new scene, it required some time ere he could
reconcile himself to the part he was to perform. However he was soon
enlightened, and introduced into those mysteries with which we
native Americans are but too well acquainted.

Here then is honest Andrew, invested with every municipal advantage
they confer; become a freeholder, possessed of a vote, of a place of
residence, a citizen of the province of Pennsylvania. Andrew's
original hopes and the distant prospects he had formed in the island
of Barra, were at the eve of being realised; we therefore can easily
forgive him a few spontaneous ejaculations, which would be useless
to repeat. This short tale is easily told; few words are sufficient
to describe this sudden change of situation; but in his mind it was
gradual, and took him above a week before he could be sure, that
without disturbing any money he could possess lands. Soon after he
prepared himself; I lent him a barrel of pork, and 200 lb. weight of
meal, and made him purchase what was necessary besides.

He set out, and hired a room in the house of a settler who lived the
most contiguous to his own land. His first work was to clear some
acres of swamp, that he might have a supply of hay the following
year for his two horses and cows. From the first day he began to
work, he was indefatigable; his honesty procured him friends, and
his industry the esteem of his new neighbours. One of them offered
him two acres of cleared land, whereon he might plant corn,
pumpkins, squashes, and a few potatoes, that very season. It is
astonishing how quick men will learn when they work for themselves.
I saw with pleasure two months after, Andrew holding a two-horse
plough and tracing his furrows quite straight; thus the spade man of
the island of Barra was become the tiller of American soil. Well
done, said I, Andrew, well done; I see that God speeds and directs
your works; I see prosperity delineated in all your furrows and head
lands. Raise this crop of corn with attention and care, and then you
will be master of the art.

As he had neither mowing nor reaping to do that year, I told him
that the time was come to build his house; and that for the purpose
I would myself invite the neighbourhood to a frolic; that thus he
would have a large dwelling erected, and some upland cleared in one
day. Mr. P. R., his old friend, came at the time appointed, with all
his hands, and brought victuals in plenty: I did the same. About
forty people repaired to the spot; the songs, and merry stories,
went round the woods from cluster to cluster, as the people had
gathered to their different works; trees fell on all sides, bushes
were cut up and heaped; and while many were thus employed, others
with their teams hauled the big logs to the spot which Andrew had
pitched upon for the erection of his new dwelling. We all dined in
the woods; in the afternoon the logs were placed with skids, and the
usual contrivances: thus the rude house was raised, and above two
acres of land cut up, cleared, and heaped.

Whilst all these different operations were performing, Andrew was
absolutely incapable of working; it was to him the most solemn
holiday he had ever seen; it would have been sacrilegious in him to
have denied it with menial labour. Poor man, he sanctified it with
joy and thanksgiving, and honest libations--he went from one to the
other with the bottle in his hand, pressing everybody to drink, and
drinking himself to show the example. He spent the whole day in
smiling, laughing, and uttering monosyllables: his wife and son were
there also, but as they could not understand the language, their
pleasure must have been altogether that of the imagination. The
powerful lord, the wealthy merchant, on seeing the superb mansion
finished, never can feel half the joy and real happiness which was
felt and enjoyed on that day by this honest Hebridean: though this
new dwelling, erected in the midst of the woods, was nothing more
than a square inclosure, composed of twenty-four large clumsy logs,
let in at the ends. When the work was finished, the company made the
woods resound with the noise of their three cheers, and the honest
wishes they formed for Andrew's prosperity. He could say nothing,
but with thankful tears he shook hands with them all. Thus from the
first day he had landed, Andrew marched towards this important
event: this memorable day made the sun shine on that land on which
he was to sow wheat and other grain. What swamp he had cleared lay
before his door; the essence of future bread, milk, and meat, were
scattered all round him. Soon after he hired a carpenter, who put on
a roof and laid the floors; in a week more the house was properly
plastered, and the chimney finished. He moved into it, and purchased
two cows, which found plenty of food in the woods--his hogs had the
same advantage. That very year, he and his son sowed three bushels
of wheat, from which he reaped ninety-one and a half; for I had
ordered him to keep an exact account of all he should raise. His
first crop of other corn would have been as good, had it not been
for the squirrels, which were enemies not to be dispersed by the
broadsword. The fourth year I took an inventory of the wheat this
man possessed, which I send you. Soon after, further settlements
were made on that road, and Andrew, instead of being the last man
towards the wilderness, found himself in a few years in the middle
of a numerous society. He helped others as generously as others had
helped him; and I have dined many times at his table with several of
his neighbours. The second year he was made overseer of the road,
and served on two petty juries, performing as a citizen all the
duties required of him. The historiographer of some great prince or
general, does not bring his hero victorious to the end of a
successful campaign, with one half of the heart-felt pleasure with
which I have conducted Andrew to the situation he now enjoys: he is
independent and easy. Triumph and military honours do not always
imply those two blessings. He is unencumbered with debts, services,
rents, or any other dues; the successes of a campaign, the laurels
of war, must be purchased at the dearest rate, which makes every
cool reflecting citizen to tremble and shudder. By the literal
account hereunto annexed, you will easily be made acquainted with
the happy effects which constantly flow, in this country, from
sobriety and industry, when united with good land and freedom.

The account of the property he acquired with his own hands and those
of his son, in four years, is under:


The value of his improvements and lease 225
Six cows, at 13 dollars 78
Two breeding mares 50
The rest of the stock 100
Seventy-three bushels of wheat 66
Money due to him on notes 43
Pork and beef in his cellar 28
Wool and flax 19
Ploughs and other utensils of husbandry 31
240 pounds Pennsylvania currency--dollars 640



