Part 2 out of 7
They have a theatre, which is, in fact, the only public amusement
of this triste little town; but they seem to care little about
it, and either from economy or distaste, it is very poorly
attended. Ladies are rarely seen there, and by far the larger
proportion of females deem it an offence against religion to
witness the representation of a play. It is in the churches and
chapels of the town that the ladies are to be seen in full
costume; and I am tempted to believe that a stranger from the
continent of Europe would be inclined, on first reconnoitering
the city, to suppose that the places of worship were the theatres
and cafes of the place. No evening in the week but brings
throngs of the young and beautiful to the chapels and meeting-
houses, all dressed with care, and sometimes with great
pretension; it is there that all display is made, and all
fashionable distinction sought. The proportion of gentlemen
attending these evening meetings is very small, but often, as
might be expected, a sprinkling of smart young clerks make this
sedulous display of ribbons and ringlets intelligible and
natural. Were it not for the churches, indeed, I think there
might be a general bonfire of best bonnets, for I never could
discover any other use for them.
The ladies are too actively employed in the interior of their
houses to permit much parading in full dress for morning visits.
There are no public gardens or lounging shops of fashionable
resort, and were it not for public worship, and private tea-
drinkings, all the ladies in Cincinnati would be in danger of
becoming perfect recluses.
The influence which the ministers of all the innumerable
religious sects throughout America, have on the females of their
respective congregations, approaches very nearly to what we read
of in Spain, or in other strictly Roman Catholic countries.
There are many causes for this peculiar influence. Where
equality of rank is affectedly acknowledged by the rich, and
clamourously claimed by the poor, distinction and preeminence are
allowed to the clergy only. This gives them high importance in
the eyes of the ladies. I think, also, that it is from the
clergy only that the women of America receive that sort of
attention which is so dearly valued by every female heart
throughout the world. With the priests of America, the women
hold that degree of influential importance which, in the
countries of Europe, is allowed them throughout all orders and
ranks of society, except, perhaps, the very lowest; and in return
for this they seem to give their hearts and souls into their
keeping. I never saw, or read, of any country where religion had
so strong a hold upon the women, or a slighter hold upon the men.
I mean not to assert that I met with no men of sincerely
religious feelings, or with no women of no religious feeling at
all; but I feel perfectly secure of being correct as to the great
majority in the statement I have made.
We had not been many months in Cincinnati when our curiosity was
excited by hearing the "revival" talked of by every one we met
throughout the town. "The revival will be very full"--"We shall
be constantly engaged during the revival"--were the phrases we
constantly heard repeated, and for a long time, without in the
least comprehending what was meant; but at length I learnt that
the un-national church of America required to be roused, at
regular intervals, to greater energy and exertion. At these
seasons the most enthusiastic of the clergy travel the country,
and enter the cities and towns by scores, or by hundreds, as the
accommodation of the place may admit, and for a week or
fortnight, or, if the population be large, for a month; they
preach and pray all day, and often for a considerable portion of
the night, in the various churches and chapels of the place.
This is called a Revival.
I took considerable pains to obtain information on this subject;
but in detailing what I learnt I fear that it is probable I shall
be accused of exaggeration; all I can do is cautiously to avoid
deserving it. The subject is highly interesting, and it would be
a fault of no trifling nature to treat it with levity.
These itinerant clergymen are of all persuasions, I believe,
except the Episcopalian, Catholic, Unitarian, and Quaker. I
heard of Presbyterians of all varieties; of Baptists of I know
not how many divisions; and of Methodists of more denominations
than I can remember; whose innumerable shades of varying belief,
it would require much time to explain, and more to comprehend.
They enter all the cities, towns, and villages of the Union, in
succession; I could not learn with sufficient certainty to
repeat, what the interval generally is between their visits.
These itinerants are, for the most part, lodged in the houses of
their respective followers, and every evening that is not spent
in the churches and meeting-houses, is devoted to what would be
called parties by others, but which they designate as prayer
meetings. Here they eat, drink, pray, sing, hear confessions,
and make converts. To these meetings I never got invited, and
therefore I have nothing but hearsay evidence to offer, but my
information comes from an eye-witness, and one on whom I believe
I may depend. If one half of what I heard may be believed, these
social prayer meetings are by no means the most curious, or the
least important part of the business.
It is impossible not to smile at the close resemblance to be
traced between the feelings of a first-rate Presbyterian or
Methodist lady, fortunate enough to have secured a favourite
Itinerant for her meeting, and those of a first-rate London Blue,
equally blest in the presence of a fashionable poet. There is a
strong family likeness among us all the world over.
The best rooms, the best dresses, the choicest refreshments
solemnize the meeting. While the party is assembling, the
load-star of the hour is occupied in whispering conversations
with the guests as they arrive. They are called brothers and
sisters, and the greetings are very affectionate. When the room
is full, the company, of whom a vast majority are always women,
are invited, intreated, and coaxed to confess before their
brothers and sisters, all their thoughts, faults, and follies.
These confessions are strange scenes; the more they confess, the
more invariably are they encouraged and caressed. When this is
over, they all kneel, and the Itinerant prays extempore. They
then eat and drink; and then they sing hymns, pray, exhort, sing,
and pray again, till the excitement reaches a very high pitch
indeed. These scenes are going on at some house or other every
evening during the revival, nay, at many at the same time, for
the churches and meeting-houses cannot give occupation to half
the Itinerants, though they are all open throughout the day, and
till a late hour in the night, and the officiating ministers
succeed each other in the occupation of them.
It was at the principal of the Presbyterian churches that
I was twice witness to scenes that made me shudder; in
describing one, I describe both and every one; the same thing
is constantly repeated.
It was in the middle of summer, but the service we were
recommended to attend did not begin till it was dark. The
church was well lighted, and crowded almost to suffocation.
On entering, we found three priests standing side by side,
in a sort of tribune, placed where the altar usually is,
handsomely fitted up with crimson curtains, and elevated
about as high as our pulpits. We took our places in a pew
close to the rail which surrounded it.
