Travels in the United States of America
Part 2 out of 2
'And comets round creation run--
'In Him my faithful friend I view,
'The image of my God--the Sun.
'Where Nature's ancient forests grow,
'And mingled laurel never fades,
'My heart is fix'd; and I must go
'To die among my native shades.'
He spoke,--and to the western springs
(His gown discharged, his money spent)
His blanket tied with yellow strings,
The shepherd of the forest went.
Returning to the rural reign,
The Indians welcom'd him with joy;
The council took him home again,
And bless'd the copper-coloured boy.
Our author, brings his hero again upon the stage, under the title of
THE SPLENETIC INDIAN.
"To the best of my recollection, it was about the middle of the month of
August; we were sitting on a green bank by the brook side; the fox grapes
were not yet come to maturity; but we were anticipating the pleasure we
should soon experience in eating some fine clusters, that at this instant
hung over our heads in the tall shade of a beech tree; when, upon a sudden
clamour raised by some young fellows, who were advancing rapidly towards
us, the learned Indian sachem Tomo-cheeki, who at this time happened to be
my friend and companion, seized me by the hand, and intimated a strong
desire, that I should accompany him to his _wigwam_, situate at many
miles distance in the wilderness.
"A request so unusual, and at such a sultry season of the year (it being
now the height of the dog days), and to all appearance occasioned by so
trifling a circumstance as the approach of a few noisy bacchanalians,
could not but give me some surprise. I nevertheless accepted his offer,
and we then walked on together westward, without saying a word, though not
forgetting to kindle our pipes afresh at the first house we came to.
"We had no sooner entered the forest, than I began to be convinced, that
all things around us were precisely such as nature had finished them; the
trees were straight and lofty, and appeared as if they had never been
obliged to art in their progress to maturity; the streams of water were
winding and irregular, and not odiously drawn into a right line by the
spade of the ditcher. The soil had never submitted to the ploughshare, and
the air that circulated through this domain of nature was replete with
that balmy fragrance, which was breathed into the lungs of the long-lived
race of men, that flourished in the first ages of the world.
"At last we approached the wigwam, as I discovered by the barking of a
yellow dog, who ran out to meet us. The building seemed to be composed of
rough materials, and at most was not more than eight feet in height, with
a hole in the centre of the roof, to afford a free passage to the smoke
from within. It was situate in a thicket of lofty trees, on the side of a
stream of clear water, at a considerable distance from the haunts of
civilized men. A young indian girl was angling in the deepest part of the
stream, whence she every now and then drew a trout, or some other
inhabitant of the waters. An old squaw sat at a very small distance, and,
after cutting off the heads, and extracting the entrails, hung the fish in
the smoke, to preserve them against the time of winter.
"The Indian and myself then entered the wigwam, and without ceremony
seated ourselves on blocks of wood covered with fox skins. The furniture
of his habitation consisted of scarcely any thing besides. The flooring
was that which was originally common to all men and animals. I thought
myself happy, that I had been permitted to come into the world, in an age
when some vestige of the primitive men, and their manners of living, were
yet to be found. A few ages will totally obliterate the scene.
"I now determined to teaze the Indian, if possible--'But for a man of your
education,' says I, 'sachem Tomo-cheeki; to bury yourself in this savage
retreat, is to me inexplicable. You who have travelled on foot no less
than one hundred and seventeen leagues, till you reached the walls of
Havard college, and all for the sake of gaining an insight into languages,
arts, and mysteries; and then to neglect all you have acquired at last, is
a mode of conduct, for which I cannot easily account--What! was not the
mansion of a fat _clergyman_ a more desirable acquisition than this
miserable hut, these gloomy forests, and yonder savage stream?--Were not
the food and liquor belonging to the white men of the _law_ far superiour
to these insipid fish, these dried roots, and these running waters?--Were
not a _physician's_ cap, an elegant morning gown, and a grave suit of
black clothes, made by an european tailor, more tempting to your
imagination, than this wretched blanket, that is eternally slipping from
your shoulders, unless it be fastened with skewers, which are by no means
"Pardon me,' replied the Indian, 'if all those blessings and advantages
you have mentioned seemed nothing to my view, in comparison with these
_divine solitudes_: opinion alone is happiness. The _Great Man_,
who has chosen his habitation beyond the stars, will dispose of us as he
pleases. I am under an obligation of passing happily here that life which
he has given me, because in so doing I serve and adore him. I could not
but be sorrowful, were I to be removed for ever from this stream. Let me
alone, white man; others shall make laws, and pass sleepless nights, for
the advantage of the world; sachem Tomo-cheeki will leave all things to
the _invisible direction_; and, provided he can be contented in his
_wigwam_, the end of his existence is accomplished.
"But,' continued he, 'of what great value can that education be,
which does not inculcate moral and social _honesty_ as it's first and
greatest principle. The knowledge of all things above and below is of
inconsiderable worth, unconnected with the heart of rectitude and
benevolence.--Let us walk to the remains of an old indian town; the bones
of my ancestors repose in its vicinity.'--
"He had scarcely uttered these words when he seized his staff, and rushed
out of the wigwam with a sort of passionate violence, as if deeply
agitated at the recollection of the past, present, and future fate of his
countrymen.--I followed him with equal celerity. 'But,' said he, 'it is in
vain to grieve! In three centuries there will not be one individual of all
our race existing upon the Earth. I lately passed this stream, and it
being swollen with rains at my return, I could not without the greatest
danger cross over it again to my wigwam; the winds raged, the rain fell,
and the storms roared around me. I laid me down to sleep beneath a copse
of hazles. Immediately the unbodied souls of my ancestors appeared before
me. Grief was in their countenances. All fixed their eyes upon me, and
cried, one after the other, "_Brother, it is time thou hadst also
arrived in our abodes: thy nation is extirpated, thy lands are gone, thy
choicest warriors are slain; the very wigwam in which thou residest is
mortgaged for three barrels of hard cider! Act like a man, and if nature
be too tardy in bestowing the favour, it rests with yourself to force your
way into the invisible mansions of the departed_."
"By this time we had arrived at the ruins of the old indian town. The
situation was highly romantic, and of that kind which naturally inclines
one to be melancholy. At this instant a large heavy cloud obscured the
sun, and added a grace to the gloominess of the scene. The vestiges of
streets and squares were still to be traced; several favourite trees were
yet standing, that had outlived the inhabitants; the stream ran, and the
springs flowed, as lively as ever, that had afforded refreshment to so
many generations of men, that were now passed away, never to return. All
this while the Indian had melancholy deeply depicted in his countenance;
but he did not shed many tears, till we came to that quarter where his
ancestors had been entombed. 'This spot of land,' said he, recovering
himself a little, 'was once sacred to the dead; but it is now no longer
so! This whole town, with a large tract around it, not even excepting the
bones of our progenitors, has been sold to a stranger. We were deceived
out of it, and that by a man who understood Greek and Hebrew; five kegs of
whiskey did the business: he took us in the hour of dissipation, when the
whole universe appeared to us but a little thing; how much less then, this
comparatively small tract of country, which was, notwithstanding, our
whole dependance for the purposes of hunting and fishing!----Here,'
continued he, sighing, 'was the habitation of _Tawlongo_, one of our
most celebrated warriors. He, in his time, could boast of having gained no
fewer than one hundred and twenty-seven complete victories over his
enemies; yet he was killed at last by an unarmed _Englishman_.
"Here, too, on the opposite side of the way, stood the house of
_Pilaware_, the admirable; she had been addressed by thirty-three suitors
of her own nation, but refused them all, and went off at last with an
_irish pedlar_, for the sake of three yards of silver riband, and a new
blanket. Yonder stood the dwelling of _Scuttawabah_, my immediate
ancestor; he died for joy of having found a keg of rum, that had been lost
by some western trader. May his joys be continued behind the western
mountains--Recollection overcomes me--Let us return to the wigwam in the
"As soon as we had reached this sequestered abode, the Indian once more
sat himself down, and leaned his head upon his hand, melancholy enough, to
"The old squaw desired to know why he was so sorrowful--The _remedy_,'
said she, _is in your power_.'--He then started up, as if suddenly
recollecting somewhat, and cried out, 'Existence is but a dream, an
agreeable dream indeed, if we only choose to consider it as such.--Bring
me that jug of strong cider; it will be my friend, when all others fail
and forsake me--Choicest gift of God to man! and which the white people
alone possess the art and knowledge of producing!'--He courteously offered
me a share of his beverage; but I found it so intolerably sour, that I was
forced to swear by all the gods of the Indians, I would not have any
connexion with it.--He then pointed to the stream where the girl was
angling, and said, with a peasant countenance that had brightened up for a
moment, 'Go; you are a _sober_ man; the clear waters are good for
you; for my own part, this juice of the apple shall be sufficient.'--Two
hours now elapsed, without any one uttering a word.--The Indian had by
this time drunk two large gallons of cider; and recollecting in an
instant, he had signed away his lands and wigwam, some days before, for a
_mere trifle_, he became at once outrageous; his rage heightened to
an alarming degree of extravagance by the strong fumes of the liquor he
had swallowed.--'_It is enough_,' said he; '_my house and lands are
departed: I will speak a word in favour of suicide_.
"'Tis all in vain! These flowers, these streams, these solitary shades,
are nothing to me. I shall not offend the spirit of truth when I say, they
are odious in my eyes. Sixty times has the sun performed his journey of a
year, since I was first struck with the beauty of his yellow rays. Could I
be a witness of sixty yet to come, would there be any thing new, or which
I had not seen before? It is high time we should intrude ourselves into
the invisible abodes, when all things satiate and grow stale upon us here
below. I will this very night enclose myself in my wigwam, and, setting it
on fire, depart with the thin vapour that shall arise from the dried wood
of the forest, when piled around me--No, no,' continued he, tasting the
remains of his cider '_there is nothing new_; all is _old, stale;
"At this instant an Indian trader alighted at the door. He appeared to
have come a considerable distance, and now proffered to barter a keg of
_french brandy_ for some beaver skins, he saw hanging out a post.
"French brandy!' cried Tomo cheekily 'that must be something _new_.'
"It is surely such,' replied the wandering trader, 'at least in this
"I will taste it, by Heaven,' said the Indian.