The greatest compliment that can be paid to the best of kings, to
the wisest ministers, or the most patriotic rulers, is to think,
that the reformation of political abuses, and the happiness of their
people are the primary objects of their attention. But alas! how
disagreeable must the work of reformation be; how dreaded the
operation; for we hear of no amendment: on the contrary, the great
number of European emigrants, yearly coming over here, informs us,
that the severity of taxes, the injustice of laws, the tyranny of
the rich, and the oppressive avarice of the church; are as
intolerable as ever. Will these calamities have no end? Are not the
great rulers of the earth afraid of losing, by degrees, their most
useful subjects? This country, providentially intended for the
general asylum of the world, will flourish by the oppression of
their people; they will every day become better acquainted with the
happiness we enjoy, and seek for the means of transporting
themselves here, in spite of all obstacles and laws. To what purpose
then have so many useful books and divine maxims been transmitted to
us from preceding ages?--Are they all vain, all useless? Must human
nature ever be the sport of the few, and its many wounds remain
unhealed? How happy are we here, in having fortunately escaped the
miseries which attended our fathers; how thankful ought we to be,
that they reared us in a land where sobriety and industry never fail
to meet with the most ample rewards! You have, no doubt, read
several histories of this continent, yet there are a thousand facts,
a thousand explanations overlooked. Authors will certainly convey to
you a geographical knowledge of this country; they will acquaint you
with the eras of the several settlements, the foundations of our
towns, the spirit of our different charters, etc., yet they do not
sufficiently disclose the genius of the people, their various
customs, their modes of agriculture, the innumerable resources which
the industrious have of raising themselves to a comfortable and easy
situation. Few of these writers have resided here, and those who
have, had not pervaded every part of the country, nor carefully
examined the nature and principles of our association. It would be a
task worthy a speculative genius, to enter intimately into the
situation and characters of the people, from Nova Scotia to West
Florida; and surely history cannot possibly present any subject more
pleasing to behold. Sensible how unable I am to lead you through so
vast a maze, let us look attentively for some small unnoticed
corner; but where shall we go in quest of such a one? Numberless
settlements, each distinguished by some peculiarities, present
themselves on every side; all seem to realise the most sanguine
wishes that a good man could form for the happiness of his race.
Here they live by fishing on the most plentiful coasts in the world;
there they fell trees, by the sides of large rivers, for masts and
lumber; here others convert innumerable logs into the best boards;
there again others cultivate the land, rear cattle, and clear large
fields. Yet I have a spot in my view, where none of these
occupations are performed, which will, I hope, reward us for the
trouble of inspection; but though it is barren in its soil,
insignificant in its extent, inconvenient in its situation, deprived
of materials for building; it seems to have been inhabited merely to
prove what mankind can do when happily governed! Here I can point
out to you exertions of the most successful industry; instances of
native sagacity unassisted by science; the happy fruits of a well
directed perseverance. It is always a refreshing spectacle to me,
when in my review of the various component parts of this immense
whole, I observe the labours of its inhabitants singularly rewarded
by nature; when I see them emerged out of their first difficulties,
living with decency and ease, and conveying to their posterity that
plentiful subsistence, which their fathers have so deservedly
earned. But when their prosperity arises from the goodness of the
climate, and fertility of the soil; I partake of their happiness, it
is true; yet stay but a little while with them, as they exhibit
nothing but what is natural and common. On the contrary, when I meet
with barren spots fertilised, grass growing where none grew before;
grain gathered from fields which had hitherto produced nothing
better than brambles; dwellings raised where no building materials
were to be found; wealth acquired by the most uncommon means: there
I pause, to dwell on the favourite object of my speculative
inquiries. Willingly do I leave the former to enjoy the odoriferous
furrow, or their rich valleys, with anxiety repairing to the spot,
where so many difficulties have been overcome; where extraordinary
exertions have produced extraordinary effects, and where every
natural obstacle has been removed by a vigorous industry.

I want not to record the annals of the island of Nantucket--its
inhabitants have no annals, for they are not a race of warriors. My
simple wish is to trace them throughout their progressive steps,
from their arrival here to this present hour; to inquire by what
means they have raised themselves from the most humble, the most
insignificant beginnings, to the ease and the wealth they now
possess; and to give you some idea of their customs, religion,
manners, policy, and mode of living.

This happy settlement was not founded on intrusion, forcible
entries, or blood, as so many others have been; it drew its origin
from necessity on the one side, and from good will on the other; and
ever since, all has been a scene of uninterrupted harmony.--Neither
political, nor religious broils; neither disputes with the natives,
nor any other contentions, have in the least agitated or disturbed
its detached society. Yet the first founders knew nothing either of
Lycurgus or Solon; for this settlement has not been the work of
eminent men or powerful legislators, forcing nature by the
accumulated labours of art. This singular establishment has been
effected by means of that native industry and perseverance common to
all men, when they are protected by a government which demands but
little for its protection; when they are permitted to enjoy a system
of rational laws founded on perfect freedom. The mildness and
humanity of such a government necessarily implies that confidence
which is the source of the most arduous undertakings and permanent
success. Would you believe that a sandy spot, of about twenty-three
thousand acres, affording neither stones nor timber, meadows nor
arable, yet can boast of an handsome town, consisting of more than
500 houses, should possess above 200 sail of vessels, constantly
employ upwards of 2000 seamen, feed more than 15,000 sheep, 500
cows, 200 horses; and has several citizens worth 20,000 pounds
sterling! Yet all these facts are uncontroverted. Who would have
imagined that any people should have abandoned a fruitful and
extensive continent, filled with the riches which the most ample
vegetation affords; replete with good soil, enamelled meadows, rich
pastures, every kind of timber, and with all other materials
necessary to render life happy and comfortable: to come and inhabit
a little sandbank, to which nature had refused those advantages; to
dwell on a spot where there scarcely grew a shrub to announce, by
the budding of its leaves, the arrival of the spring, and to warn by
their fall the proximity of winter. Had this island been contiguous
to the shores of some ancient monarchy, it would only have been
occupied by a few wretched fishermen, who, oppressed by poverty,
would hardly have been able to purchase or build little fishing
barks; always dreading the weight of taxes, or the servitude of men-
of-war. Instead of that boldness of speculation for which the
inhabitants of this island are so remarkable, they would fearfully
have confined themselves, within the narrow limits of the most
trifling attempts; timid in their excursions, they never could have
extricated themselves from their first difficulties. This island, on
the contrary, contains 5000 hardy people, who boldly derive their
riches from the element that surrounds them, and have been compelled
by the sterility of the soil to seek abroad for the means of
subsistence. You must not imagine, from the recital of these facts,
that they enjoyed any exclusive privileges or royal charters, or
that they were nursed by particular immunities in the infancy of
their settlement. No, their freedom, their skill, their probity, and
perseverance, have accomplished everything, and brought them by
degrees to the rank they now hold.