The priest who stood in the middle was praying; the prayer was
extravagantly vehement, and offensively familiar in expression;
when this ended, a hymn was sung, and then another priest took
the centre place, and preached. The sermon had considerable
eloquence, but of a frightful kind. The preacher described, with
ghastly minuteness, the last feeble fainting moments of human
life, and then the gradual progress of decay after death, which
he followed through every process up to the last loathsome stage
of decomposition. Suddenly changing his tone, which had been
that of sober accurate description, into the shrill voice of
horror, he bent forward his head, as if to gaze on some object
beneath the pulpit. And as Rebecca made known to Ivanhoe what
she saw through the window, so the preacher made known to us what
he saw in the pit that seemed to open before him. The device was
certainly a happy one for giving effect to his description of
hell. No image that fire, flame, brimestone, molten lead, or
red-hot pincers could supply; with flesh, nerves, and sinews
quivering under them, was omitted. The perspiration ran in
streams from the face of the preacher; his eyes rolled, his lips
were covered with foam, and every feature had the deep expression
of horror it would have borne, had he, in truth, been gazing at
the scene he described. The acting was excellent. At length he
gave a languishing look to his supporters on each side, as if to
express his feeble state, and then sat down, and wiped the drops
of agony from his brow.
The other two priests arose, and began to sing a hymn. It was
some seconds before the congregation could join as usual; every
upturned face looked pale and horror struck. When the singing
ended, another took the centre place, and began in a sort of
coaxing affectionate tone, to ask the congregation if what their
dear brother had spoken had reached their hearts? Whether they
would avoid the hell he had made them see? "Come, then!" he
continued, stretching out his arms towards them, "come to us, and
tell us so, and we will make you see Jesus, the dear gentle
Jesus, who shall save you from it. But you must come to him!
You must not be ashamed to come to him! This night you shall
tell him that you are not ashamed of him; we will make way for
you; we will clear the bench for anxious sinners to sit upon.
Come, then! come to the anxious bench, and we will shew you
Jesus! Come! Come! Come!" Again a hymn was sung, and while it
continued, one of the three was employed in clearing one or two
long benches that went across the rail, sending the people back
to the lower part of the church. The singing ceased, and again
the people were invited, and exhorted not to be ashamed of Jesus,
but to put themselves upon "the anxious benches," and lay their
heads on his bosom. "Once more we will sing," he concluded,
"that we may give you time." And again they sung a hymn.
And now in every part of the church a movement was perceptible,
slight at first, but by degrees becoming more decided. Young
girls arose, and sat down, and rose again; and then the pews
opened, and several came tottering out, their hands clasped,
their heads hanging on their bosoms, and every limb trembling,
and still the hymn went on; but as the poor creatures approached
the rail their sobs and groans became audible. They seated
themselves on the "anxious benches;" the hymn ceased, and two of
the three priests walked down from the tribune, and going, one to
the right, and the other to the left, began whispering to the
poor tremblers seated there. These whispers were inaudible to
us, but the sobs and groans increased to a frightful excess.
Young creatures, with features pale and distorted, fell on their
knees on the pavement, and soon sunk forward on their faces; the
most violent cries and shrieks followed, while from time to time
a voice was heard in convulsive accents, exclaiming, "Oh Lord!"
"Oh Lord Jesus!" "Help me, Jesus!" and the like.
Meanwhile the two priests continued to walk among them; they
repeatedly mounted on the benches, and trumpet-mouthed proclaimed
to the whole congregation, "the tidings of salvation," and then
from every corner of the building arose in reply, short sharp
cries of "Amen!" "Glory!" "Amen!" while the prostrate penitents
continued to receive whispered comfortings, and from time to time
a mystic caress. More than once I saw a young neck encircled by
a reverend arm. Violent hysterics and convulsions seized many of
them, and when the tumult was at the highest, the priest who
remained above, again gave out a hymn as if to drown it.
It was a frightful sight to behold innocent young creatures, in
the gay morning of existence, thus seized upon, horror struck,
and rendered feeble and enervated for ever. One young girl,
apparently not more than fourteen, was supported in the arms of
another, some years older; her face was pale as death; her eyes
wide open, and perfectly devoid of meaning; her chin and bosom
wet with slaver; she had every appearance of idiotism. I saw a
priest approach her, he took her delicate hand, "Jesus is with
her! Bless the Lord!" he said, and passed on.
Did the men of America value their women as men ought to
value their wives and daughters, would such scenes be permitted
It is hardly necessary to say that all who obeyed the call to
place themselves on the "anxious benches" were women, and by far
the greater number very young women. The congregation was, in
general, extremely well dressed, and the smartest and most
fashionable ladies of the town were there; during the whole
revival the churches and meeting-houses were every day crowded
with well dressed people.
It is thus the ladies of Cincinnati amuse themselves; to attend
the theatre is forbidden; to play cards is unlawful; but they
work hard in their families, and must have some relaxation. For
myself, I confess that I think the coarsest comedy ever written
would be a less detestable exhibition for the eyes of youth and
innocence than such a scene.
Schools--Climate--Water Melons--Fourth of July--Storms--Pigs--
Moving Houses--Mr. Flint--Literature
Cincinnati contains many schools, but of their rank or merit I
had very little opportunity of judging; the only one which I
visited was kept by Dr. Lock, a gentleman who appears to have
liberal and enlarged opinions on the subject of female education.
Should his system produce practical results proportionably
excellent, the ladies of Cincinnati will probably some years
hence be much improved in their powers of companionship.
I attended the annual public exhibition at this school, and
perceived, with some surprise, that the higher branches of
science were among the studies of the pretty creatures I saw
assembled there. One lovely girl of sixteen took her degree
in mathematics, and another was examined in moral philosophy.
They blushed so sweetly, and looked so beautifully puzzled
and confounded, that it might have been difficult for an abler
judge than I was to decide how far they merited the diploma
This method of letting young ladies graduate, and granting them
diplomas on quitting the establishment, was quite new to me; at
least, I do not remember to have heard of any thing similar
elsewhere. I should fear that the time allowed to the fair
graduates of Cincinnati for the acquirement of these various
branches of education would seldom be sufficient to permit their
reaching the eminence in each which their enlightened instructor
anticipates. "A quarter's" mathematics, or "two quarters"
political economy, moral philosophy, algebra, and quadratic
equations, would seldom, I should think, enable the teacher and
the scholar, by their joint efforts, to lay in such a stock of
these sciences as would stand the wear and tear of half a score
of children, and one help.
Towards the end of May we began to feel that we were in a climate
warmer than any we had been accustomed to, and my son suffered
severely from the effects of it. A bilious complaint, attended
by a frightful degree of fever, seized him, and for some days we
feared for his life. The treatment he received was, I have no
doubt, judicious, but the quantity of calomel prescribed was
enormous. I asked one day how many grains I should prepare, and
was told to give half a teaspoonful. The difference of climate
must, I imagine, make a difference in the effect of this drug, or
the practice of the old and new world could hardly differ so
widely as it does in the use of it. Anstey, speaking of the Bath
"No one e'er viewed
Any one of the medical gentlemen stewed."