"But will it not prove the falsehood of your position and assertion,'
interrupted I, 'that there is nothing _new under the sun? To him that
exists through all ages nothing can be strange or novel; with the
transitory race of man, the case is wholly different. Art and Nature are
combined in perpetually composing new forms and substances for his use and
amusement on the ocean of life_.'
"The Divinity himself must surely reside in that precious liquor!'
exclaimed the Indian, after tasting it a second time; 'take all my skins
and furs; and when the dawn of the morning appears, return home, stranger,
and bring a fresh supply of this celestial beverage. My existence had
indeed begun to be a burden: I was meditating, to extricate myself by the
shortest method. I have now learned wisdom, and am convinced, that it is
_variety alone that can make life desirable."_
* * * * *
In order to understand the following, I must inform you, F---- had been
telling the story of a love-distracted maid, somewhat similar to Sterne's
Maria. You will suppose her lately to have put an end to her existence.--
"We had not proceeded very far on our way, when we discovered a funeral
procession advancing towards us, headed by the parson of the parish in
which we were. He was a little man, dressed in black, with a scarf hanging
over his left shoulder.--Upon inquiry, we found they were proceeding to a
church about a league distant, where the corpse they attended was to be
"And to whom may this body belong?" said the _indian physician_,
addressing the man who walked in the rear of the procession.
"It is the corpse of the unfortunate Marcia,' replied the other, speaking
low; 'she died suddenly, yesterday morning, and is now carrying to be
interred in the vault of her ancestors.' We were much affected at this
intelligence, as we had hoped to hear of her recovery, instead of her
"At the request of my friend, the man in the white linen coat, the Indian
agreed to attend the funeral along with us, and accordingly we all three
fell in among the followers, and travelled on with a slow pace till we
came to the scene of interment. The situation was wild and gloomy. Naked
rocks, dark cedars, the head of a small lake, and the venerable tombs of
the dead, completed the scenery.
"It was pity,' said I, 'to the singing clerk, who stood near me, 'that
Fate has so ordered matters, that this young creature should depart the
world in so very extravagant a condition of mind. Though too many pass
their whole lives in a state of insanity, it were to be wished, that,
towards the evening, the clouds of phrensy might be dissipated, and the
sun of reason set clear.'
"The singing clerk looked full in my face, opened his mouth wide, and was
about to make some reply, when silence was ordered, that the clergyman
might pronounce a speech over the body; but his reverence stumbled at the
threshold: he had unluckily forgot his pocket Bible, and could not
recollect his _text_.
"Cannot he say something applicable to the melancholy occasion,' whispered
the Indian, 'without the formality of taking a _text_?'
"Were you to give him three worlds, each as rich as a dozen of the
Indies,' replied the clerk, 'you could not get a word out of him on any
"The sexton of the parish was then ordered to mount one of the horses, and
make the best of the way to the good doctor's house, to bring the Bible.
"After waiting a full and entire hour, he returned with the vexatious
intelligence, that the Bible was not to be found--it was stolen--or, it
was hid--or it had been _neglected_--or, it was mislaid--or they knew
not what had been done with it.--'More is the pity!' exclaimed the singing
"The doctor of divinity then mounted the horse himself, apparently with
some uneasiness, and set out personally to bring the Bible at all events.
"By this time, however, the sun was set, and the whole company stood
waiting in anxious expectation of the clergyman's return, till darkness
had taken possession of the earth; but there was yet no appearance of
either the divine or his Bible.
"As it is more than probable he cannot find his book,' said the man in the
white linen coat, 'I am positive he will not return at all; and, as it is
now almost dark, I am of opinion the sooner the funeral ceremonies are
finished the better. The body of the unfortunate Marcia ought not to be
deposited in these silent retreats of death without some living token of
our respect. She was amiable while living, and notwithstanding the
misfortune of a disordered brain, and an innocent, unsuspecting confidence
in another's honour, is, in my way of thinking, no less amiable when
dead.--Our friend, the Indian will, I know, be complaisant enough on this
occasion to give us a few sentences, and then the venerable sexton may
proceed to close the scene, and we shall be at liberty to return to our
"This man is not in holy orders,' cried the sexton.
"He does not wear a black coat or gown,' said the singing clerk.
"He has not a gray wig on his head, observed one of the church wardens.
"It is no matter,' replied the man in the white linen coat, 'he has a
plain understanding, has written a treatise on the virtues of tobacco, and
knows what is common sense, as well as the best of you.'
"Casting my eyes at this instant toward the east, I perceived a glimmering
among the trees, which proved to be the moon rising, two days after the
full. The evening was calm and serene, and every thing was hushed, except
the surge of the ocean, which we could distinctly hear breaking on the
rocks of the adjacent coasts; when, finding the parish clergyman did not
return, the Indian shook the dew from his blanket, stepped boldly upon a
tombstone of black marble, and, for reasons best known to himself,
preferring the Indian style on this occasion, he thus began:--
"Instead of these dismal countenances, why have we not a feast of seven
days? Instead of the voice of sorrow, why are not the instruments of music
touched by the hand of skill? Fair daughter of the morning! thou didst not
perish by slow decay. At the rising of the sun we saw thee; the ruddy
bloom of youth was then upon thy countenance; In the evening thou wert
nothing; and the pallid complexion of death had taken place of the bloom
of beauty.--And now thou art gone to sit down in the gardens that are
found at the setting of the sun, behind the western mountains, where the
daughters of the white men have a separate place allotted to them by the
spirit of the hills. As much as the mind is superiour to the body, so much
are those charming regions preferable to these which we now inhabit. Man
is here but an image of himself, the representation of an idea that in
itself is not subjected to a change. That which derived it's origin from
the dust shall indeed to the dust return; but the fine ethereal substance
does not cease to think, and shall be again employed by the immortal gods
to put the forms of things in motion. What was thine errour?--It was
nothing: the bow was too mighty for the string, and the foundation too
feeble for the fabric that was built upon it. All shall be right when thou
art arrived at the foot of the mountains, where the sound of the wintry
winds will not be permitted to reach thee, and where the light of the lamp
is not extinguished by the sickly blasts of autumn.----
_"What infernal stuff is this?'_ exclaimed the clergyman, who at this
period of the Indian's discourse had returned on a full gallop with a
large folio Bible before him: _'what infernal heretical trash is this,
with which my ears are insulted?--Miscreant, avaunt!'_ said he, addressing
the Indian, _'or I will teach you how to make speeches within the bounds
of my jurisdiction,'_
"The Indian then modestly stepped down from the tombstone, and the
legitimate clergyman took his place. After making a slight apology for his
stay, he read his text by the light from a horn lantern, which the clerk
held up to his nose, and then proceeded to mumble over a written discourse
upon the subject he had chosen, and which held him about half an
hour.--'In my country,' observed the Indian, 'they would make a more
_animated_ speech at the interment of a _favourite racoon_!'
"'This divinity-monger is the angel of our church,' answered the man in the
white linen coat; 'and it is dangerous to criticise upon his productions,
especially as he considers every one to be in the wrong, who does not
precisely fall in with his own opinions in matters appertaining to
"'Weak men are always arrogant, positive, and self-conceited,' replied the
"'Let us hasten home,' whispered the man in the white linen, coat, 'for the
night begins to wear apace."
* * * * *
Before the following lines are read, represent to yourself, that some of
the tribes of Indians bury their dead in a sitting posture.--
OCCASIONED BY A VISIT TO
AN OLD INDIAN BURYING-GROUND.
In spite of all the learn'd have said,
I still my old opinion keep,
The _posture_ that _we_ give the dead,
Points out the soul's eternal sleep.
Not so the ancients of these lands:--
The Indian, when from life releas'd,
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares again the joyous feast.
His imag'd birds, and painted bowl,
And ven'son for a journey drest,
Bespeak the _nature_ of the soul--
_Activity_, that wants no rest.
His bow for action ready bent,
And arrows with a head of bone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the finer essence gone.
Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way,
No fraud upon the dead commit;
Yet, mark the swelling turf, and say,
'They do not _lie_, but here they _sit_'
Here still a lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace
(Now wasted half by weiring rains)
The fancies of a ruder race.
Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires)
The children of the forest play'd.
There oft a restless indian queen,
(Pale Marian, with her braided hair)
And many a barb'rous form, is seen,
To chide the man that lingers there.
By midnight moons, o'er moist'ning dews,
In vestments for the chace array'd,
The hunter still the deer pursues--
The hunter and the deer--a shade.
And long shall tim'rous fancy see
The painted chief, and pointed spear,
And, _Reason's self_ shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.
* * * * *
_Philadelphia, September 22d, 1795._
I find from a perusal of the english papers, that fencibles are raising in
all parts of the country, and every precaution taking, to put the kingdom
in the best state of defence, in case of an invasion. I have for some
years thought a few regiments of riflemen would much contribute to this
Some lessons I have received in the use of the rifle, from back woodsmen,
since my arrival in America, have confirmed me in this opinion.
I know it will be objected, that the rifle is not a fair weapon. Perhaps
it is not.--I should be sorry to see it in general use in the european
armies: but surely it may be used to repel an invader, without any
infringement of the Law of Nations.
What I would recommend to Government on this subject is, first,
OF FORMING THE CORPS.
Beside the officers who have paid any attention to this method of fighting
during the last war in America, some of the most experienced back woodsmen
and indian chiefs should be sent for from Canada.
Independent of the regiments on the ordinary establishment, I would
recommend one of _select men_, with better pay, &c., to be formed
from the other rifle corps; _merit_ being the only recommendation.
Volunteer companies, in different parts of the country, might soon be
formed, composed of gentlemen, sportsmen, gamekeepers, &c. Proper persons
should make the circuit of the kingdom, to instruct them in some of the
most necessary particulars; such as loading, with the proper use of the
patch; to draw a level, making a just allowance for distance, &c.
I would by no means recommend _contract_ let proper encouragement be
given to gun-smiths, to supply rifles of the best construction, _loading
from the muzzle_.--Their being of an uniform length, or bore, is of no
consequence, as every man should cast and cut his own ball.
The barrel, mounting, and lock, should be covered with a composition, to
render them as dull, and as little discernible, as possible. The locks
should always be in the very best firing order, and constructed to give
fire as easily as the nature of the service will admit. Oil, for the
inside of the rifle, should be regularly served; and the flints should be
of a much better quality than those used in muskets.