From this first sketch, I hope that my partiality to this island
will be justified. Perhaps you hardly know that such an one exists
in the neighbourhood of Cape Cod. What has happened here, has and
will happen everywhere else. Give mankind the full rewards of their
industry, allow them to enjoy the fruit of their labour under the
peaceable shade of their vines and fig-trees, leave their native
activity unshackled and free, like a fair stream without dams or
other obstacles; the first will fertilise the very sand on which
they tread, the other exhibit a navigable river, spreading plenty
and cheerfulness wherever the declivity of the ground leads it. If
these people are not famous for tracing the fragrant furrow on the
plain, they plough the rougher ocean, they gather from its surface,
at an immense distance, and with Herculean labours, the riches it
affords; they go to hunt and catch that huge fish which by its
strength and velocity one would imagine ought to be beyond the reach
of man. This island has nothing deserving of notice but its
inhabitants; here you meet with neither ancient monuments, spacious
halls, solemn temples, nor elegant dwellings; not a citadel, nor any
kind of fortification, not even a battery to rend the air with its
loud peals on any solemn occasion. As for their rural improvements,
they are many, but all of the most simple and useful kind.

The island of Nantucket lies in latitude 41 degrees 10 minutes. 60
miles S. from Cape Cod; 27 S. from Hyanes or Barnstable, a town on
the most contiguous part of the great peninsula; 21 miles E. by S.
from Cape Pog, on the vineyard; 50 E. by S. from Wood's Hole, on
Elizabeth Island; 80 miles S. from Boston; 120 from Rhode Island;
800 N. from Bermudas. Sherborn is the only town on the island, which
consists of about 530 houses, that have been framed on the main;
they are lathed and plastered within, handsomely painted and boarded
without; each has a cellar underneath, built with stones fetched
also from the main: they are all of a similar construction and
appearance; plain, and entirely devoid of exterior or interior
ornament. I observed but one which was built of bricks, belonging to
Mr.----, but like the rest it is unadorned. The town stands on a
rising sandbank, on the west side of the harbour, which is very safe
from all winds. There are two places of worship, one for the society
of Friends, the other for that of Presbyterians; and in the middle
of the town, near the market-place, stands a simple building, which
is the county court-house. The town regularly ascends toward the
country, and in its vicinage they have several small fields and
gardens yearly manured with the dung of their cows, and the soil of
their streets. There are a good many cherry and peach trees planted
in their streets and in many other places; the apple tree does not
thrive well, they have therefore planted but few. The island
contains no mountains, yet is very uneven, and the many rising
grounds and eminences with which it is filled, have formed in the
several valleys a great variety of swamps, where the Indian grass
and the blue bent, peculiar to such soils, grow with tolerable
luxuriancy. Some of the swamps abound with peat, which serves the
poor instead of firewood. There are fourteen ponds on this island,
all extremely useful, some lying transversely, almost across it,
which greatly helps to divide it into partitions for the use of
their cattle; others abound with peculiar fish and sea fowls. Their
streets are not paved, but this is attended with little
inconvenience, as it is never crowded with country carriages; and
those they have in the town are seldom made use of but in the time
of the coming in and before the sailing of their fleets. At my first
landing I was much surprised at the disagreeable smell which struck
me in many parts of the town; it is caused by the whale oil, and is
unavoidable; the neatness peculiar to these people can neither
remove nor prevent it. There are near the wharfs a great many
storehouses, where their staple commodity is deposited, as well as
the innumerable materials which are always wanted to repair and fit
out so many whalemen. They have three docks, each three hundred feet
long, and extremely convenient; at the head of which there are ten
feet of water. These docks are built like those in Boston, of logs
fetched from the continent, filled with stones, and covered with
sand. Between these docks and the town, there is room sufficient for
the landing of goods and for the passage of their numerous carts;
for almost every man here has one: the wharfs to the north and south
of the docks, are built of the same materials, and give a stranger,
at his first landing, an high idea of the prosperity of these
people; and there is room around these three docks for 300 sail of
vessels. When their fleets have been successful, the bustle and
hurry of business on this spot for some days after their arrival,
would make you imagine, that Sherborn is the capital of a very
opulent and large province. On that point of land, which forms the
west side of the harbour, stands a very neat lighthouse; the
opposite peninsula, called Coitou, secures it from the most
dangerous winds. There are but few gardens and arable fields in the
neighbourhood of the town, for nothing can be more sterile and sandy
than this part of the island; they have, however, with unwearied
perseverance, by bringing a variety of manure, and by cow-penning,
enriched several spots where they raise Indian corn, potatoes,
pumpkins, turnips, etc. On the highest part of this sandy eminence,
four windmills grind the grain they raise or import; and contiguous
to them their rope walk is to be seen, where full half of their
cordage is manufactured. Between the shores of the harbour, the
docks, and the town, there is a most excellent piece of meadow,
inclosed and manured with such cost and pains as show how necessary
and precious grass is at Nantucket. Towards the point of Shemah, the
island is more level and the soil better; and there they have
considerable lots well fenced and richly manured, where they
diligently raise their yearly crops. There are but very few farms on
this island, because there are but very few spots that will admit of
cultivation without the assistance of dung and other manure; which
is very expensive to fetch from the main. This island was patented
in the year 1671, by twenty-seven proprietors, under the province of
New York; which then claimed all the islands from the Neway Sink to
Cape Cod. They found it so universally barren and so unfit for
cultivation, that they mutually agreed not to divide it, as each
could neither live on, nor improve that lot which might fall to his
share. They then cast their eyes on the sea, and finding themselves
obliged to become fishermen, they looked for a harbour, and having
found one, they determined to build a town in its neighbourhood and
to dwell together. For that purpose they surveyed as much ground as
would afford to each what is generally called here a home lot. Forty
acres were thought sufficient to answer this double purpose; for to
what end should they covet more land than they could improve, or
even inclose; not being possessed of a single tree, in the whole
extent of their new dominion. This was all the territorial property
they allotted; the rest they agreed to hold in common, and seeing
that the scanty grass of the island might feed sheep, they agreed
that each proprietor should be entitled to feed on it if he pleased
560 sheep. By this agreement, the national flock was to consist of
15,120; that is the undivided part of the island was by such means
ideally divisible into as many parts or shares; to which
nevertheless no certain determinate quantity of land was affixed;
for they knew not how much the island contained, nor could the most
judicious surveyor fix this small quota as to quality and quantity.
Further they agreed, in case the grass should grow better by
feeding, that then four sheep should represent a cow, and two cows a
horse: such was the method this wise people took to enjoy in common
their new settlement; such was the mode of their first
establishment, which may be truly and literally called a pastoral
one. Several hundred of sheep-pasture titles have since been divided
on those different tracts, which are now cultivated; the rest by
inheritance and intermarriages have been so subdivided that it is
very common for a girl to have no other portion but her outset and
four sheep pastures or the privilege of feeding a cow. But as this
privilege is founded on an ideal, though real title to some unknown
piece of land, which one day or another may be ascertained; these
sheep-pasture titles should convey to your imagination, something
more valuable and of greater credit than the mere advantage arising
from the benefit of a cow, which in that case would be no more than
a right of commonage. Whereas, here as labour grows cheaper, as
misfortunes from their sea adventures may happen, each person
possessed of a sufficient number of these sheep-pasture titles may
one day realise them on some peculiar spot, such as shall be
adjudged by the council of the proprietors to be adequate to their
value; and this is the reason that these people very unwillingly
sell those small rights, and esteem them more than you would
imagine. They are the representation of a future freehold, they
cherish in the mind of the possessor a latent, though distant, hope,
that by his success in his next whale season, he may be able to
pitch on some predilected spot, and there build himself a home, to
which he may retire, and spend the latter end of his days in peace.
A council of proprietors always exists in this island, who decide
their territorial differences; their titles are recorded in the
books of the county, which this town represents, as well as every
conveyance of lands and other sales.