But I can vouch, upon my own experience, that no similar
imputation lies against the gentlemen who prescribe large
quantities of calomel in America. To give one instance in proof
of this, when I was afterwards in Montgomery county, near
Washington, a physician attended one of our neighbours, and
complained that he was himself unwell. "You must take care of
yourself, Doctor," said the patient; "I do so," he replied, "I
took forty grains of calomel yesterday, and I feel better than I
did." Repeated and violent bleeding was also had recourse to in
the case of my son, and in a few days he was able to leave his
room, but he was dreadfully emaciated, and it was many weeks
before he recovered his strength.
As the heat of the weather increased we heard of much sickness
around us. The city is full of physicians, and they were all to
be seen driving about in their cabs at a very alarming rate. One
of these gentlemen told us, that when a medical man intended
settling in a new situation, he always, if he knew his business,
walked through the streets at nights, before he decided. If he
saw the dismal twinkle of the watch-light from many windows he
might be sure that disease was busy, and the the "location" might
suit him well. Judging, by this criterion, Cincinnati was far
from healthy, I began to fear for our health, and determined to
leave the city; but, for a considerable time I found it
impossible to procure a dwelling out of it. There were many
boarding-houses in the vicinity, but they were all overflowing
with guests. We were advised to avoid, as much as possible,
walking out in the heat of the day; but the mornings and evenings
were delightful, particularly the former, if taken sufficiently
early. For several weeks I was never in bed after four o'clock,
and at this hour I almost daily accompanied my "help" to market,
where the busy novelty of the scene afforded me much amusement.
Many waggon-loads of enormous water-melons were brought to market
every day, and I was sure to see groups of men, women, and
children seated on the pavement round the spot where they were
sold, sucking in prodigious quantities of this water-fruit.
Their manner of devouring them is extremely unpleasant; the huge
fruit is cut into half a dozen sections, of about a foot long,
and then, dripping as it is with water, applied to the mouth,
from either side of which pour copious streams of the fluid,
while, ever and anon, a mouthful of the hard black seeds are shot
out in all directions, to the great annoyance of all within
reach. When I first tasted this fruit I thought it very vile
stuff indeed, but before the end of the season we all learned to
like it. When taken with claret and sugar it makes delicious
wine and water.
It is the custom for the gentlemen to go to market at Cincinnati;
the smartest men in the place, and those of the "highest
standing" do not scruple to leave their beds with the sun, six
days in the week, and, prepared with a mighty basket, to sally
forth in search of meat, butter, eggs and vegetables. I have
continually seen them returning, with their weighty basket on one
arm and an enormous ham depending from the other.
And now arrived the 4th of July, that greatest of all American
festivals. On the 4th of July, 1776, the declaration of their
independence was signed, at the State-house in Philadelphia.
To me, the dreary coldness and want of enthusiasm in American
manners is one of their greatest defects, and I therefore hailed
the demonstrations of general feeling which this day elicits with
real pleasure. On the 4th of July the hearts of the people seem
to awaken from a three hundred and sixty-four days' sleep; they
appear high-spirited, gay, animated, social, generous, or at
least liberal in expense; and would they but refrain from
spitting on that hallowed day, I should say, that on the 4th of
July, at least, they appeared to be an amiable people. It is
true that the women have but little to do with the pageantry, the
splendour, or the gaiety of the day; but, setting this defect
aside, it was indeed a glorious sight to behold a jubilee so
heartfelt as this; and had they not the bad taste and bad feeling
to utter an annual oration, with unvarying abuse of the mother
country, to say nothing of the warlike manifesto called
Declaration of Independence, our gracious king himself might look
upon the scene and say that it was good; nay, even rejoice, that
twelve millions of bustling bodies, at four thousand miles
distance from his throne and his altars, should make their own
laws, and drink their own tea, after the fashion that pleased
One source of deep interest to us, in this new clime, was the
frequent recurrence of thunderstorms. Those who have only
listened to thunder in England have but a faint idea of the
language which the gods speak when they are angry. Thomson's
description, however, will do: it is hardly possible that words
can better paint the spectacle, or more truly echo to the sound,
than his do. The only point he does not reach is the vast blaze
of rose-coloured light that ever and anon sets the landscape on
In reading this celebrated description in America, and observing
how admirably true it was to nature there, I seemed to get a
glimpse at a poet's machinery, and to perceive, that in order to
produce effect he must give his images more vast than he finds
them in nature; but the proportions must be just, and the
colouring true. Every thing seems colossal on this great
continent; if it rains, if it blows, if it thunders, it is all
done _fortissimo_; but I often felt terror yield to wonder and
delight, so grand, so glorious were the scenes a storm exhibited.
Accidents are certainly more frequent than with us, but not so
much so as reasonably to bring terror home to one's bosom every
time a mass of lurid clouds is seen rolling up against the wind.
It seems hardly fair to quarrel with a place because its staple
commodity is not pretty, but I am sure I should have liked
Cincinnati much better if the people had not dealt so very
largely in hogs. The immense quantity of business done in this
line would hardly be believed by those who had not witnessed it.
I never saw a newspaper without remarking such advertisements as
"Wanted, immediately, 4,000 fat hogs."
"For sale, 2,000 barrels of prime pork."
But the annoyance came nearer than this; if I determined upon
a walk up Main-street, the chances were five hundred to one
against my reaching the shady side without brushing by a snout
fresh dripping from the kennel; when we had screwed our courage
to the enterprise of mounting a certain noble looking sugar-loaf
hill, that promised pure air and a fine view, we found the brook
we had to cross, at its foot, red with the stream from a pig
slaughter house; while our noses, instead of meeting "the thyme
that loves the green hill's breast," were greeted by odours
that I will not describe, and which I heartily hope my readers
cannot imagine; our feet, that on leaving the city had expected
to press the flowery sod, literally got entangled in pigs' tails
and jaw-bones: and thus the prettiest walk in the neighbourhood
was interdicted for ever.
One of the sights to stare at in America is that of houses
moving from place to place. We were often amused by watching
this exhibition of mechanical skill in the streets. They make
no difficulty of moving dwellings from one part of the town to
another. Those I saw travelling were all of them frame-houses,
that is, built wholly of wood, except the chimneys; but it is
said that brick buildings are sometimes treated in the same
manner. The largest dwelling that I saw in motion was one
containing two stories of four rooms each; forty oxen were yoked
to it. The first few yards brought down the two stacks of
chimneys, but it afterwards went on well. The great difficulties
were the first getting it in motion and the stopping exactly in
the right place. This locomotive power was extremely convenient
at Cincinnati, as the constant improvements going on there made
it often desirable to change a wooden dwelling for one of brick;
and whenever this happened, we were sure to see the ex No.100 of
Main-street or the ex No.55 of Second street creeping quietly out
of town, to take possession of a humble suburban station on the
common above it.