Every thing depends upon this article's being of an uniform degree of
strength: it should be of the best quality, but not glazed.
ACCOUTREMENTS AND DRESS,
Cannot be better than those used by the rifle corps in this country,
except perhaps that the latter should be of a dusky green, the colour died
in the Highlands of Scotland for plaids; even the cap should be of this
colour: a sort of helmet, constructed so as to afford a rest to fire from,
when lying on the belly.
It may perhaps be presumption in me to say any thing on this subject; but
I cannot help thinking it should be the _reverse_ of what is used in
the Line. They should be encamped as much as possible in a woody country,
as the art of _freeing_, as the back woodsmen call it, is one of
their best manoeuvres. Their whole time should be taken up in the
_real_ study of their profession, not in powdering, pipeclaying,
blacking, polishing, and such military fopperies.
The rifle out of the question, I do not think _slow, deliberate firing_
sufficiently attended to in the english army. Want of ammunition first
introduced it into this country at Bunker's Hill, and afterward at
Sullivan's Island. The carnage that ensued was a fatal proof of it's
I have often thought, that the success of our navy was in a great measure
owing to _cool, deliberate firing_; and there is no doubt but that the
military fame of our ancestors was owing to their great superiority in
shooting the long bow; for the exercise of which, butts were erected in
every village in the kingdom.--
* * * * *
_Philadelphia, February 12th, 1796._
Were I to characterise the _United States_, it should be by the
appellation of the _land of speculation_.
Such has been the rapid rise of every article of american produce, of
house-rent, and land (to say nothing of mercantile speculation, great part
of the carrying trade of Europe being now in the hands of the Americans),
that surely there never was a country where that passion was so universal,
or had such unbounded scope.
The last great purchase of land from the Indians, on the confines of
Georgia, was at the rate of a cent per acre; one hundred acres for a
Before the american war, flour, was sold at _two_ dollars, per barrel; it
is now selling at _fourteen_.
But perhaps the most tempting speculation is that of the _mines_. Our
friend, Parsons, who is here looked upon as an agent to some english
speculators, has lately received the enclosed, which I begged a copy of,
for your perusal but should first inform you, the cheapest fuel you can
burn in some parts of America, is english coal from Liverpool!
COPY OF A LETTER TO B. PARSONS.
"The coal mine, of which you requested, me to give you a description, is
situate in the county of Hampshire, on a spur or arm of the Allegany
mountains. At the foot of this, within the distance of one mile, is the
river Patowmack, at the confluence of it's north branch with the Savage
river. To this point, the Patowmack Company, incorporated for this
purpose, intend to extend their navigation, and have already perfected it
within the distant of six or seven miles. The work is going forward, and I
believe will be completed next summer. This being perfected, there will be
a good navigation for large flat-bottomed boats, within one mile of the
coal-bank, to which a good road may be had on the side of the mountain.
"This immense body of coal, which lies not above two or three feet under
the surface of the earth, was discovered by the falling of a tree, the
roots of which brought up some pieces of coal. It has been made use of for
some years by the neighbouring blacksmiths, who have made a perpendicular
opening, about ten feet on this side of the mountain. Intending to
purchase this property, I employed a man about two years ago to dig about
twelve feel lower down than the first opening, and found nothing but a
solid body of coal, of an excellent quality. I am inclined to think it
extends to the bottom of the mountain, and may be procured with so much
ease, that one hand, as I am assured, could deliver three hundred bushels
"From the information I have received, there is a body of iron ore within
seven or eight miles of the coal-bank; and I expect a very advantageous
situation for water-works might be found at the confluence of the North
Branch and the Savage. Among the great objects contemplated by the
Patowmack Company in clearing the navigation of that extensive river, was
that of forming an easy communication between the eastern and western
waters, which you know are divided by the Allegany Mountains. The space
that separates them at present is about sixty miles; but when the
obstructions to the navigation down the Patowmack, which, passing through
an extensive and fertile country, leads to the seat[Footnote: The writer
means _intended_ seat of federal empire.] of federal empire; and
thence widening by degrees to the width of twelve miles, empties itself
into the bay of Chesapeak.
"Should any of your friends in England incline to form an establishment
here, in the smaller branches of non manufactory, I should he glad to
treat with them on terms mutually beneficial.
* * * * *
_Philadelphia June 27th, 1796._
"In some part of the middle states, a climate similar to that of England
may easily be found."
Inform our old acquaintance H----, that if he emigrates to America on the
strength of this assertion of Cooper, (on which, you tell me he so much
depends), he will, on his arrival, find himself egregiously mistaken. The
sameness of latitude does not always indicate similarity of temperature:
there are many other causes, which contribute to make this a very
different climate from that of Great Britain.
The middle states of North America are hotter and colder _at intervals_,
not only than England, but than any part of the Old Continent, under the
same parallel of latitude.
Jefferson says, "Our changes from heat to cold are sudden and great. The
mercury in Fahrenheit's thermometer has been known to descend from 92 to
47, in thirteen hours."
And I copied the following from a New York paper:--
"Wednesday, the 14th of May, the mercury in Fahrenheit rose to 91 degrees,
The Saturday night following, there was a severe frost. The next Tuesday
and Wednesday, the mercury rose to 85 degrees; from the 20th to the 26th,
it has been nearly stationary, varying only from 60 to 64.: Easterly wind,
These violent transitions from heat to cold, are produced by means of the
N.W. wind, which in this country is the most keen and severe of any that
is to be met with on the face of the globe. It is much the most prevalent
wind we have, and seldom fails to blow four or five days with great
uniformity. This wind is perfectly _dry_, and so uncommonly penetrating,
that I am convinced it would destroy all the plagues of Egypt in a very
short time. You may recollect, I informed you of the astonishing effect of
this powerful agent in stopping the yellow fever in a few hours, last
year, at Baltimore.
Neither the prevalence, nor uncommon severity of this wind has been
properly accounted for; but we may now expect something more satisfactory
on this subject, from the celebrated Volney; who is here endeavouring to
investigate the causes of this, and other phenomena, relative to the winds
of this continent.
Our heats in summer are sometimes very great; but the excess seldom
exceeds three days; the rotation is generally as follows; the first day
perhaps the mercury rises to 86, the next to 90, and the 3rd to 97, and
sometimes, though very rarely, to upward of 100 then comes a thunder gust,
which restores the air to it's usual summer temperature, till another
three days period of excessive heat begins and ends in the same manner, at
intervals, through the season. The succession of the degree of cold in
winter is exactly the same: I never knew the excess exceed three days; not
that we have then a thaw but that the weather is moderate, till another
excess commences of three days.
On these occasions the mercury _sometimes_ descends to 10 or 12 degrees
below 0. Rivers a mile broad are frozen over in one night, and the bay of
Chesapeak traversed in waggons and sleighs!
Though this climate, compared with that of England, is not in my opinion
on the whole so good, yet it possesses many advantages, such as the
clearness of the atmosphere, greater equality of the length of the days,
and _certainty_ of settled weather; for though the transitions are more
_violent_, they are by no means so _frequent_ as in England; where you
have the wind from every point of the compass, and experience all the
seasons of the year in twenty-four hours!
Recollect these observations on the climate of America are confined to the
_middle states_, including Virginia in this description. Those of the
north, and south, are _somewhat_ different; but I am informed
the country to the S.W. of the Allegany Mountains is _materially
different_. The distance the N.W. wind has to travel to this country,
and the opposition it meets with from those mountains, in a great measure
meliorates and destroys those penetrating qualities, which make this wind
so formidable to the Atlantic States. I have heard so many extraordinary
accounts of the South-western territory, that I have long made up my mind
to visit that country: two _trifling_ reasons alone prevented me;
viz. want of _time_ and _money_; and from some disagreeable
intelligence I have lately received from _Wells_, instead of climbing
the _Allegany,_ I apprehend I shall soon be obliged to cross the
_Atlantic;_ in which case, I shall have the pleasure of returning you
thanks in person for your obliging attention to my order concerning
the........... which I received by the Peggy.
At present I must content myself by assuring you of my being
Your obliged friend, &c.
_Philadelphia, September 13th, 1796._
I write this in my way to Boston, where I am going to fulfil my engagement
with W----, the particulars of which I informed you of in a former letter.
When I arrived at Newcastle, I had the mortification to find upwards of
one hundred irish passengers on board the packet.
For some time before I left Baltimore, our papers were full of a shocking
transaction, which took place on board an irish passenger ship, containing
upwards of three hundred. It is said, that, owing to the cruel usage they
received from the captain, such as being put on a _very scanty_ allowance
of water[Footnote: By a law of the United States, the quantity of water
and provision every vessel is obliged to take (in proportion to the length
of the passage and persons on board) is clearly defined. A master of a
vessel violating this law forfeits five hundred dollars.] and provision, a
contagious disorder broke out on board, which carried off great numbers;
and, to add to their distress, when they arrived in the Delaware, they
were obliged to perform quarantine, which, for some days, was equally
The disorder was finally got under by the physicians belonging to the
Health Office. We had several of the survivors on board, who confirmed all
I had heard: indeed their emaciated appearance was a sufficient testimony
of what they had suffered. They assured me, the captain sold the ship's
water by the pint; and informed me of a number of shocking circumstances,
which I will not wound your feelings by relating.
It is difficult to conceive how a multitude of witnesses can militate
_against_ a fact; but more so, how three hundred passengers could
tamely submit to such cruelties, from a bashaw of a captain.
I am happy to inform you the Philadelphia Hibernian Society are determined
to prosecute this _flesh butcher_ for _murder_; As the manner of
carrying on this _trade_ in human flesh is not generally known in
England, I send you a few particulars of what is here emphatically called
a _white Guinea man_. There are vessels in the trade of Belfast,
Londonderry, Amsterdam, Hamburgh, &c., whose chief _cargoes_, on
their return to America, are passengers; great numbers of whom, on their
arrival, are _sold_ for a term of years to pay their passage; during
their servitude, they are liable to be _resold_, at the death or
caprice of their masters. Such advertisements as the following, are
"To be disposed of, the indentures of a strong, healthy, _irish woman_;
who has two years to serve, and is fit for all kind of house work.--
Enquire of the printer."