This island furnishes the naturalist with few or no objects worthy
observation: it appears to be the uneven summit of a sandy submarine
mountain, covered here and there with sorrel, grass, a few cedar
bushes, and scrubby oaks; their swamps are much more valuable for
the peat they contain, than for the trifling pasture of their
surface; those declining grounds which lead to the seashores abound
with beach grass, a light fodder when cut and cured, but very good
when fed green. On the east side of the island they have several
tracts of salt grasses, which being carefully fenced, yield a
considerable quantity of that wholesome fodder. Among the many ponds
or lakes with which this island abounds, there are some which have
been made by the intrusion of the sea, such as Wiwidiah, the Long,
the Narrow, and several others; consequently those are salt and the
others fresh. The former answer two considerable purposes, first by
enabling them to fence the island with greater facility; at peculiar
high tides a great number of fish enter into them, where they feed
and grow large, and at some known seasons of the year the
inhabitants assemble and cut down the small bars which the waves
always throw up. By these easy means the waters of the pond are let
out, and as the fish follow their native element, the inhabitants
with proper nets catch as many as they want, in their way out,
without any other trouble. Those which are most common, are the
streaked bass, the blue fish, the tom-cod, the mackerel, the tew-
tag, the herring, the flounder, eel, etc. Fishing is one of the
greatest diversions the island affords. At the west end lies the
harbour of Mardiket, formed by Smith Point on the south-west, by Eel
Point on the north, and Tuckanut Island on the north-west; but it is
neither so safe nor has it so good anchoring ground, as that near
which the town stands. Three small creeks run into it, which yield
the bitterest eels I have ever tasted. Between the lots of Palpus on
the east, Barry's Valley and Miacomet pond on the south, and the
narrow pond on the west, not far from Shemah Point, they have a
considerable tract of even ground, being the least sandy, and the
best on the island. It is divided into seven fields, one of which is
planted by that part of the community which are entitled to it. This
is called the common plantation, a simple but useful expedient, for
was each holder of this track to fence his property, it would
require a prodigious quantity of posts and rails, which you must
remember are to be purchased and fetched from the main. Instead of
those private subdivisions each man's allotment of land is thrown
into the general field which is fenced at the expense of the
parties; within it every one does with his own portion of the ground
whatever he pleases. This apparent community saves a very material
expense, a great deal of labour, and perhaps raises a sort of
emulation among them, which urges every one to fertilise his share
with the greatest care and attention. Thus every seven years the
whole of this tract is under cultivation, and enriched by manure and
ploughing yields afterwards excellent pasture; to which the town
cows, amounting to 500 are daily led by the town shepherd, and as
regularly drove back in the evening. There each animal easily finds
the house to which it belongs, where they are sure to be well
rewarded for the milk they give, by a present of bran, grain, or
some farinaceous preparation; their economy being very great in that
respect. These are commonly called Tetoukemah lots. You must not
imagine that every person on the island is either a landholder, or
concerned in rural operations; no, the greater part are at sea;
busily employed in their different fisheries; others are mere
strangers, who come to settle as handicrafts, mechanics, etc., and
even among the natives few are possessed of determinate shares of
land: for engaged in sea affairs, or trade, they are satisfied with
possessing a few sheep pastures, by means of which they may have
perhaps one or two cows. Many have but one, for the great number of
children they have, has caused such sub-divisions of the original
proprietorship as is sometimes puzzling to trace; and several of the
most fortunate at sea, have purchased and realised a great number of
these original pasture titles. The best land on the island is at
Palpus, remarkable for nothing but a house of entertainment. Quayes
is a small but valuable track, long since purchased by Mr. Coffin,
where he has erected the best house on the island. By long
attention, proximity of the sea, etc., this fertile spot has been
well manured, and is now the garden of Nantucket. Adjoining to it on
the west side there is a small stream, on which they have erected a
fulling mill; on the east is the lot, known by the name of Squam,
watered likewise by a small rivulet, on which stands another fulling
mill. Here is fine loamy soil, producing excellent clover, which is
mowed twice a year. These mills prepare all the cloth which is made
here: you may easily suppose that having so large a flock of sheep,
they abound in wool; part of this they export, and the rest is spun
by their industrious wives and converted into substantial garments.
To the south-east is a great division of the island, fenced by
itself, known by the name of Siasconcet lot. It is a very uneven
track of ground, abounding with swamps; here they turn in their fat
cattle, or such as they intend to stall-feed, for their winter's
provisions. It is on the shores of this part of the island, near
Pochick Rip, where they catch their best fish, such as sea bass,
tew-tag, or black fish, cod, smelt, perch, shadine, pike, etc. They
have erected a few fishing houses on this shore, as well as at
Sankate's Head, and Suffakatche Beach, where the fishermen dwell in
the fishing season. Many red cedar bushes and beach grass grow on
the peninsula of Coitou; the soil is light and sandy, and serves as
a receptacle for rabbits. It is here that their sheep find shelter
in the snow storms of the winter. At the north end of Nantucket,
there is a long point of land, projecting far into the sea, called
Sandy Point; nothing grows on it but plain grass; and this is the
place from whence they often catch porpoises and sharks, by a very
ingenious method. On this point they commonly drive their horses in
the spring of the year, in order to feed on the grass it bears,
which is useless when arrived at maturity. Between that point and
the main island they have a valuable salt meadow, called Croskaty,
with a pond of the same name famous for black ducks. Hence we must
return to Squam, which abounds in clover and herds grass; those who
possess it follow no maritime occupation, and therefore neglect
nothing that can render it fertile and profitable. The rest of the
undescribed part of the island is open, and serves as a common
pasture for their sheep. To the west of the island is that of
Tackanuck, where in the spring their young cattle are driven to
feed; it has a few oak bushes and two fresh-water ponds, abounding
with teals, brandts, and many other sea fowls, brought to this
island by the proximity of their sand banks and shallows; where
thousands are seen feeding at low water. Here they have neither
wolves nor foxes; those inhabitants therefore who live out of town,
raise with all security as much poultry as they want; their turkeys
are very large and excellent. In summer this climate is extremely
pleasant; they are not exposed to the scorching sun of the
continent, the heats being tempered by the sea breezes, with which
they are perpetually refreshed. In the winter, however, they pay
severely for those advantages; it is extremely cold; the northwest
wind, the tyrant of this country, after having escaped from our
mountains and forests, free from all impediment in its short
passage, blows with redoubled force and renders this island bleak
and uncomfortable. On the other hand, the goodness of their houses,
the social hospitality of their firesides, and their good cheer,
make them ample amends for the severity of the season; nor are the
snows so deep as on the main. The necessary and unavoidable
inactivity of that season, combined with the vegetative rest of
nature, force mankind to suspend their toils: often at this season
more than half the inhabitants of the island are at sea, fishing in
milder latitudes.