The most agreeable acquaintance I made in Cincinnati, and indeed
one of the most talented men I ever met, was Mr. Flint, the
author of several extremely clever volumes, and the editor of the
Western Monthly Review. His conversational powers are of the
highest order: he is the only person I remember to have known
with first rate powers of satire, and even of sarcasm, whose
kindness of nature and of manner remained perfectly uninjured.
In some of his critical notices there is a strength and keenness
second to nothing of the kind I have ever read. He is a warm
patriot, and so true-hearted an American, that we could not
always be of the same opinion on all the subjects we discussed;
but whether it were the force and brilliancy of his language, his
genuine and manly sincerity of feeling, or his bland and
gentleman-like manner that beguiled me, I know not, but certainly
he is the only American I ever listened to whose unqualified
praise of his country did not appear to me somewhat overstrained
On one occasion, but not at the house of Mr. Flint, I passed an
evening in company with a gentleman said to be a scholar and a
man of reading; he was also what is called a _serious_ gentleman,
and he appeared to have pleasure in feeling that his claim to
distinction was acknowledged in both capacities. There was a
very amiable _serious_ lady in the company, to whom he seemed to
trust for the development of his celestial pretensions, and to
me he did the honour of addressing most of his terrestrial
superiority. The difference between us was, that when he spoke
to her, he spoke as to a being who, if not his equal, was at
least deserving high distinction; and he gave her smiles, such
as Michael might have vouchsafed to Eve. To me he spoke as Paul
to the offending Jews; he did not, indeed, shake his raiment at
me, but he used his pocket-handkerchief so as to answer the
purpose; and if every sentence did not end with "I am clean,"
pronounced by his lips, his tone, his look, his action, fully
supplied the deficiency.
Our poor Lord Byron, as may be supposed, was the bull's-eye
against which every dart in his black little quiver was aimed.
I had never heard any serious gentleman talk of Lord Byron at
full length before, and I listened attentively. It was evident
that the noble passages which are graven on the hearts of the
genuine lovers of poetry had altogether escaped the serious
gentleman's attention; and it was equally evident that he knew
by rote all those that they wish the mighty master had never
written. I told him so, and I shall not soon forget the look
he gave me.
Of other authors his knowledge was very imperfect, but his
criticisms very amusing. Of Pope, he said, "He is so entirely
gone by, that in _our_ country it is considered quite fustian to
speak of him"
But I persevered, and named "the Rape of the Lock" as evincing
some little talent, and being in a tone that might still hope for
admittance in the drawing-room; but, on the mention of this poem,
the serious gentleman became almost as strongly agitated as when
he talked of Don Juan; and I was unfeignedly at a loss to
comprehend the nature of his feelings, till he muttered, with an
indignant shake of the handkerchief, "The very title!"
At the name of Dryden he smiled, and the smile spoke as plainly
as a smile could speak, "How the old woman twaddles!"
"We only know Dryden by quotations. Madam, and these, indeed,
are found only in books that have long since had their day."
"And Shakspeare, sir?"
"Shakspeare, Madam, is obscene, and, thank God, WE are
sufficiently advanced to have found it out! If we must have the
abomination of stage plays, let them at least be marked by the
refinement of the age in which we live."
This was certainly being _au courant du jour_.
Of Massenger he knew nothing. Of Ford he had never heard. Gray
had had his day. Prior he had never read, but understood he was
a very childish writer. Chaucer and Spenser he tied in a couple,
and dismissed by saying, that he thought it was neither more nor
less than affectation to talk of authors who wrote in a tongue no
This was the most literary conversation I was ever present at in
*(The pleasant, easy, unpretending talk on all subjects,
(which I enjoyed in Mr. Flint's family, was an exception
(to every thing else I met at Cincinnati.
In truth, there are many reasons which render a very general
diffusion of literature impossible in America. I can scarcely
class the universal reading of newspapers as an exception to this
remark; if I could, my statement would be exactly the reverse,
and I should say that America beat the world in letters. The
fact is, that throughout all ranks of society, from the
successful merchant, which is the highest, to the domestic
serving man, which is the lowest, they are all too actively
employed to read, except at such broken moments as may suffice
for a peep at a newspaper. It is for this reason, I presume,
that every _American newspaper_ is more or less a magazine,
wherein the merchant may scan while he holds out his hand for an
invoice, "Stanzas by Mrs. Hemans," or a garbled extract from
Moore's Life of Byron; the lawyer may study his brief faithfully,
and yet contrive to pick up the valuable dictum of some American
critic, that "Bulwer's novels are decidedly superior to Sir
Walter Scott's;" nay, even the auctioneer may find time, as he
bustles to his tub, or his tribune, to support his pretensions to
polite learning, by glancing his quick eye over the columns, and
reading that "Miss Mitford's descriptions are indescribable." If
you buy a yard of ribbon, the shopkeeper lays down his newspaper,
perhaps two or three, to measure it. I have seen a brewer's
drayman perched on the shaft of his dray and reading one
newspaper, while another was tucked under his arm; and I once
went into the cottage of a country shoemaker, of the name of
Harris, where I saw a newspaper half full of "original" poetry,
directed to Madison F. Harris. To be sure of the fact, I asked
the man if his name were Madison. "Yes, Madam, Madison Franklin
Harris is my name." The last and the lyre divided his time, I
fear too equally, for he looked pale and poor.
This, I presume, is what is meant by the general diffusion of
knowledge, so boasted of in the United States; such as it is, the
diffusion of it is general enough, certainly; but I greatly doubt
its being advantageous to the population.