"_Stop the villain!_
Ran away this morning, an irish servant, named Michael Day, by trade a
tailor, about five feet eight inches high, fair complexion, has a down
look when spoken to, light bushy hair, speaks much in the irish dialect,
&c.:--Whoever secures the above described, in any gaol, shall receive
thirty dollars reward, and all reasonable charges paid.--_N.B._. All
masters of vessels are forbid harbouring, or carrying off the said servant
at their peril."
The laws respecting the _redemptioners_[Footnote: The name given to these
persons.] are very severe; they were formed for the english convicts
before the revolution. There are lately hibernian, and german societies,
who do all in their power, to mitigate the severity of these laws, and
render their countrymen, during their servitude, as comfortable as
possible. These societies are in all the large towns south of Connecticut.
In New England they are not wanting, as the _trade_ is there prohibited.
The difficulty of hiring a tolerable servant induces many to _deal_ in
this way. Our friend S---- lately bought an irish girl for three years,
and in a few days discovered he was likely to have a greater _increase of
his family_ than he bargained for; we had the laugh sadly against him on
this occasion; I sincerely believe the jew regrets his new purchase is not
a few shades darker. If he could prove her a _women of colour_, and
produce a bill of sale, he would make a slave of the child as well as the
mother! The emigration from Ireland has been this year very great; I
left a large _vessel_[Footnote: These vessels frequently belong to
Philadelphia, but land their passengers here, as there is a direct road to
the back parts of Pennsylvania.] full of passengers from thence at
Baltimore: I found _three_ at Newcastle: and there is _one_ in this city.
The number of passengers cannot be averaged at less than two hundred and
fifty to each vessel, all of whom have arrived within the last six weeks!
While the yellow fever was raging in this city, in the year 1793, when few
vessels would venture nearer than Fort Miflin; a german captain in _this
trade_ arrived in the river, and hearing that such was the fatal nature of
the infection, that a sufficient number of nurses could not be procured to
attend the sick for any sum, conceived the philanthropic idea of supplying
this deficiency from his _redemption passengers!_ actuated by this _humane
motive_, he sailed boldly up to the city, and _advertised_[Footnote: I
have preserved this advertisement, and several others equally curious.]
his _cargo_ for sale:--
"A few _healthy_ servants, generally between seventeen and twenty-one
years of age; their times will be disposed of, by applying on board the
Generous soul! thus nobly to sacrifice his _own countrymen, pro bono
publico_. I never heard this _honest_ german was _properly_ rewarded; but
virtue is it's own reward, and there is no doubt but the consciousness of
having performed _such_ an action is quite _sufficient_; at least, it
would be to
* * * * *
_Boston, September 23rd, 1797._
I set out for New York on the afternoon of the 16th. We had a pleasant
journey, over a rich and well cultivated tract of country, to Bristol. We
soon after crossed the Delaware, in a scow constructed to carry the stage
and horses over in a few minutes, without even taking the latter from the
carriage. We then entered the state of Jersey, and slept at Trenton, which
we left before sunrise the next morning; a circumstance I regretted, as I
wished to see the falls of the river Delaware in that neighbourhood, which
I am informed are worthy the attention of a traveller.
Our journey across the Jerseys was pleasant; but the land is by no means
so rich as on the other side of the Delaware. Pennsylvania is, in my
opinion, justly called the Garden of America, at least of the United
States _East_ of the Allegany Mountains. We dined at New Brunswick,
where there is a wooden bridge, with stone piers, thrown over a broad and
rapid river. Our landlord informed us, several englishmen assured him, "It
was _very like_ Westminster Bridge." Though my conscience would not
permit me, _exactly_ to chime with my countrymen, it is but justice
to acknowledge, that when the infant state of the country is considered,
it is a work of equal magnitude, boldly designed, and neatly executed.
About four in the afternoon, we embarked in a small vessel for New York,
which is situate on an island, in a bay, formed by the conflux of two
large rivers, the Hudson or North, and the East river.
The city covers the south end of the island, and, as you approach it in
that direction from the Jersey shore, seems like Venice, gradually rising
from the sea. The evening was uncommonly pleasant; the sky perfectly clear
and serene, and the sun, in setting with all that vivid warmth of
colouring peculiar to southern latitudes, illuminated some of the most
beautiful scenery in nature, on the north river, and adjacent country. For
some minutes all my faculties were absorbed in admiration of the
surrounding objects! I never enjoyed a prospect more enchanting; but this
pleasure was of short continuance; I unfortunately cast my eyes towards
the city, and immediately recollected _two words_ I heard in the
Jerseys (yellow fever); at which the delusion vanished!
_New York, Sept. 18th_.--My Jersey intelligence was too true; but the
disorder is chiefly confined to one part of the city, and is effectually
prevented from spreading at present by the N.W. wind, which is set in this
morning with uncommon severity; a circumstance which sometimes happens at
this season of the year, and is of long continuance. This kind of weather
the Indians call _half_ winter. Unfortunately for the Philadelphians,
they had no half winter in the year 1793.--I spent this day in surveying
the city, which, as well as the manners of the inhabitants, is more like
England than any other part of America. New York is a London in miniature,
populous streets, hum of business, busy faces, shops in style, &c.
_Sept. 25th,_--I spent this day in viewing the city with increasing
admiration: It is certainly one of the first maritime situations in the
world. The extensive settlements on the banks of the Hudson, which
is navigable upwards of two hundred miles, amply supplies the city
with exports and provision. The inhabitants boast of having the best
fish-market in the United States; their own oyster-beds, and their
vicinity to the _New England states_, give them this advantage[Footnote:
There are fish on the coast of America which have certain boundaries,
beyond which they never go; salmon, for instance, is never found south of
a river in Connecticut; and certain southern fish never visit the New
England coast.].--The governor's house, new theatre, and tontine coffee
house, are magnificent buildings; the public walks well laid out, and
One advantage this city possesses peculiar to itself; you may be as much
in the country as you can desire for five farthings english money: the
fare is no more to Long Island, where you may be conveyed, from the heart
of the city, in a few minutes, and meet with as great a variety of hill
and dale, wood and water, as in any part of the world. This island is
ninety miles in length.
_Sept. 19th_.--I intended proceeding to Boston, by the way of Rhode
Island, as I was informed the passage through _Hell Gates_[Footnote:
A dangerous strait, between stupendous rocks.] and the Sound is very
pleasant at this season; but the fear of being obliged to perform a
quarantine at my arrival prevented me. I set off this morning, in the
stage. Our course lay the whole length of the island, which is barren and
rocky; affording some romantic situations, in several of which I observed
(to use a cockney phrase) _snug little boxes_; these, I was informed,
belonged to the wealthy citizens; they commanded a view of the city, the
North River, the Sound, and adjacent islands.
At noon we entered Connecticut, the most southerly of the New England
states. Slept at Fairfield.
On the night of the 20th we reached Hertford, the capital of the state.--
About five miles from it, a house was pointed out to me, where a very
shocking circumstance took place a few years ago.--A merchant, not being
able to bear a change in his circumstances from affluence to extreme
poverty, coolly and deliberately shot his wife and five children, and
afterward himself. He tried every means, for several days, to send his
wife away; but she preferred dying with him and the children. He left a
paper on the table, informing his friends, that his only motive for
committing this rash action was to rescue his family from a situation,
which he himself found insupportable.
_Sept. 21st._--We this afternoon entered the state of Massachusetts.
I found New England very different from any part of America I had before
seen; the soil but very indifferent, rocky, and mountainous, interspersed
with some rich tracts of land in the valleys; the up lands are divided by
means of stone walls, as in Derbyshire, and some other parts of Great
They have few negroes, or european emigrants; so far from wanting the
latter, as in the South, they send great numbers every year to the new
settlements in the South-west.
When we made any stay at a tavern on the road, I observed one of my
fellow travellers (who was very eloquent upon this subject) take every
opportunity of singing forth the praises of _New Virginia_[Footnote: A
rich tract of country, west of the Allegany Mountains.].--The north-west
wind continuing, the morning of the 22d was very cold; and we breakfasted
with a number of strangers. Our orator did not lose this opportunity of
holding forth on his favourite topic. I recollect the latter part of his
harangue was to the following effect:--_"There,"_ says he, (while the New
Englanders were staring with their _mouths open_,) "when I clear a fresh
lot of land on any of my plantations, I am obliged to plant it six or
seven years with hemp, or tobacco, before it is sufficiently _poor_ to
bear wheat! My indian corn grows twelve or thirteen feet high; I'll dig
four feet deep on my best land, and it shall then be sufficiently rich to
_manure_ your barren hills; and as to the climate, there is no comparison:
this cursed cold north-west wind loses all it's severity before it reaches
us; our winters are so mild, that our cattle requite no fodder, but range
the woods all winter; and our summers are more moderate than on your side
the Allegany; and as to----" Here the stage-driver put an end to his
oration, by informing us, all was ready to proceed on our journey.
We must not be surprised, that numbers, who cultivate an ungrateful soil
in this cold climate, should be induced, by such descriptions as the
above, to emigrate to our orator's land of promise, I am informed ten
thousand persons emigrated from these states to Kentucky _alone_, in
one year. I have lately seen a flattering description of this country,
published in London: that the accounts are exaggerated, I have no doubt,
as it is said to be written by a speculator; deeply interested in the sale
of lands in the new settlements. I had a strong suspicion our fellow
traveller was of this description, and took every opportunity to
cross-examine him on this subject; he stuck true to his text, insisted
that all he advanced was literally true, but acknowledged he was going to
receive a sum of money for land he had sold to some emigrants from the
province of Main, and that he expected to sell a considerable tract before
his return. I arrived at Boston the 23d instant, four hundred and
seventy-four miles from Baltimore.