This island, as has been already hinted, appears to be the summit of
some huge sandy mountain, affording some acres of dry land for the
habitation of man; other submarine ones lie to the southward of
this, at different depths and different distances. This dangerous
region is well known to the mariners by the name of Nantucket
Shoals: these are the bulwarks which so powerfully defend this
island from the impulse of the mighty ocean, and repel the force of
its waves; which, but for the accumulated barriers, would ere now
have dissolved its foundations, and torn it in pieces. These are the
banks which afforded to the first inhabitants of Nantucket their
daily subsistence, as it was from these shoals that they drew the
origin of that wealth which they now possess; and was the school
where they first learned how to venture farther, as the fish of
their coast receded. The shores of this island abound with the soft-
shelled, the hard-shelled, and the great sea clams, a most
nutritious shell-fish. Their sands, their shallows are covered with
them; they multiply so fast, that they are a never-failing resource.
These and the great variety of fish they catch, constitute the
principal food of the inhabitants. It was likewise that of the
aborigines, whom the first settlers found here; the posterity of
whom still live together in decent houses along the shores of
Miacomet pond, on the south side of the island. They are an
industrious, harmless race, as expert and as fond of a seafaring
life as their fellow inhabitants the whites. Long before their
arrival they had been engaged in petty wars against one another; the
latter brought them peace, for it was in quest of peace that they
abandoned the main. This island was then supposed to be under the
jurisdiction of New York, as well as the islands of the Vineyard,
Elizabeth's, etc., but have been since adjudged to be a part of the
province of Massachusetts Bay. This change of jurisdiction procured
them that peace they wanted, and which their brethren had so long
refused them in the days of their religious frenzy: thus have
enthusiasm and persecution both in Europe as well as here, been the
cause of the most arduous undertakings, and the means of those rapid
settlements which have been made along these extended sea-shores.
This island, having been since incorporated with the neighbouring
province, is become one of its counties, known by the name of
Nantucket, as well as the island of the Vineyard, by that of Duke's
County. They enjoy here the same municipal establishment in common
with the rest; and therefore every requisite officer, such as
sheriff, justice of the peace, supervisors, assessors, constables,
overseer of the poor, etc. Their taxes are proportioned to those of
the metropolis, they are levied as with us by valuations, agreed on
and fixed, according to the laws of the province; and by assessments
formed by the assessors, who are yearly chosen by the people, and
whose office obliges them to take either an oath or an affirmation.
Two thirds of the magistrates they have here are of the society of