The only reading men I met with were those who made letters their
profession; and of these, there were some who would hold a higher
rank in the great Republic (not of America, but of letters), did
they write for persons less given to the study of magazines and
newspapers; and they might hold a higher rank still, did they
write for the few and not for the many. I was always drawing a
parallel, perhaps a childish one, between the external and
internal deficiency of polish and of elegance in the native
volumes of the country. Their compositions have not that
condensation of thought, or that elaborate finish, which the
consciousness of writing for the scholar and the man of taste is
calculated to give; nor have their dirty blue paper and slovenly
types* the polished elegance that fits a volume for the hand or
the eye of the fastidious epicure in literary enjoyment. The
first book I bought in America was the "Chronicles of the
Cannongate." In asking the price, I was agreeably surprised to
hear a dollar and a half named, being about one sixth of what I
used to pay for its fellows in England; but on opening the grim
pages, it was long before I could again call them cheap. To be
sure the pleasure of a bright well-printed page ought to be quite
lost sight of in the glowing, galloping, bewitching course that
the imagination sets out upon with a new Waverley novel; and so
it was with me till I felt the want of it; and then I am almost
ashamed to confess how often, in turning the thin dusky pages,
my poor earth-born spirit paused in its pleasure, to sigh for
*(I must make an exception in favour of the American
(Quarterly Review. To the eye of the body it is in
(all respects exactly the same thing as the English
Removal to the country--Walk in the forest--Equality
At length my wish of obtaining a house in the country was
gratified. A very pretty cottage, the residence of a gentleman
who was removing into town, for the convenience of his business
as a lawyer, was to let, and I immediately secured it. It was
situated in a little village about a mile and a half from the
town, close to the foot of the hills formerly mentioned as the
northern boundary of it. We found ourselves much more
comfortable here than in the city. The house was pretty and
commodious, our sitting-rooms were cool and airy; we had got rid
of the detestable mosquitoes, and we had an ice-house that never
failed. Beside all this, we had the pleasure of gathering our
tomatoes from our own garden, and receiving our milk from our own
cow. Our manner of life was infinitely more to my taste than
before; it gave us all the privileges of rusticity, which are
fully as incompatible with a residence in a little town of
Western America as with a residence in London. We lived on terms
of primaeval intimacy with our cow, for if we lay down on our
lawn she did not scruple to take a sniff at the book we were
reading, but then she gave us her own sweet breath in return.
The verge of the cool-looking forest that rose opposite our
windows was so near, that we often used it as an extra drawing-
room, and there was no one to wonder if we went out with no other
preparation than our parasols, carrying books and work enough to
while away a long summer day in the shade; the meadow that
divided us from it was covered with a fine short grass, that
continued for a little way under the trees, making a beautiful
carpet, while sundry logs and stumps furnished our sofas and
tables. But even this was not enough to satisfy us when we first
escaped from the city, and we determined upon having a day's
enjoyment of the wildest forest scenery we could find. So we
packed up books, albums, pencils, and sandwiches, and, despite a
burning sun, dragged up a hill so steep that we sometimes fancied
we could rest ourselves against it by only leaning forward a
little. In panting and in groaning we reached the top, hoping to
be refreshed by the purest breath of heaven; but to have tasted
the breath of heaven we must have climbed yet farther, even to
the tops of the trees themselves, for we soon found that the air
beneath them stirred not, nor ever had stirred, as it seemed to
us, since first it settled there, so heavily did it weigh upon
Still we were determined to enjoy ourselves, and forward we went,
crunching knee deep through aboriginal leaves, hoping to reach
some spot less perfectly airtight than our landing-place.
Wearied with the fruitless search, we decided on reposing awhile
on the trunk of a fallen tree; being all considerably exhausted,
the idea of sitting down on this tempting log was conceived and
executed simultaneously by the whole party, and the whole party
sunk together through its treacherous surface into a mass of
rotten rubbish that had formed part of the pith and marrow of the
eternal forest a hundred years before.
We were by no means the only sufferers by the accident; frogs,
lizards, locusts, katiedids, beetles, and hornets, had the whole
of their various tenements disturbed, and testified their
displeasure very naturally by annoying us as much as possible in
return; we were bit, we were stung, we were scratched; and when,
at last, we succeeded in raising ourselves from the venerable
ruin, we presented as woeful a spectacle as can well be imagined.
We shook our (not ambrosial) garments, and panting with heat,
stings, and vexation, moved a few paces from the scene of our
misfortune, and again sat down; but this time it was upon the
We had no sooner began to "chew the cud" of the bitter fancy that
had beguiled us to these mountain solitudes than a new annoyance
assailed us. A cloud of mosquitoes gathered round, and while
each sharp proboscis sucked our blood, they teased us with their
humming chorus, till we lost all patience, and started again on
our feet, pretty firmly resolved never to try the _al fresco_
joys of an American forest again. The sun was now in its
meridian splendour, but our homeward path was short and down
hill, so again packing up our preparations for felicity, we
started homeward, or, more properly speaking, we started, for in
looking for an agreeable spot in this dungeon forest we had
advanced so far from the verge of the hill that we had lost all
trace of the precise spot where we had entered it. Nothing was
to be seen but multitudes of tall, slender, melancholy stems, as
like as peas, and standing within a foot of each other. The
ground, as far as the eye could reach (which certainly was not
far), was covered with an unvaried bed of dried leaves; no trace,
no track, no trail, as Mr. Cooper would call it, gave us a hint
which way to turn; and having paused for a moment to meditate, we
remembered that chance must decide for us at last, so we set
forward, in no very good mood, to encounter new misfortunes. We
walked about a quarter of a mile, and coming to a steep descent,
we thought ourselves extremely fortunate, and began to scramble
down, nothing doubting that it was the same we had scrambled up.
In truth, nothing could be more like, but, alas! things that are
like are not the same; when we had slipped and stumbled down to
the edge of the wood, and were able to look beyond it, we saw no
pretty cottage with the shadow of its beautiful acacias coming
forward to meet us: all was different; and, what was worse, all
was distant from the spot where we had hoped to be. We had come
down the opposite side of the ridge, and had now to win our weary
way a distance of three miles round its base, I believe we shall
none of us ever forget that walk. The bright, glowing, furnace-
like heat of the atmosphere seems to scorch as I recall it. It
was painful to tread, it was painful to breathe, it was painful
to look round; every object glowed with the reflection of the
fierce tyrant that glared upon us from above.
We got home alive, which agreeably surprised us; and when our
parched tongues again found power of utterance, we promised each
other faithfully never to propose any more parties of pleasure in
the grim store-like forests of Ohio.
We were now in daily expectation of the arrival of Mr. T.; but
day after day, and week after week passed by till we began to
fear some untoward circumstance might delay his coming till the
Spring; at last, when we had almost ceased to look out for him.
on the road which led from the town, he arrived, late at night,
by that which leads across the country from Pitzburgh. The
pleasure we felt at seeing him was greatly increased by his
bringing with him our eldest son, which was a happiness we had
not hoped for. Our walks and our drives now became doubly
interesting. The young men, fresh from a public school, found
America so totally unlike all the nations with which their
reading had made them acquainted, that it was indeed a new world
to them. Had they visited Greece or Rome they would have
encountered objects with whose images their minds had been long
acquainted; or had they travelled to France or Italy they would
have seen only what daily conversation had already rendered
familiar; but at our public schools America (except perhaps as to
her geographical position) is hardly better known than Fairy
Land; and the American character has not been much more deeply
studied than that of the Anthropophagi: all, therefore, was new,
and every thing amusing.