_P.S._ I find we are to have a most vigorous theatrical opposition. A sort
of dramatic mania has lately seiz'd the inhabitants. The _primitive_
Bostonians would as soon have admitted the plague as a company of players;
but the present inhabitants having more liberal sentiments, a company of
comedians came to this town about four years ago, and ventured to exhibit
dramatic pieces, under the title of _Moral Lectures_. At length a bill
passed the General Assembly of Massachusetts to licence theatrical
performances; and as it is natural for mankind to run from one extreme to
another, they have this year _two_ theatres, both of which are attended
with a prodigious expence. Some of the performers are engaged at upwards
of 20_l_. english per week; and Mrs. Whitlocke (sister to Mrs. Siddons,
whom you may perhaps recollect at the Haymarket) is to have 180_l_.
sterling for six nights. This opposition will in all probability end in
the ruin of the managers, or rather of the _subscribers, who are bound for
* * * * *
_Boston, October 3d, 1796._
The first leisure day after my arrival here, I went to Bunker's Hill,
attended by two persons, who were spectators of the engagement, and were
kind enough to point out and explain a number of particulars I wished to
be acquainted with, for the purpose of enabling me to form a tolerable
idea of this famous action. If general Howe meant only to give the
_Yankies_ a specimen of british valour, and his contempt of them and their
intrenchment, he succeeded in both.--His enemies on this side the water
say, "they gave him a _Rowland_ for his _Oliver_; _that_ he paid _too
dear_ for this victory; _that_ a more prudent general would have found a
better place to land the troops, and a safer mode of attack; _that_ the
_price_ he paid for this little redoubt ought to have convinced him, he
could not afford even to _bid_ for Dorchester heights, if once the
Americans got possession of those hills; _that_ he should therefore have
fortified them _himself_; _that_----" But as nothing is easier than to
see all these _thats_ when it is _too late_, I shall plague you with no
more of them, but conclude with an inscription from a monument on the
scene of action.
By King Solomon's Lodge of Free Masons,
[Footnote: General Warren was a brother.]
constituted at Charlestown, 1783,
In Memory of
MAJOR GENERAL JOSEPH WARREN,
AND HIS BRAVE ASSOCIATES,
Who were slain on this memorable spot,
June 17th, 1775.
None but they, who set a just value on the
blessings of LIBERTY, are worthy to enjoy
In vain we toil'd, in vain we fought,
We bled in vain, if you, our offspring,
Want valour to repel the assaults of her
CHARLES TOWN settled 1628.
------------ burnt 1775.
------------ rebuilt 1776.
_P. S._ I was yesterday introduced to Cox, the celebrated
bridge-architect: he is famous for throwing a bridge over waters, where,
from the _depth_ or _strength_ of the current, this operation was thought
impracticable. He always constructs his bridges of wood, and endeavours to
give as little resistance to the water as possible: his supporters are
numerous, but slender; and there is an interval between each. He tells me
this idea first struck him from reading Aesop's fable of the Reed and the
Oak: the reed, by _yielding_, was unhurt by a tempest, which tore up the
sturdy oak by the roots.
Cox served his apprenticeship to a carpenter; and it was late in life
before he attempted bridge-building. He proved his new theory on a
small bridge in the country, which answering beyond his most sanguine
expectations, he delivered proposals for connecting Boston to the
continent, at Charleston, by means of a draw-bridge. His plan was by some
supposed to proceed from a _distempered brain_. It is usual for the
_ignorant_ to call a projector _insane_, when his schemes exceed
the bounds of _their shallow comprehensions_.
After some time, a subscription was raised; and, to the confusion of his
enemies, he erected a bridge 1500 feet long, by 42 wide, where there was,
at the _lowest ebb_, 28 feet of water, and the flow of the tide was
from 12 to 16 feet _more_. But what is the most surprising, this
bridge has stood the shock of prodigious bodies of ice, sometimes three or
four feet in thickness; which are, every thaw violently forced against it
with a powerful current. He was rewarded with the sum of two hundred
dollars above his contract. He then went to Ireland, where he built seven
bridges; the largest was at Londonderry, 1860 feet long, by 40 wide; the
depth of water 37 feet, and the flow of the tide from 14 to 18 feet more.
He compleated this bridge so much to the satisfaction of the gentlemen who
employed him, that he was presented with a gold medal and one hundred
pounds above his contract.
He speaks feelingly, and with gratitude, of the many favours he received
during his residence in that kingdom.
Farewell, yours, &c.
* * * * *
_Boston, October 9th, 1796._
Boston is situate in latitude 42 deg. 23 min. north, on a small peninsula,
at the bottom of Massachusetts Bay. It was built in the manner cities were
in England, at the time this settlement was formed; that is to say, with,
the gable end of the houses in front, the streets are narrow, ill paved,
and worse lighted. But recollect, I do not include the New Town, or West
Boston, in this description; which, as well as those houses that have
lately been erected in the Old Town, are in the modern style.
The harbour is one of the best in the States; and, as a sea port, Boston
possesses advantages superiour to any I have seen in America: being too
far to the north to have any thing to fear from the worms (see a former
letter from Annapolis); and so near the ocean, that the navigation is
open, when the ports of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and others, three or four
degrees more to the south, are entirely frozen.
Several of the public buildings are well worthy the attention of a
The New State House will, when finished, add considerably to the beauty of
the town. It is building on Beacon Hill, and commands a very extensive
view of the bay of Massachusetts, and adjacent islands.
The long wharf is a bold design; it runs 1743 feet in a right line into
the bay, where there is, at the lowest ebb, 17 feet of water. On this
wharf are upwards of eighty large stores, containing merchandize to a
great amount. I could never view these buildings without astonishment at
the infatuation of the proprietors: they are, without a single exception,
of _wood_, and the roofs covered with cedar shingles; were a fire to
commence at either extremity with a brisk wind in the same direction, the
whole must infallibly be consumed.
The new[Footnote: The _old_ theatre has not been erected five years. Our
opposition rages with great violence. Much ink has already been shed. One
third of the public papers are crammed with what is called _Theatrical
Critique_; but is in fact either the barefaced puff direct in favour of
_one_ theatre, or a string of abusive epithets against the _other_,
equally void of truth and decency.
The dispute has lately taken _political_ turn. It seems ours is the
_aristocratic_ theatre. The _democrats_ at the New Theatre are commanded
by the _Moral Lecture_ manager. _Mr. Powell informs his fellow-citizens,
that on Monday evening will be performed the tragedy of the Battle of
Bunker's Hill_.--The English in this town affect to laugh at the eagerness
with which the Bostonians swallow certain passages of this play. I laugh
too, but _justice_ obliges me to confess, that _John Bull_ can swallow a
fulsome clap trap as voraciously at any _Yankee_ of them all.] theatre is
a stupendous wooden building, that will contain one tenth of the
inhabitants of the whole town.
The favourite promenade of the Bostonians, is the Mall, which has trees on
each side, as in St. James's Park, London. This walk commands some
beautiful prospects of the adjacent continent.
Immediately opposite is the village and university of Cambridge.
To open an immediate communication between Boston and the university, the
New Bridge was built on the plan of Mr. Cox during his absence in Ireland;
a great undertaking, including the causeways, which are covered in
the same manner as the water. This bridge is within a few feet of a
_mile_ in length, by means of which, the bridge at Charleston, and
the neck of the peninsula, our communication with the continent is so
complete, that we feel but few inconveniences from our insular situation.
--We have a plentiful supply of provision. Our fish-market is an excellent
one: the following species are larger than I remember seeing them in
Europe; viz. hallibut, cod, mackarel, smelts, and lobsters. The first is
often brought to market weighing two hundred pounds. Dr. Belknap, in his
History of New Hampshire, says, that when full grown, they often exceed
five hundred pounds weight. The cod are from seventy to eighty pounds.
Mackarel _often_ exceed four, and lobsters _sometimes_ thirty-five
pounds weight. I have preserved a claw of one of the latter, which
weighed thirty pounds: this I shall bring home with me, lest my friends
should think that, in this particular, I take too liberal an advantage of
the _traveller's privilege_, which I assure you I do not, when I
Your sincere friend.
* * * * *
_Boston, December 27th, 1796._
There is no calamity the bostonians so much, and justly dread, as
fire. Almost every part of the town exhibits melancholy proofs of the
devastation of that destructive element. This you will not wonder at, when
I inform you that three fourths of the houses are built with _wood_,
and covered with _shingles_, thin pieces of cedar, nearly in the
shape, and answering the end of tiles. We have no regular fire-men, or
rather mercenaries, as every master of a family belongs to a fire-company:
there are several in town, composed of every class of citizens, who have
entered into a contract to turn out with two buckets at the first fire
alarm, and assist to the utmost of their power in extinguishing the
flames, without fee or reward.
I awoke this morning about two o'clock by the cry of fire, and the
jingling of all the church bells, which, with the rattling of the engines,
call for water, and other _et caetera_ of a bostonian fire-alarm,
form a concert truly horrible.
As sleep was impossible under such circumstances, I immediately rose, and
found the town illuminated. When the alarm is given at night, the female
part of the family immediately place candles in the windows. This is of
great service in a town where there are few lamps.
I found the fire had broken out in one of the narrow streets, and was
spreading fast on all sides. I was much pleased with the regularity
observed by these _amateur_ fire-men. Each engine had a double row,
extending to the nearest water; one row passed the full, and the other the
empty buckets. The citizens not employed at the engines were pulling down
the adjacent buildings, or endeavouring to save the furniture; their
behaviour was bold and intrepid. The wind blew fresh at N.W.; and nothing
but such uncommon exertions could possibly have saved the town, composed,
as it is, of such _combustible_ materials. You will naturally inquire,
whether they have no other. Yes, brick and stone in great plenty; but the
cheapness of a frame, or wooden building, is a great inducement for the
continuance of this dangerous practice: but there is one still greater,
viz. a strange idea, universal in America, that wooden houses are more
healthy, and less liable to generate or retain contagious infection than
those of brick or stone. This notion has been ably controverted by one of
their best _writers_[Footnote: Jefferson, vicepresident of the United
States.], but with little effect; and, like all other deep-rooted
prejudices, will not easily be eradicated.
Your papers have, I suppose, informed you of a set of diabolical
incendiaries having set fire to Savannah, Charleston, Baltimore, and New
York. The villainy of these infernals is likely to be productive of some
good. The inhabitants of Charleston have agreed to prohibit the erection
of wooden buildings in that city. The philadelphians had before come to
this prudent resolution, within certain limits, I was present when this
matter was agitated. It was violently opposed by the democratic party; who
insisted, that in a _free_ country, a man has a right to build his
house of what materials he pleases. "True," said I, "of _stone_-brimstone
--use gun-powder for lime, and mix it with spirit of turpentine,"
_P.S._ I thank you for the _Apology_. It has been already twice answered
in this country, or rather, the bishop has been as often abused; first, by
a deist of New York, for speaking too _favourably_ of the Bible; and
secondly, by a hot-headed frantic of New England; who, in a work he calls
_The Bible needs no Apology_, rails at his lordship for the _opposite
reason_, and consigns him to eternal damnation, for _not_ insisting on
_every sentence_ of scripture being the _inspired_ word of God.