Before I enter into the further detail of this people's government,
industry, mode of living, etc., I think it accessary to give you a
short sketch of the political state the natives had been in, a few
years preceding the arrival of the whites among them. They are
hastening towards a total annihilation, and this may be perhaps the
last compliment that will ever be paid them by any traveller. They
were not extirpated by fraud, violence, or injustice, as hath been
the case in so many provinces; on the contrary, they have been
treated by these people as brethren; the peculiar genius of their
sect inspiring them with the same spirit of moderation which was
exhibited at Pennsylvania. Before the arrival of the Europeans, they
lived on the fish of their shores; and it was from the same
resources the first settlers were compelled to draw their first
subsistence. It is uncertain whether the original right of the Earl
of Sterling, or that of the Duke of York, was founded on a fair
purchase of the soil or not; whatever injustice might have been
committed in that respect, cannot be charged to the account of those
Friends who purchased from others who no doubt founded their right
on Indian grants: and if their numbers are now so decreased, it must
not be attributed either to tyranny or violence, but to some of
those causes, which have uninterruptedly produced the same effects
from one end of the continent to the other, wherever both nations
have been mixed. This insignificant spot, like the sea-shores of the
great peninsula, was filled with these people; the great plenty of
clams, oysters, and other fish, on which they lived, and which they
easily catched, had prodigiously increased their numbers. History
does not inform us what particular nation the aborigines of
Nantucket were of; it is however very probable that they anciently
emigrated from the opposite coast, perhaps from the Hyannees, which
is but twenty-seven miles distant. As they then spoke and still
speak the Nattick, it is reasonable to suppose that they must have
had some affinity with that nation; or else that the Nattick, like
the Huron, in the north-western parts of this continent, must have
been the most prevailing one in this region. Mr. Elliot, an eminent
New England divine, and one of the first founders of that great
colony, translated the Bible into this language, in the year 1666,
which was printed soon after at Cambridge, near Boston; he
translated also the catechism, and many other useful books, which
are still very common on this island, and are daily made use of by
those Indians who are taught to read. The young Europeans learn it
with the same facility as their own tongues; and ever after speak it
both with ease and fluency. Whether the present Indians are the
decendants of the ancient natives of the island, or whether they are
the remains of the many different nations which once inhabited the
regions of Mashpe and Nobscusset, in the peninsula now known by the
name of Cape Cod, no one can positively tell, not even themselves.
The last opinion seems to be that of the most sensible people of the
island. So prevailing is the disposition of man to quarrel, and shed
blood; so prone is he to divisions and parties; that even the
ancient natives of this little spot were separated into two
communities, inveterately waging war against each other, like the
more powerful tribes of the continent. What do you imagine was the
cause of this national quarrel? All the coast of their island
equally abounded with the same quantity of fish and clams; in that
instance there could be no jealousy, no motives to anger; the
country afforded them no game; one would think this ought to have
been the country of harmony and peace. But behold the singular
destiny of the human kind, ever inferior, in many instances, to the
more certain instinct of animals; among which the individuals of the
same species are always friends, though reared in different
climates: they understand the same language, they shed not each
other's blood, they eat not each other's flesh. That part of these
rude people who lived on the eastern shores of the island, had from
time immemorial tried to destroy those who lived on the west; those
latter inspired with the same evil genius, had not been behind hand
in retaliating: thus was a perpetual war subsisting between these
people, founded on no other reason, but the adventitious place of
their nativity and residence. In process of time both parties became
so thin and depopulated, that the few who remained, fearing lest
their race should become totally extinct, fortunately thought of an
expedient which prevented their entire annihilation. Some years
before the Europeans came, they mutually agreed to settle a
partition line which should divide the island from north to south;
the people of the west agreed not to kill those of the east, except
they were found transgressing over the western part of the line;
those of the last entered into a reciprocal agreement. By these
simple means peace was established among them, and this is the only
record which seems to entitle them to the denomination of men. This
happy settlement put a stop to their sanguinary depredations, none
fell afterward but a few rash imprudent individuals; on the
contrary, they multiplied greatly. But another misfortune awaited
them; when the Europeans came they caught the smallpox, and their
improper treatment of that disorder swept away great numbers: this
calamity was succeeded by the use of rum; and these are the two
principal causes which so much diminished their numbers, not only
here but all over the continent. In some places whole nations have
disappeared. Some years ago three Indian canoes, on their return to
Detroit from the falls of Niagara, unluckily got the smallpox from
the Europeans with whom they had traded. It broke out near the long
point on Lake Erie, there they all perished; their canoes, and their
goods, were afterwards found by some travellers journeying the same
way; their dogs were still alive. Besides the smallpox, and the use
of spirituous liquors, the two greatest curses they have received
from us, there is a sort of physical antipathy, which is equally
powerful from one end of the continent to the other. Wherever they
happen to be mixed, or even to live in the neighbourhood of the
Europeans, they become exposed to a variety of accidents and
misfortunes to which they always fall victims: such are particular
fevers, to which they were strangers before, and sinking into a
singular sort of indolence and sloth. This has been invariably the
case wherever the same association has taken place; as at Nattick,
Mashpe, Soccanoket in the bounds of Falmouth, Nobscusset,
Houratonick, Monhauset, and the Vineyard. Even the Mohawks
themselves, who were once so populous, and such renowned warriors,
are now reduced to less than 200 since the European settlements have
circumscribed the territories which their ancestors had reserved.
Three years before the arrival of the Europeans at Cape Cod, a
frightful distemper had swept away a great many along its coasts,
which made the landing and intrusion of our forefathers much easier
than it otherwise might have been. In the year 1763, above half of
the Indians of this island perished by a strange fever, which the
Europeans who nursed them never caught; they appear to be a race
doomed to recede and disappear before the superior genius of the
Europeans. The only ancient custom of these people that is
remembered is, that in their mutual exchanges, forty sun-dried
clams, strung on a string, passed for the value of what might be
called a copper. They were strangers to the use and value of wampum,
so well known to those of the main. The few families now remaining
are meek and harmless; their ancient ferocity is gone: they were
early christianised by the New England missionaries, as well as
those of the Vineyard, and of several other parts of Massachusetts;
and to this day they remain strict observers of the laws and customs
of that religion, being carefully taught while young. Their
sedentary life has led them to this degree of civilisation much more
effectually, than if they had still remained hunters. They are fond
of the sea, and expert mariners. They have learned from the Quakers
the art of catching both the cod and whale, in consequence of which,
five of them always make part of the complement of men requisite to
fit out a whaleboat. Many have removed hither from the Vineyard, on
which account they are more numerous on Nantucket, than anywhere