The extraordinary familiarity of our poor neighbours startled us
at first, and we hardly knew how to receive their uncouth
advances, or what was expected of us in return; however, it
sometimes produced very laughable scenes. Upon one occasion two
of my children set off upon an exploring walk up the hills; they
were absent rather longer than we expected, and the rest of our
party determined upon going out to meet them; we knew the
direction they had taken, but thought it would be as well to
enquire at a little public-house at the bottom of the hill, if
such a pair had been seen to pass. A woman, whose appearance
more resembled a Covent Garden market-woman than any thing else I
can remember, came out and answered my question with the most
jovial good humour in the affirmative, and prepared to join us in
our search. Her look, her voice, her manner, were so exceedingly
coarse and vehement, that she almost frightened me; she passed
her arm within mine, and to the inexpressible amusement of my
young people, she dragged me on, talking and questioning me
without ceasing. She lived but a short distance from us, and I
am sure intended to be a very good neighbour; but her violent
intimacy made me dread to pass her door; my children, including
my sons, she always addressed by their Christian names, excepting
when she substituted the word "honey;" this familiarity of
address, however, I afterwards found was universal throughout all
ranks in the United States.
My general appellation amongst my neighbours was "the English old
woman," but in mentioning each other they constantly employed the
term "lady;" and they evidently had a pleasure in using it, for I
repeatedly observed, that in speaking of a neighbour, instead of
saying Mrs. Such-a-one, they described her as "the lady over the
way what takes in washing," or as "that there lady, out by the
Gulley, what is making dip-candles." Mr. Trollope was as
constantly called "the old man," while draymen, butchers' boys,
and the labourers on the canal were invariably denominated "them
gentlemen;" nay, we once saw one of the most gentlemanlike men in
Cincinnati introduce a fellow in dirty shirt sleeves, and all
sorts of detestable et cetera, to one of his friends, with this
formula, "D-- let me introduce this gentleman to you." Our
respective titles certainly were not very important; but the
eternal shaking hands with these ladies and gentlemen was really
an annoyance, and the more so, as the near approach of the
gentlemen was always redolent of whiskey and tobacco.
But the point where this republican equality was the most
distressing was in the long and frequent visitations that it
produced. No one dreams of fastening a door in Western America;
I was told that it would be considered as an affront by the whole
neighbourhood. I was thus exposed to perpetual, and most
vexatious interruptions from people whom I had often never seen,
and whose names still oftener were unknown to me.
Those who are native there, and to the manner born, seem to pass
over these annoyances with more skill than I could ever acquire.
More than once I have seen some of my acquaintance beset in the
same way, without appearing at all distressed by it; they
continued their employment or conversation with me, much as if no
such interruption had taken place; when the visitor entered, they
would say, "How do you do?" and shake hands.
"Tolerable, I thank ye, how be you?" was the reply.
If it was a female, she took off her hat; if a male, he kept it
on, and then taking possession of the first chair in their way,
they would retain it for an hour together, without uttering
another word; at length, rising abruptly, they would again shake
hands, with, "Well, now I must be going, I guess," and so take
themselves off, apparently well contented with their reception.
I could never attain this philosophical composure; I could
neither write nor read, and I always fancied I must talk to them.
I will give the minutes of a conversation which I once set down
after one of their visits, as a specimen of their tone and manner
of speaking and thinking. My visitor was a milkman.
"Well now, so you be from the old country? Ay--you'll see sights
here, I guess."
"I hope I shall see many."
"That's a fact. I expect your little place of an island don't
grow such dreadful fine corn as you sees here?" [Corn always
means Indian corn, or maize.]
"It grows no corn at all, sir.'"
"Possible! no wonder, then, that we reads such awful stories in
the papers of your poor people being starved to death."
"We have wheat, however."
"Ay, for your rich folks, but I calculate the poor seldom gets a
"You have certainly much greater abundance here."
"I expect so. Why they do say, that if a poor body contrives
to be smart enough to scrape together a few dollars, that your
King George always comes down upon 'em, and takes it all away.
"I do not remember hearing of such a transaction."
"I guess they be pretty close about it. Your papers ben't like
ourn, I reckon? Now we says and prints just what we likes."
"You spend a good deal of time in reading the newspapers."
"And I'd like you to tell me how we can spend it better. How
should freemen spend their time, but looking after their
government, and watching that them fellers as we gives offices
to, doos their duty, and gives themselves no airs?"
"But I sometimes think, sir, that your fences might be in more
thorough repair, and your roads in better order, if less time was
spent in politics."
"The Lord! to see how little you knows of a free country? Why,
what's the smoothness of a road, put against the freedom of a
free-born American? And what does a broken zig-zag signify,
comparable to knowing that the men what we have been pleased to
send up to Congress, speaks handsome and straight, as we chooses
"It is from a sense of duty, then, that you all go to the liquor
store to read the papers?"
"To be sure it is, and he'd be no true born American as didn't.
I don't say that the father of a family should always be after
liquor, but I do say that I'd rather have my son drunk three
times in a week, than not look after the affairs of his country."
Our autumn walks were delightful; the sun ceased to scorch; the
want of flowers was no longer peculiar to Ohio; and the trees
took a colouring, which in richness, brilliance, and variety,
exceeded all description. I think it is the maple, or sugar-
tree, that first sprinkles the forest with rich crimson; the
beech follows, with all its harmony of golden tints, from pale
yellow up to brightest orange. The dog-wood gives almost the
purple colour of the mulberry; the chesnut softens all with its
frequent mass of delicate brown, and the sturdy oak carries its
deep green into the very lap of winter. These tints are too
bright for the landscape painter; the attempt to follow nature in
an American autumn scene must be abortive. The colours are in
reality extremely brilliant, but the medium through which they
are seen increases the effect surprisingly. Of all the points in
which America has the advantage of England, the one I felt most
sensibly was the clearness and brightness of the atmosphere. By
day and by night this exquisite purity of air gives tenfold
beauty to every object. I could hardly believe the stars were
the same; the Great Bear looked like a constellation of suns; and
Jupiter justified all the fine things said of him in those
beautiful lines from I know not what spirited pen, beginning,
"I looked on thee, Jove! till my gaze
Shrunk, smote by the pow'r of thy blaze."
I always remarked that the first silver line of the moon's
crescent attracted the eye on the first day, in America, as
strongly as it does here on the third. I observed another
phenomenon in the crescent moon of that region, the cause of
which I less understood. That appearance which Shakespear
describes as "the new moon, with the old moon in her lap," and
which I have heard ingeniously explained as the effect of _earth
light_, was less visible there than here.