_Boston, January 7th, 1797._
The states of Massachusetts and Connecticut were originally settled by
brownists, and other puritans, and were, for many years, an asylum for
dissenters of all denominations, who fled from persecution in Europe, to
exercise a still greater degree of intolerance themselves, when in power
in America. You have doubtless read or heard of the _Blue_ Laws of
Connecticut. Without insisting on the sanguinary code, said to be formerly
in force under this title, I shall briefly, and without connexion,
transcribe for you some extracts from Dr. Belknap, and others of their
_own_ writers on this subject; on the truth of which you may rely:--
"Severe laws, conformable to the principles of the laws of Moses, were
enacted against all kinds of immorality.
"Blasphemy, idolatry, unnatural lusts, rape, murder, adultery,
man-stealing, bearing false witness, rebellion against parents, were all
_equally_ made _capital_ crimes. The law against the latter was in these
words:--'If any child or children, above sixteen years of age, and of
sufficient understanding, shall curse or smite their natural father or
mother, he or they shall be _put to death. Exodus_ xxi, 17; _Lev._ x, 9.'
"A law was passed to prohibit, under a severe penalty, the _smoking of
tobacco_, which was compared to the _smoke_ of the _bottomless pit_.
_Drinking_ of _healths_, and _wearing long hair_, were also forbidden,
under the same penalty: the first was considered as a heathenish and
idolatrous practice, grounded on the ancient libations.
"Previous to putting the laws in execution against the latter, the
following proclamation was issued, and is now preserved among the records
at Havard College, Cambridge, near Boston:--
"Forasmuch as the wearing of long hair, after the manner of ruffians and
barbarous indians, has begun to invade New England, contrary to the rule
of God's word, _Corinthians_ xi, 14, which says it is a shame for a man to
wear long hair; as also the commendable custom generally of all the
_godly_ of our nation, until these few years; we, the magistrates who have
subscribed this paper, (for the showing of our own _innocency_ in this
behalf,) do declare and manifest our dislike and detestation against the
wearing of such long hair, as against a thing _uncivil_ and _unmanly_;
whereby men do deform themselves, and offend _sober_ and _modest_ men, and
do _corrupt good manners_. We do therefore, earnestly intreat all the
elders of this jurisdiction, as often as they shall see cause, to
_manifest their zeal_ against it in their public administrations, and to
take care that the _members_ of their respective churches be not _defiled
therewith_, that so, such as shall prove obstinate, and will not reform
themselves, may have God and man to witness against them.
"The 3d month, 10th day, 1649.
"_Jo. Endicott_, Governor.
_Tho. Dudley_, Dep. Governor
Rich. Salton Stall.
"Laws were made to regulate the intercourse between the sexes, and the
advances towards matrimony. They had a ceremony of betrothing, which
preceded that of marriage. _Pride_ and _levity_ came under the cognizance
of the magistrates. Not only the richness, but the mode of dress, and cut
of the hair, were subject to regulations. Women were forbidden to expose
their _arms_ or _bosoms_ to view. It was ordered, that their sleeves
should reach down to their _wrists_, and their gowns to be closed round
the _neck_. Women _offending_ against these laws were _presentable_ by the
"The following were some of their favourite arguments in favour of
persecution. The celebrated Cotton, in a treatise published in 1647,
laboured to prove the lawfulness of the magistrate using the civil sword,
to extirpate _heretics_, from the command given to the jews, to put
to death _blasphemers_ and _idolaters!_
"After saying it was _toleration_, which made the world _antichristian_,
he concludes his work with this singular ejaculation:--'The Lord keep us
from being bewitched with the whore's cup, lest while we seem to reject
her with our profession, we bring her in by a _back door_ of _toleration_,
and so drink deeply of the cup of the Lord's wrath, and be filled with her
"During a war with the eastern Indians, a council was called, and a
proposal made to draw upon them the _Mohawks_, their ancient enemy, though
then at peace: the lawfulness of this proceeding was doubted by some
_tender consciences_; but all their doubts vanished, when it was urged,
that _Abraham_ had entered into a confederacy with the _Amorites, among
whom he dwelt_, and made use of _their_ assistance in recovering his
kinsman _Lot_ from the hands of their _common enemy_."
* * * * *
"The quakers at first were banished; but this proving insufficient, a
succession of sanguinary laws were enacted against them; such as
imprisonment, whipping, cutting off the ears, boreing the tongue with a
red-hot iron, and banishment on pain of death. In consequence of these
laws, four quakers were put to death at Boston only; when their friends in
England procured an order from king Charles the Second, which put a stop
to _capital executions_."
And now, friend Joseph, what do you think of these primitive christians?
When the _real_ Christian _William Penn_ arrived in America, what was _his
retaliation?_ He called his city _Philadelphia_, to perpetuate a memorial
of the cords of peace and good will, which bound him, and all his
followers, not only to one another, but even to his enemies at Boston,
were they inclined to come and settle with them.--The following words of
his proclamation ought to be written in letters of gold:--
"Because no people can be happy, if abridged of the freedom of their
consciences, as to their religious professions and worship; I do grant and
declare, that no person inhabiting this province, or territories, who
shall acknowledge one Almighty God, the Creator, Ruler, and Upholder of
the world, and live quietly under the civil government, shall in any case
be molested, or prejudiced in his person or estate because of his
conscientious persuasion or practice."
But to return to New England; happily for these states, the revolution
has done away great part of the severity of their ancient laws; but
the inhabitants still retain a taste for scriptural phrases and allusions
in their writings. As you are fond of _poetry_, I send you two
specimens of this kind of writing; the first is from a tomb-stone at
_Plymouth_[Footnote: The oldest settlement north of Virginia.]. It was
written by one of the first settlers, and is in the true spirit of those
EPITAPH UPON GENERAL ATHERTON.
"Here lies our captain, and major,
Of Suffolk was withal,
A _godly_ magistrate was he,
And major general.
Two troops of horse came here,
(Such love his worth did crave;)
Ten companies of foot also,
Mourning, marched to his grave.
Let all that read be sure to keep
The _faith, as he has done_.
He lives now _crowned_ with _Christ_;
His name was Humphrey Atherton."
In order to understand the second, I must inform you, it is usual for
boys, who expect christmas boxes, to present their masters' customers with
a copy of verses, expressive of their good wishes, &c. The call-boy of the
theatre, (a mechanic's son of this town,) had the following _verses_
written in the usual style by the _poet_ commonly employed on these
occasions, and when printed, delivered one to each of the performers.--
"THE CALL-BOY OF THE THEATRE,
NEW YEAR'S WISH, 1797.
"Look up, worthy friends, from yonder bright hills
See how Phoebus smiles, to hail the new year:
I bring you a tribute--rejoice thus to find,
So many are living, and meet with us here.
"May health be confirm'd, and sickness remov'd;
May no sweeping flames take place in this state;
We sympathise deeply with neighbouring friends,
Whose cup has run over with this bitter fate.
"May _teachers_ this day find _help from above_
To publish glad news, as _heralds of grace_,
While _Zion_ is mourning her light shall break forth,
And shadows of midnight away from her chase.
"I wish through this year _God's presence_ may smile
On all your just schemes at home or abroad;
I wish you his protection, by sea or by land;
May your _theatrical works_ find favour in _God_.
[Footnote: The boy must surely mean the _gods_.]
"Gentlemen and ladies, accept these wishes sincere,
And I wish you all a happy new year."
_Boston, January 1st, 1797._
To answer your last, wherein you desire me to send you the exact state of
negro slavery in this country, is a task to which I am unequal.
You will conceive the great difficulty of obliging you in this request,
when you are informed, that on this subject each individual state has it's
own laws. The only point in which they are unanimous, is to prohibit their
importation, either from the Coast of Africa, or the West Indies. I can
only inform you in general terms, that in the _southern states_ there
is little alteration in the negro code since the revolution; of course the
laws are nearly the same as in the British West India islands. In the
_middle states_, though negro slavery is allowed, their situation has
been considerably meliorated, by a variety of laws in their favour, some
tending to their gradual emancipation, others to render their servitude
less irksome, &c.
Societies are formed in several of the large towns to enforce these
lenient laws, and to purchase the freedom of a few of the most deserving
slaves. The quakers, beside liberating all their negroes, have contributed
liberally towards the funds these societies have established, for carrying
their benevolent intentions into effect. In consequence of these measures,
there are a number of free negroes in Philadelphia, whose situation is
very comfortable. A handsome episcopalian church has been built for their
use, and one of the most respectable negroes ordained, who performs all
the duties of his office with great solemnity and fervour of devotion,
assisted occasionally by his white brethren; and there are also two
schools, where the children of people of colour are educated gratis; one
supported by the quakers, the other by the abolition society.
Negro slavery, under any modification or form, is prohibited in this state
(Massachusetts,) also in New Hampshire, the province of Maine, and, _I
believe_, in all the _New England states_.
As to your other queries respecting the negroes, I send you my sentiments,
infinitely better expressed by Jefferson, notwithstanding all that Imlay,
Wilberforce, and other authors, have written against his assertion, viz.,
that "Negroes are _inferiour_ to the whites, both in the endowments of
_body_ and _mind_." I am clearly and decidedly of his opinion. A strict
attention to this subject, during three years residence in these states,
has convinced me of the truth of every tittle of the following extract
from his Virginia, which I enclose for your perusal, and am, most
"The first difference that strikes us is colour. Whether the black of the
negro reside in the reticular membrane, between the skin and scarf skin,
or in the scarf skin itself; whether it proceed from the colour of the
blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the
difference is fixed in nature, and is as real as if it's seat and cause
were better known to us. And is this difference of no importance? Is it
not the foundation of a greater or less share of beauty in the two races?
Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expression of every
passion by a greater or less suffusion of colour in the one, preferable to
that eternal monotony, that immovable veil of black, which covers all the
emotions of the other race? Add to these, flowing hair, a more elegant
symmetry of form, their own judgment in favour of the whites, declared by
their preference to them, as uniformly as is the preference of the
oroonowtang for the black women over those of his own species? The
circumstance of superiour beauty is thought worthy attention in the
propagation of our horses, dogs, and other domestic animals; why not in
that of man?
"Beside those of colour, figure, and hair, there are other physical
distinctions, proving a difference of race. They have less hair on the
face and body. They secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of
the skin; which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odour. This
greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and
less so of cold, than the whites. Perhaps a difference of structure in the
pulmonary aparatus, which a late ingenious experimentalist, (Crawford) has
discovered to be the principal regulator of animal heat, may have disabled
them from extricating, in the act of inspiration, so much of that fluid
from the outer air; or obliged them, in expiration, to part with more of
"They seem to require less sleep. A black, after hard labour through the
day, will be induced by the slightest amusement, to sit up till midnight,
or later, though knowing he must be out with the dawn of the morning. They
are at least as brave, and more adventurous; but this may proceed from
want of forethought, which prevents their seeing a danger till it be
present; when present, they do not go through it with more coolness and
steadiness than the whites. They are more ardent after the female; but
love seems with them more an eager desire, than a tender delicate mixture
of sentiment and sensation. Their griefs are transient. Those numberless
afflictions which render it doubtful, whether Heaven has given life to us
more in mercy, or in wrath, are less felt and sooner forgotten with them.
In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than
reflection. To this must be ascribed their disposition to sleep, when
abstracted from their diversions, or unemployed in labour. An animal,
whose body is at rest, and who does not reflect, must be disposed to sleep
of course. Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and
imagination, it appears to me that in memory, they are equal to the
whites; in reason much inferiour. As I think one could scarcely be found
capable of tracing, and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and
that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be
unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider
them here, on the same stage with the whites. And where the facts are not
apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed, it will be right to make
allowances for the difference of condition, of conversation, and of the
sphere in which they move. Many millions of them have been brought to, and
born in America. Most of them indeed have been confined to tillage, to
their own homes, and their own society; yet many have been so situate,
that they might have availed themselves of the conversation of their
masters; many have been brought up to the handicraft arts, and from that
circumstance have always been associated with the whites; some have been
liberally educated, and all have lived in countries where the arts and
sciences are cultivated to a considerable degree, and have had before
their eyes samples of the best work from abroad. The Indians with no
advantages of this kind, will often carve figures on their pipes, not
destitute of merit and design. They will crayon out an animal, a plant, or
a country, so as to prove the existence of a germe in their minds, which
only wants cultivation. They astonish you with strokes of the most
sublime oratory, such as prove their reason and sentiment strong, their
imagination glowing and elevated; but never yet could I find a black, that
had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration[Footnote: "Sleep
hab no massa," was the answer of a sleepy negro, who was told that his
massa called him.--See Edward's History of Jamaica, 2d Vol.]; never see
even an elementary trait of painting, or sculpture. In music they are more
generally gifted than the whites with accurate ears for tune, and time;
and they have been found capable of imagining a small catch[Footnote: "The
instrument proper to them is the _banjore_, which they brought here
from Africa, and which is the origin of the guitar, it's chords being
precisely the four lower chords of that instrument." J---- N.]. Whether
they will be equal to the composition of a more extensive run of melody,
or of complicated harmony[Footnote: From this circumstance, I conceive our
author's _catch_ was improperly so called.], is yet to be proved.
Misery is often the parent of the most affecting touches in poetry. Among
the blacks is misery enough, God knows, but no poetry. Love is the
peculiar oestrum of the poet: their love is ardent; but it kindles the
senses only, not the imagination. Religion, or rather fanaticism,
has produced a _Phyllis Wheatly_; but it could not produce a poet.
Ignatius Sancho has approached nearer to merit in composition; yet his
letters do more credit to the heart than the head; supposing them to have
been genuine, and to have received amendment from no other hand; points
which would not be easy of investigation. The improvement of the blacks in
body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has
been observed by every one, and proves their inferiority is not the effect
merely of their condition in life.
"The white slaves, among the Romans, were often their rarest artists; they
excelled too in science, insomuch as to be usually employed as tutors to
their masters' children. Epictetus, Terence, and Phoedrus, were slaves.
Whether further observation will, or will not, verify the conjecture, that
Nature has been less bountiful to them, in the endowments of the head, I
believe in those of the heart she will be found to have done them justice.
That disposition to theft, with which they have been branded, must be
ascribed to their situation, and not to any depravity of the moral sense.
The man, in whose favour no laws of property exist, probably feels himself
less bound to respect those made in favour of others. When arguing for
ourselves, we lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must
give a reciprocation of right; that without this, they are mere arbitrary
rules of conduct, founded in force, and not in conscience. And it is a
problem which I give the master to solve, whether the religious precepts
against the violation of property, were not formed for _him_, as well
as his slave, and whether the slave may not as justifiably take a little
from one who has taken _all_ from him, as he would slay one that
would slay him?
"That a change in the relation in which a man is placed should change his
ideas of moral right and wrong, is neither new, nor confined to the
blacks; Homer tells us, it was so 2600 years ago:--'Jove fixed it certain,
that whatever day makes a man a slave, takes half his worth away.' But the
slaves Homer speaks of were whites.
"But to return to the blacks. Notwithstanding this consideration, which
must weaken their respect for the laws of property, we find among them
numerous instances of the most rigid integrity; and as many as among their
better instructed masters, of benevolence, gratitude, and unshaken
"The opinion that they are inferiour in the faculties of reason and
imagination, must be hazarded with great diffidence. To justify a general
conclusion requires many observations, even where the subject may be
submitted to the anatomical knife, to optical glasses, to analysis by fire
or solvents: how much more, then, when it is a faculty, not a substance,
we are examining; where it eludes the research of all the senses; where
the conditions of it's existence are various, and variously combined;
where the effects of those which are present or absent bid defiance to
calculation; let me add too, in a circumstance where our conclusions would
degrade a whole race of men from the rank in the scale of beings, which
their Creator may perhaps have given them! To our reproach it must be
said, though for a century and a half we have had under our eyes the races
of black and red men, they have never yet been viewed by us as subjects of
natural history. I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the
blacks[Footnote: Where Jefferson makes use of the word _Black_, in
this extract, it is rigidly confined to the _Negroes_ originally from
the coast of Africa, or their descendants.], whether originally a distinct
race, or made so by time and circumstances, are inferiour to the whites in
the endowments both of body and mind."
* * * * *
_Boston, December 29th, 1796._
Upon my arrival here, I had once more the mortification to find myself in
the neighbourhood of the yellow fever, which had lately been imported. The
uncommon, early, and severe north-west winds entirely prevented it from
spreading; a fortunate circumstance for the inhabitants of Boston, as,
from the narrowness of their streets, great population, and other
circumstances, it must have been very fatal, had it not been by this means
In order to give you the most regular account of this disorder I could
procure, I must repeat several circumstances from former letters.
The yellow fever, which has lately been so fatal, is a _new disorder_,
first brought to the West Indies, in a slave-ship from the coast of
Africa, late in the year 1792. It spread rapidly from island to island,
and in July, 1793, was first imported to the continent in a french
schooner to Philadelphia. The physicians of that city, naturally
concluding it was the usual yellow fever of the West Indies, applied the
common remedies in that case: viz., bark, and other astringents. In nine
cases out of ten, death was the inevitable consequence to all who took
these medicines. The disease was equally fatal to the faculty. A universal
despondency took place, till doctor Rush, suspecting this was a new
disorder, applied an opposite method of cure, by mercurial medicines, and
copious bleedings; which, when administered in the first or second stage
of the disorder, had the desired effect.
I send you an extract from the doctor's pamphlet, wherein he explains his
motives for adopting this method of cure, &c.
Speaking of the effect of the lancet, he says, "It was at this time my old
master reminded me of Dr. Sydenham's remark, that _moderate_ bleeding
did harm in the plague, where _copious_ bleeding was indicated, and
that, in the cure of that disorder, we should leave Nature wholly to
herself, or take the cure altogether out of her hands."
The truth of this observation was obvious:--By taking away as much blood
as restored the blood-vessels to a morbid degree of action, without
reducing this action afterward, pain, congestion, and inflammation, were
greatly increased; all of which were prevented, or occurred in a less
degree, when the system rose gradually from the state of depression which
had been induced by indirect debility. Under the influence of the facts
and reasonings which have been mentioned, I bore the same testimony in
acute cases against what was called _moderate_ bleeding, that I did
against bark, wine, and laudanum, in this fever.--I drew from many persons
seventy or eighty ounces of blood in five days.
* * * * *
After the cold weather had completely destroyed this disorder, it did not
appear again in the United States till the next year, when it was imported
to Baltimore and New Haven; a distance from each other of more than five
hundred miles. The cold weather again destroyed it, till carried, in 1795,
to Charleston and New York, equally distant from each other; and this
summer it was imported to Charleston, New York, Boston, and Newbery Port;
a distance of one thousand five hundred miles along the coast; but
fortunately the early N.W. winds destroyed it in all these places before
it had made any considerable progress.
A quarantine upon vessels from the infected islands would effectually
prevent the importation of this plague; but if performed in the _literal
sense of the word_, it would materially hurt the West India trade of
You have little to fear from this disorder being brought to England;
experience has clearly proved, this fever cannot exist in a _cold_
climate; but was it to be imported to the south of Europe, the
consequences would be dreadful indeed. I before told you, the negroes were
not afflicted with the yellow fever, though universally employed as nurses
to the sick.
A disease that will affect but _one_ species of men is not new. About the
year 1652, a very dreadful and uncommon plague ravaged this part of
America, and actually extirpated several nations of the Indians, without,
in a single instance, affecting the _white_ emigrants, though continually
among them. This strange circumstance the fanatics of New England
accounted for in their usual way, as appears from several of their
sermons, still preserved:--
"It was a just judgment of God upon these heathenish and idolatrous
nations; the Lord took this method of destroying them, that he might make
the more room for his _chosen people_." A _philosopher_ would perhaps
demand a better reason. Apropos of philosophers--An american writer has
been endeavouring to investigate the age of the world, from the _Falls of
Niagara!_ According to _his_ calculation (which, by the by, is not a
little curious) it is _36960_ years since the first rain fell upon the
face of the earth!