It is strange what revolution has happened among them in less than
two hundred years! What is become of those numerous tribes which
formerly inhabited the extensive shores of the great bay of
Massachusetts? Even from Numkeag (Salem), Saugus (Lynn), Shawmut
(Boston), Pataxet, Napouset (Milton), Matapan (Dorchester),
Winesimet (Chelsea), Poiasset, Pokanoket (New Plymouth), Suecanosset
(Falmouth), Titicut (Chatham). Nobscusset (Yarmouth), Naussit
(Eastham), Hyannees (Barnstable), etc., and many others who lived on
sea-shores of above three hundred miles in length; without
mentioning those powerful tribes which once dwelt between the rivers
Hudson, Connecticut, Piskataqua, and Kennebeck, the Mehikaudret,
Mohiguine, Pequods, Narragansets, Nianticks, Massachusetts,
Wamponougs, Nipnets, Tarranteens, etc.--They are gone, and every
memorial of them is lost; no vestiges whatever are left of those
swarms which once inhabited this country, and replenished both sides
of the great peninsula of Cape Cod: not even one of the posterity of
the famous Masconomeo is left (the sachem of Cape Ann); not one of
the descendants of Massasoit, father of Metacomet (Philip), and
Wamsutta (Alexander), he who first conveyed some lands to the
Plymouth Company. They have all disappeared either in the wars which
the Europeans carried on against them, or else they have mouldered
away, gathered in some of their ancient towns, in contempt and
oblivion: nothing remains of them all, but one extraordinary
monument, and even this they owe to the industry and religious zeal
of the Europeans, I mean the Bible translated into the Nattick
tongue. Many of these tribes giving way to the superior power of the
whites, retired to their ancient villages, collecting the scattered
remains of nations once populous; and in their grant of lands
reserved to themselves and posterity certain portions, which lay
contiguous to them. There forgetting their ancient manners, they
dwelt in peace; in a few years their territories were surrounded by
the improvements of the Europeans; in consequence of which they grew
lazy, inactive, unwilling, and unapt to imitate, or to follow any of
our trades, and in a few generations, either totally perished or
else came over to the Vineyard, or to this island, to re-unite
themselves with such societies of their countrymen as would receive
them. Such has been the fate of many nations, once warlike and
independent; what we see now on the main, or on those islands, may
be justly considered as the only remains of those ancient tribes.
Might I be permitted to pay perhaps a very useless compliment to
those at least who inhabited the great peninsula of Namset, now Cape
Cod, with whose names and ancient situation I am well acquainted.
This peninsula was divided into two great regions; that on the side
of the bay was known by the name of Nobscusset, from one of its
towns; the capital was called Nausit (now Eastham); hence the
Indians of that region were called Nausit Indians, though they dwelt
in the villages of Pamet, Nosset, Pashee, Potomaket, Soktoowoket,
Nobscusset (Yarmouth).

The region on the Atlantic side was called Mashpee, and contained
the tribes of Hyannees, Costowet, Waquoit, Scootin, Saconasset,
Mashpee, and Namset. Several of these Indian towns have been since
converted into flourishing European settlements, known by different
names; for as the natives were excellent judges of land, which they
had fertilised besides with the shells of their fish, etc., the
latter could not make a better choice; though in general this great
peninsula is but a sandy pine track, a few good spots excepted. It
is divided into seven townships, viz. Bamstable, Yarmouth, Harwich,
Chatham, Eastham, Pamet, Namset, or Province town, at the extremity
of the Cape. Yet these are very populous, though I am at a loss to
conceive on what the inhabitants live, besides clams, oysters, and
fish; their piny lands being the most ungrateful soil in the world.
The minister of Namset or Province Town, receives from the
government of Massachusetts a salary of fifty pounds per annum; and
such is the poverty of the inhabitants of that place, that, unable
to pay him any money, each master of a family is obliged to allow
him two hundred horse feet (sea spin) with which this primitive
priest fertilises the land of his glebe, which he tills himself: for
nothing will grow on these hungry soils without the assistance of
this extraordinary manure, fourteen bushels of Indian corn being
looked upon as a good crop. But it is time to return from a
digression, which I hope you will pardon. Nantucket is a great
nursery of seamen, pilots, coasters, and bank-fishermen; as a
country belonging to the province of Massachusetts, it has yearly
the benefit of a court of Common Pleas, and their appeal lies to the
supreme court at Boston. I observed before, that the Friends compose
two-thirds of the magistracy of this island; thus they are the
proprietors of its territory, and the principal rulers of its
inhabitants; but with all this apparatus of law, its coercive powers
are seldom wanted or required. Seldom is it that any individual is
amerced or punished; their jail conveys no terror; no man has lost
his life here judicially since the foundation of this town, which is
upwards of an hundred years. Solemn tribunals, public executions,
humiliating punishments, are altogether unknown. I saw neither
governors, nor any pageantry of state; neither ostentatious
magistrates, nor any individuals clothed with useless dignity: no
artificial phantoms subsist here either civil or religious; no
gibbets loaded with guilty citizens offer themselves to your view;
no soldiers are appointed to bayonet their compatriots into servile
compliance. But how is a society composed of 5000 individuals
preserved in the bonds of peace and tranquillity? How are the weak
protected from the strong?--I will tell you. Idleness and poverty,
the causes of so many crimes, are unknown here; each seeks in the
prosecution of his lawful business that honest gain which supports
them; every period of their time is full, either on shore or at sea.
A probable expectation of reasonable profits, or of kindly
assistance, if they fail of success, renders them strangers to
licentious expedients. The simplicity of their manners shortens the
catalogues of their wants; the law at a distance is ever ready to
exert itself in the protection of those who stand in need of its
assistance. The greatest part of them are always at sea, pursuing
the whale or raising the cod from the surface of the banks: some
cultivate their little farms with the utmost diligence; some are
employed in exercising various trades; others again in providing
every necessary resource in order to refit their vessels, or repair
what misfortunes may happen, looking out for future markets, etc.
Such is the rotation of those different scenes of business which
fill the measure of their days; of that part of their lives at least
which is enlivened by health, spirits, and vigour. It is but seldom
that vice grows on a barren sand like this, which produces nothing
without extreme labour. How could the common follies of society take
root in so despicable a soil; they generally thrive on its exuberant
juices: here there are none but those which administer to the
useful, to the necessary, and to the indispensable comforts of life.
This land must necessarily either produce health, temperance, and a
great equality of conditions, or the most abject misery. Could the
manners of luxurious countries be imported here, like an epidemical
disorder they would destroy everything; the majority of them could
not exist a month, they would be obliged to emigrate. As in all
societies except that of the natives, some difference must
necessarily exist between individual and individual, for there must
be some more exalted than the rest either by their riches or their
talents; so in this, there are what you might call the high, the
middling, and the low; and this difference will always be more
remarkable among people who live by sea excursions than among those
who live by the cultivation of their land. The first run greater
hazard, and adventure more: the profits and the misfortunes
attending this mode of life must necessarily introduce a greater
disparity than among the latter, where the equal divisions of the
land offers no short road to superior riches. The only difference
that may arise among them is that of industry, and perhaps of
superior goodness of soil: the gradations I observed here, are
founded on nothing more than the good or ill success of their
maritime enterprises, and do not proceed from education; that is the
same throughout every class, simple, useful, and unadorned like
their dress and their houses. This necessary difference in their
fortunes does not however cause those heart burnings, which in other
societies generate crimes. The sea which surrounds them is equally
open to all, and presents to all an equal title to the chance of
good fortune. A collector from Boston is the only king's officer who
appears on these shores to receive the trifling duties which this
community owe to those who protect them, and under the shadow of
whose wings they navigate to all parts of the world.