Cuyp's clearest landscapes have an atmosphere that approaches
nearer to that of America than any I remember on canvas; but even
Cuyp's _air_ cannot reach the lungs, and, therefore, can only
give an idea of half the enjoyment; for it makes itself felt as
well as seen, and is indeed a constant source of pleasure.
Our walks were, however, curtailed in several directions by my
old Cincinnati enemies, the pigs; immense droves of them were
continually arriving from the country by the road that led to
most of our favourite walks; they were often fed and lodged in
the prettiest valleys,and worse still, were slaughtered beside
the prettiest streams. Another evil threatened us from the same
quarter, that was yet heavier. Our cottage had an ample piazza,
(a luxury almost universal in the country houses of America),
which, shaded by a group of acacias, made a delightful sitting-
room; from this favourite spot we one day perceived symptoms of
building in a field close to it; with much anxiety we hastened to
the spot, and asked what building was to be erected there.
"'Tis to be a slaughter house for hogs," was the dreadful reply.
As there were several gentlemen's houses in the neighbourhood, I
asked if such an erection might not be indicted as a nuisance.
"A nuisance," I repeated, and explained what I meant.
"No, no," was the reply, "that may do very well for your
tyrannical country, where a rich man's nose is more thought
of than a poor man's mouth; but hogs be profitable produce here,
and we be too free for such a law as that, I guess."
During my residence in America, little circumstances like the
foregoing often recalled to my mind a conversation I once held in
France with an old gentleman on the subject of their active
police, and its omnipresent gens d'armerie; "Croyez moi, Madame,
il n'y a que ceux, a qui ils ont a faire, qui les trouvent de
trop." And the old gentleman was right, not only in speaking of
France, but of the whole human family, as philosophers call us.
The well disposed, those whose own feeling of justice would
prevent their annoying others, will never complain of the
restraints of the law. All the freedom enjoyed in America,
beyond what is enjoyed in England, is enjoyed solely by the
disorderly at the expense of the orderly; and were I a stout
knight, either of the sword or of the pen, I would fearlessly
throw down my gauntlet, and challenge the whole Republic to
prove the contrary; but being, as I am, a feeble looker on,
with a needle for my spear, and "I talk" for my device, I must
be contented with the power of stating the fact, perfectly
certain that I shall be contradicted by one loud shout from
Maine to Georgia.
I had often heard it observed before I visited America, that one
of the great blessings of its constitution was the absence of a
national religion, the country being thus exonerated from all
obligation of supporting the clergy; those only contributing to
do so whose principles led them to it. My residence in the
country has shewn me that a religious tyranny may be exerted very
effectually without the aid of the government, in a way much more
oppressive than the paying of tithe, and without obtaining any of
the salutary decorum, which I presume no one will deny is the
result of an established mode of worship.
As it was impossible to remain many weeks in the country without
being struck with the strange anomalies produced by its religious
system, my early notes contain many observations on the subject;
but as nearly the same scenes recurred in every part of the
country, I state them here, not as belonging to the west alone,
but to the whole Union, the same cause producing the same effect
The whole people appear to be divided into an almost endless
variety of religious factions, and I was told, that to be well
received in society, it was necessary to declare yourself as
belonging to some one of these. Let your acknowledged belief
be what it may, you are said to be _not a Christian_, unless you
attach yourself to a particular congregation. Besides the
broad and well-known distinctions of Episcopalian, Catholic,
Presbyterian, Calvinist, Baptist, Quaker, Sweden-borgian,
Universalist, Dunker, &c. &c. &c.; there are innumerable
others springing out of these, each of which assumes a church
government of its own; of this, the most intriguing and factious
individual is invariably the head; and in order, as it should
seem, to shew a reason for this separation, each congregation
invests itself with some queer variety of external observance
that has the melancholy effect of exposing _all_ religious
ceremonies to contempt.
It is impossible, in witnessing all these unseemly vagaries,
not to recognise the advantages of an established church as a
sort of headquarters for quiet unpresuming Christians, who are
contented to serve faithfully, without insisting upon having
each a little separate banner, embroidered with a device of
their own imagining.
The Catholics alone appear exempt from the fury of division
and sub-division that has seized every other persuasion.
Having the Pope for their common head, regulates, I presume,
their movements, and prevents the outrageous display of
individual whim which every other sect is permitted.
I had the pleasure of being introduced to the Catholic bishop of
Cincinnati, and have never known in any country a priest of a
character and bearing more truly apostolic. He was an American,
but I should never have discovered it from his pronunciation or
manner. He received his education partly in England, and partly
in France. His manners were highly polished; his piety active
and sincere, and infinitely more mild and tolerant than that of
the factious Sectarians who form the great majority of the
I believe I am sufficiently tolerant; but this does not prevent
my seeing that the object of all religious observances is better
obtained, when the government of the church is confided to the
wisdom and experience of the most venerated among the people,
than when it is placed in the hands of every tinker and tailor
who chooses to claim a share in it. Nor is this the only evil
attending the want of a national religion, supported by the
State. As there is no legal and fixed provision for the clergy,
it is hardly surprising that their services are confined to those
who can pay them. The vehement expressions of insane or
hypocritical zeal, such as were exhibited during "the Revival,"
can but ill atone for the want of village worship, any more than
the eternal talk of the admirable and unequalled government, can
atone for the continual contempt of social order. Church and
State hobble along, side by side, notwithstanding their boasted
independence. Almost every man you meet will tell you, that he
is occupied in labours most abundant for the good of his country;
and almost every woman will tell you, that besides those things
that are within (her house) she has coming upon her daily the
care of all the churches. Yet spite of this universal attention
to the government, its laws are half asleep; and spite of the old
women and their Dorcas societies, atheism is awake and thriving.
In the smaller cities and towns prayer-meetings take the place
of almost all other amusements; but as the thinly scattered
population of most villages can give no parties, and pay no
priests, they contrive to marry, christen, and bury without them.
A stranger taking up his residence in any city in America must
think the natives the most religious people upon earth; but if
chance lead him among her western villages, he will rarely find
either churches or chapels, prayer or preacher; except, indeed,
at that most terrific saturnalia, "a camp-meeting." I was much
struck with the answer of a poor woman, whom I saw ironing on a
Sunday. "Do you make no difference in your occupations on a
Sunday?" I said. "I beant a Christian, Ma'am; we have got no
opportunity," was the reply. It occurred to me, that in a
country where "all men are equal," the government would be guilty
of no great crime, did it so far interfere as to give them all
_an opportunity_ of becoming Christians if they wished it. But
should the federal government dare to propose building a church,
and endowing it, in some village that has never heard "the
bringing home of bell and burial," it is perfectly certain that
not only the sovereign state where such an abomination was
proposed, would rush into the Congress to resent the odious
interference, but that all the other states would join the
clamour, and such an intermeddling administration would run
great risk of impeachment and degradation.