_Boston, December 19th, 1796._
I before hinted to you, that the Americans pay very little attention to
Exclusive of the shad fishery, which is only two months in the year, there
is not _one_ individual, either in the city of Philadelphia, or it's
vicinity, who procures a livelihood by catching fish in the Delaware,
though that river abounds with sturgeon, perch, cat-fish, eels, and a vast
variety of others, which would meet with a sure sale in the Philadelphia
markets: but this is a trifle to their neglect of the greatest fishery in
the universe; for such certainly is that on the banks of Newfoundland.
The Americans now being at peace with most of the piratical states
of Barbary, will find an excellent market for their fish in the
Mediterranean. This circumstance may induce congress to pay some attention
to the hints thrown out by Dr. Belknap, in his Account of the American
Newfoundland Fishery, which I transcribe for you perusal:--
"The cod-fishery is either carried on by boats or schooners. The boats in
the winter season go out in the morning, and return at night. In the
spring they do not return till they are filled. The schooners make three
trips to the banks of Newfoundland in a season; the first, or spring
cargo, are large, thick fish, which, after being properly salted and
dried, are kept alternately above and under ground, till they become so
mellow as to be denominated _dumb fish_. These, when boiled, are red,
and of an excellent quality; they are chiefly consumed in these states.
The fish caught in the other two trips, during the summer and fall, are
white, thin, and less firm; these are exported to Europe and the West
Indies; they are divided into two sorts; one called merchantable, and the
other Jamaica fish.
"The places where the cod-fishery is chiefly carried on, are the Isle of
Shoals, Newcastle, Rye, and Hampton. The boats employed in this fishery
are of that light and swift kind called whale-boats; they are rowed either
with two or four oars, and steered with another; and being equally sharp
at each end, move with the utmost celerity on the surface of the ocean.
The schooners are from twenty to fifty tons, carry six or seven men, and
one or two boys. When they make a tolerable voyage, they bring over five
or six hundred quintals of fish, salted and stowed in bulk. At their
arrival, the fish is rinced in salt water, and spread on hurdles composed
of brush-wood, and raised on stakes three or four feet from the ground.
They are kept carefully preserved from the rain: they should not be wet
from the time they are first spread on the hurdle till they are boiled for
"This fishery has not of late years been prosecuted with the same spirit
it was fifty or sixty years ago, when the shores were covered with
fish-flakes, and seven or eight ships were annually loaded for Spain or
Portugal, beside what was carried to the West Indies. Afterward they found
it more convenient to cure the fish at Corscaw, which was nearer to the
banks. It was continued there to great advantage till 1744, when it was
broken up by the french war. After the peace it revived, but not in so
great a degree as before. Fish was frequently cured in the summer on the
eastern shores and islands, and in the spring and fall at home.
"Previously to the late revolution the greater part of remittances were
made to Europe by the fishery; but it has not yet recovered from the shock
which it received by the war with Britain: it is however in the power of
the Americans to make more advantage of the cod-fishery perhaps than, any
of the european nations. We can fit out vessels at less expense, and by
reason of the westerly winds, which prevail on our coasts in February and
March, can go to the banks earlier in the season than the Europeans, and
take the best fish. We can dry it in a clearer air than the foggy shores
of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. We can supply every necessary from among
ourselves; vessels, spars, sails, cordage, anchors, lines, hooks, and
provision. Salt can be imported from abroad cheaper than it can be made at
home, if it be not too much loaded with duties. Men can always be had to
go on shares, which is by far the most profitable way, both to the
employer and fisherman. The fishing banks are an inexhaustible source of
wealth; and the fishing business is a most excellent nursery for seamen;
it therefore deserves every encouragement and indulgence from an
enlightened and rational legislature."
_Boston, March 4th, 1797._
Being very busy in making preparation for my voyage to England, I have not
leisure to write you a long epistle, but enclose you one I sent to an
american friend in the south.--Farewell.
This will most likely be the last letter you will receive from me on this
side of the Atlantic. The French have already taken two hundred sail of
american vessels. I hope my next may not be dated from _Brest_.
In consequence of my promise at parting, I sit down to give you some
account of _Yankee Land_. You were perfectly right in telling me I
should find the New England states very different from your part of
The first object that would strike you is the population of the country.
In one day's journey through Connecticut, I saw as many towns, villages,
and houses, as I ever remember seeing, when travelling the same distance
in England; a prospect you _Buck-skins_ can have no idea of.
The next is the beauty of the women, (I beg their pardon; that would be
the _first_ object that would strike _you!_) Their great superiority in
that respect may be accounted for, from their being of _engllsh_ descent.
Your women have not all that _advantage_, ('True english prejudice this!'
methinks I hear you mutter): great part are of _dutch_, or _german_
descent. The close iron stoves they have introduced among you are terrible
enemies to beauty. Why you so obstinately persist in a custom so
prejudicial to health, I cannot imagine. Your plea, that the coldness of
the climate makes them indispensable, I can-not admit of; you know, that
we are here three degrees to the north of you, and that the present is the
coldest winter since the year 1780-81; and yet I have not seen a close
stove since I left New York. The tavern bills in these states are
near one hundred per cent under yours. The exorbitant charges of your
tavern-keepers are a disgrace to the country: I could never account for
your submitting so quietly to their impositions.
Whether it be owing to the abolition of negro slavery, and the sale of
irish, and german redemptioners, (which, by the by, is nearly as bad, and
ought not to be tolerated in a free country,) or to the great population,
or to the produce of the land being of less value than in the south: I say
whether it be owing to any, or to all of these causes, I know not; but
certain it is, a greater strain of industry runs through all ranks of
people than with you; and it is equally certain, that the lower order of
citizens receive a better education, and of course are more intelligent,
and better informed. This you will not wonder at, when I tell you there
are seven free schools in Boston, containing about nine hundred scholars,
and that in the country schools are in a still greater proportion. They
are maintained by a tax on every class of citizens, therefore education
may be claimed by _all_ as a _right_.
This climate is much colder, compared with yours, than I can account for
geographically; but it may perhaps be owing to our having a greater
proportion of easterly winds, which, coming immediately from the banks of
Newfoundland, are attended with a cloudy sky, and thick atmosphere. These
may tend to mitigate the heats of summer, but are very disagreeable in the
other seasons. The coldness of the climate is plainly to be perceived in
the birch tree, which is here common in the woods; and the _want_ of
the mocking bird, the red bird, and a great variety of others, that visit
you in the glimmer from South America. The fox squirrel too is scarce, and
the gray squirrel almost white. We cannot cultivate the sweet, or tropical
potatoe, but import it from Carolina. Even the peach is late, small, and
acid. The coldness of the climate, and the fanaticism of the inhabitants,
make the New England states by no means such desirable places of
residence, as those of the south, to
* * * * *
_Dover, April 22nd, 1797._
On the 12th of March I embarked in the Betsy, captain Hart, for London; my
live stock consisted of some fowls, four brace of partridges, a flying
squirrel, and a young racoon. We sailed about midnight, with a good breeze
at S.W., and were in a few hours clear of the land.
On the evening of the 13th, we met with a hard gale at N. E. by N.--The
degree of cold was intolerable. We shipped some heavy seas, and our
rigging being intirely incrusted with ice, our captain was resolved to
stand to the south, in search of better weather. The next morning being on
the edge of the gulf stream, we were witness to a strange struggle between
the warmth of the current, and the coldness of the surrounding ocean and
atmosphere: the stream actually smoaked like a caldron! We ran as far to
the south as latitude 38, when the wind shifting to the S. W., in a few
hours we found a wonderful change of climate: the degree of heat was, at
least, equal to that of a usual summer day in England, without the
disagreeable pressure experienced from a thick atmosphere. The air was
perfectly clear, elastic, and animating, nothing could be more charming;
but this was of short continuance; the next morning the wind shifted to
the N. E., and blew a _gale_, which lasted eighteen hours. We had
then a calm, which was succeeded by westerly winds,
On the 27th, we had run down half our longitude, four degrees of which we
sailed in the last twenty four hours.
On the 29th, we met with another very severe gale at E.N.E., which soon
obliged us to strike our top-gallant-yards, and lie too, under our mizen
and mizen stay sail. During the confusion of the night, my racoon got
loose, and found means to kill all my partridges! and, as misfortunes
seldom come alone; a large spanish cat we had on board, caught my flying
squirrel. The loss of my partridges was the more provoking, as they were
in perfect health, and I had no doubt of landing them safe: so ends my
project of propagating the breed of these birds in England.
In a former letter, wherein I gave you my motives for making this attempt,
I mentioned their extreme hardiness; of this I had now additional proofs:
these birds were in a coop on the deck, and I expected every sea we
shipped over our quarter during the first gale, they certainly would be
drowned; but was agreeably surprised, when the gale was over, to find them
very little the worse for their severe ducking.
_April 14th._--For the last eight days we have been beating against
an easterly wind, a few leagues to the westward of the chops of the
channel, subject to continual alarms from french cruisers, of all
situations the most disagreeable. This evening we had soundings at 80
fathom, and a favourable change of the wind to the westward.
On the 15th we saw an american-built ship standing athwart us, by her
course and appearance evidently a french prize, bound to Brest. She had
her anchors over her bows, and most likely had been but a few days from
some port in St. George's Channel. About five hours after we were boarded
by the Spitfire, british sloop of war; we informed the lieutenant of the
exact course of the prize, and he immediately gave chace.
The next day we made the Bill of Portland. Our passage up the channel was
very pleasant, till within six leagues of Dover, when we once more
encountered a violent easterly gale, which, for the fifth time, reduced us
to our courses. Night coming on, and not being able to procure a pilot, we
were a little uneasy. The gale abating the next day, a pilot came on
board. He had the conscience to demand three guineas to put me on shore!
but took one third of the sum, which I think he deserved, as we were six
hours making this harbour. I found the custom house officers, and their
myrmidon porters, exactly as Smollet has described them; two of these
_gentlemen_ had the impudence to charge me half a guinea for bringing
my trunk seventy yards.--So ends my tour. I am once more landed in Old
England, after an absence of three years and nine months, with a plentiful
lack of money and _some_ experience!--
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