The easiest way of becoming acquainted with the modes of thinking,
the rules of conduct, and the prevailing manners of any people, is
to examine what sort of education they give their children; how they
treat them at home, and what they are taught in their places of
public worship. At home their tender minds must be early struck with
the gravity, the serious though cheerful deportment of their
parents; they are inured to a principle of subordination, arising
neither from sudden passions nor inconsiderate pleasure; they are
gently held by an uniform silk cord, which unites softness and
strength. A perfect equanimity prevails in most of their families,
and bad example hardly ever sows in their hearts the seeds of future
and similar faults. They are corrected with tenderness, nursed with
the most affectionate care, clad with that decent plainness, from
which they observe their parents never to depart: in short, by the
force of example, which is superior even to the strongest instinct
of nature, more than by precepts, they learn to follow the steps of
their parents, to despise ostentatiousness as being sinful. They
acquire a taste for neatness for which their fathers are so
conspicuous; they learn to be prudent and saving; the very tone of
voice with which they are always addressed, establishes in them that
softness of diction, which ever after becomes habitual. Frugal,
sober, orderly parents, attached to their business, constantly
following some useful occupation, never guilty of riot, dissipation,
or other irregularities, cannot fail of training up children to the
same uniformity of life and manners. If they are left with fortunes,
they are taught how to save them, and how to enjoy them with
moderation and decency; if they have none, they know how to venture,
how to work and toil as their fathers have done before them. If they
fail of success, there are always in this island (and wherever this
society prevails) established resources, founded on the most
benevolent principles. At their meetings they are taught the few,
the simple tenets of their sect; tenets as fit to render men sober,
industrious, just, and merciful, as those delivered in the most
magnificent churches and cathedrals: they are instructed in the most
essential duties of Christianity, so as not to offend the Divinity
by the commission of evil deeds; to dread his wrath and the
punishments he has denounced; they are taught at the same time to
have a proper confidence in his mercy while they deprecate his
justice. As every sect, from their different modes of worship, and
their different interpretations of some parts of the Scriptures,
necessarily have various opinions and prejudices, which contribute
something in forming their characters in society; so those of the
Friends are well known: obedience to the laws, even to non-
resistance, justice, goodwill to all, benevolence at home, sobriety,
meekness, neatness, love of order, fondness and appetite for
commerce. They are as remarkable here for those virtues as at
Philadelphia, which is their American cradle, and the boast of that
society. At schools they learn to read, and to write a good hand,
until they are twelve years old; they are then in general put
apprentices to the cooper's trade, which is the second essential
branch of business followed here; at fourteen they are sent to sea,
where in their leisure hours their companions teach them the art of
navigation, which they have an opportunity of practising on the
spot. They learn the great and useful art of working a ship in all
the different situations which the sea and wind so often require;
and surely there cannot be a better or a more useful school of that
kind in the world. Then they go gradually through every station of
rowers, steersmen, and harpooners; thus they learn to attack, to
pursue, to overtake, to cut, to dress their huge game: and after
having performed several such voyages, and perfected themselves in
this business, they are fit either for the counting house or the

The first proprietors of this island, or rather the first founders
of this town, began their career of industry with a single whale-
boat, with which they went to fish for cod; the small distance from
their shores at which they caught it, enabled them soon to increase
their business, and those early successes first led them to conceive
that they might likewise catch the whales, which hitherto sported
undisturbed on their banks. After many trials and several
miscarriages, they succeeded; thus they proceeded, step by step; the
profits of one successful enterprise helped them to purchase and
prepare better materials for a more extensive one: as these were
attended with little costs, their profits grew greater. The south
sides of the island from east to west, were divided into four equal
parts, and each part was assigned to a company of six, which though
thus separated, still carried on their business in common. In the
middle of this distance, they erected a mast, provided with a
sufficient number of rounds, and near it they built a temporary hut,
where five of the associates lived, whilst the sixth from his high
station carefully looked toward the sea, in order to observe the
spouting of the whales. As soon as any were discovered, the sentinel
descended, the whale-boat was launched, and the company went forth
in quest of their game. It may appear strange to you, that so
slender a vessel as an American whale-boat, containing six
diminutive beings, should dare to pursue and to attack, in its
native element, the largest and strongest fish that nature has
created. Yet by the exertions of an admirable dexterity, improved by
a long practice, in which these people are become superior to any
other whale-men; by knowing the temper of the whale after her first
movement, and by many other useful observations; they seldom failed
to harpoon it, and to bring the huge leviathan on the shores. Thus
they went on until the profits they made, enabled them to purchase
larger vessels, and to pursue them farther, when the whales quitted
their coasts; those who failed in their enterprises, returned to the
cod-fisheries, which had been their first school, and their first
resource; they even began to visit the banks of Cape Breton, the
isle of Sable, and all the other fishing places, with which this


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