Where there is a church-government so constituted as to deserve
human respect, I believe it will always be found to receive it,
even from those who may not assent to the dogma of its creed; and
where such respect exists, it produces a decorum in manners and
language often found wanting where it does not. Sectarians will
not venture to rhapsodise, nor infidels to scoff, in the common
intercourse of society. Both are injurious to the cause of
rational religion, and to check both must be advantageous.
It is certainly possible that some of the fanciful variations
upon the ancient creeds of the Christian Church, with which
transatlantic religionists amuse themselves, might inspire morbid
imaginations in Europe as well as in America; but before they can
disturb the solemn harmony HERE they must prelude by a defiance,
not only to common sense, but what is infinitely more appalling,
to common usage. They must at once rank themselves with the low
and the illiterate, for only such prefer the eloquence of the tub
to that of the pulpit. The aristocracy must ever, as a body,
belong to the established Church, and it is but a small
proportion of the influential classes who would be willing to
allow that they do not belong to the aristocracy. That such
feelings influence the professions of men it were ignorance or
hypocrisy to deny; and that nation is wise who knows how to turn
even such feelings into a wholesome stream of popular influence.
As a specimen of the tone in which religion is mixed in the
ordinary intercourse of society, I will transcribe the notes I
took of a conversation, at which I was present, at Cincinnati; I
wrote them immediately after the conversation took place.
"I wish, Mrs. M., that you would explain to me what a revival is.
I hear it talked of all over the city, and I know it means
something about Jesus Christ and religion; but that is all I
know, will you instruct me farther?"
"I expect, Dr. A., that you want to laugh at me. But that
makes no difference. I am firm in my principles, and I fear
no one's laughter."
"Well, but what is a revival?"
"It is difficult, very difficult, to make those see who have no
light; to make those understand whose souls are darkened. A
revival means just an elegant kindling of the spirit; it is
brought about to the Lord's people by the hands of his saints,
and it means salvation in the highest."
"But what is it the people mean by talking of feeling the
revival? and waiting in spirit for the revival? and the extacy
of the revival?"
"Oh Doctor! I am afraid that you are too far gone astray to
understand all that. It is a glorious assurance, a whispering of
the everlasting covenant, it is the bleating of the lamb, it is
the welcome of the shepherd, it is the essence of love, it is the
fullness of glory, it is being in Jesus, it is Jesus being in us,
it is taking the Holy Ghost into our bosoms, it is sitting
ourselves down by God, it is being called to the high places, it
is eating, and drinking, and sleeping in the Lord, it is becoming
a lion in the faith, it is being lowly and meek, and kissing the
hand that smites, it is being mighty and powerful, and scorning
reproof, it is--"
"Thank you, Mrs. M., I feel quite satisfied; and I think I
understand a revival now almost as well as you do yourself."
"My! Where can you have learnt all that stuff, Mrs. M.?"
"How benighted you are! From the holy book, from the Word of the
Lord, from the Holy Ghost, and Jesus Christ themselves."
"It does seem so droll to me, to hear you talk of "the Word of
the Lord." Why, I have been brought up to look upon the Bible as
nothing better than an old newspaper."
"Surely you only say this for the sake of hearing what Mrs. M.
will say in return--you do not mean it?"
"La, yes! to be sure I do."
"I profess that I by no means wish my wife to read all she might
find there.--What says the Colonel, Mrs. M.?"
"As to that, I never stop to ask him. I tell him every day that
I believe in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that it is his duty
to believe in them too, and then my conscience is clear, and I
don't care what he believes. Really, I have no notion of one's
husband interfering in such matters."
"You are quite right. I am sure I give my wife leave to believe
just what she likes; but she is a good woman, and does not abuse
the liberty; for she believes nothing."
It was not once, nor twice, nor thrice, but many many times,
during my residence in America, that I was present when subjects
which custom as well as principle had taught me to consider as
fitter for the closet than the tea-table, were thus lightly
discussed. I hardly know whether I was more startled at first
hearing, in little dainty namby pamby tones, a profession of
Atheism over a teacup, or at having my attention called from a
Johnny cake, to a rhapsody on election and the second birth.
But, notwithstanding this revolting license, persecution exists
to a degree unknown, I believe, in our well-ordered land since
the days of Cromwell. I had the following anecdote from a
gentleman perfectly well acquainted with the circumstances. A
tailor sold a suit of clothes to a sailor a few moments before he
sailed, which was on a Sunday morning. The corporation of New
York prosecuted the tailor, and he was convicted, and sentenced
to a fine greatly beyond his means to pay. Mr. F., a lawyer of
New York, defended him with much eloquence, but in vain. His
powerful speech, however, was not without effect, for it raised
him such a host of Presbyterian enemies as sufficed to destroy
his practice. Nor was this all: his nephew was at the time
preparing for the bar, and soon after the above circumstance
occurred his certificates were presented, and refused, with this
declaration, "that no man of the name and family of F. should be
admitted." I have met this young man in society; he is a person
of very considerable talent, and being thus cruelly robbed of his
profession, has become the editor of a newspaper.
Peasantry, compared to that of England--Early marriages--
Charity--Independence and equality--Cottage prayer-meeting
Mohawk, as our little village was called, gave us an excellent
opportunity of comparing the peasants of the United States
with those of England, and of judging the average degree of
comfort enjoyed by each. I believe Ohio gives as fair a
specimen as any part of the union; if they have the roughness
and inconveniences of a new state to contend with, they have
higher wages and cheaper provisions; if I err in supposing it
a mean state in point of comfort, it certainly is not in taking
too low a standard.
Mechanics, if good workmen, are certain of employment, and good
wages, rather higher than with us; the average wages of a
labourer throughout the Union is ten dollars a month, with
lodging, boarding, washing, and mending; if he lives at his own
expense he has a dollar a day. It appears to me that the
necessaries of life, that is to say, meat, bread, butter, tea,
and coffee, (not to mention whiskey), are within the reach of
every sober, industrious, and healthy man who chooses to have
them; and yet I think that an English peasant, with the same
qualifications, would, in coming to the United States, change for
the worse. He would find wages somewhat higher, and provisions
in Western America considerably lower: but this statement, true
as it is, can lead to nothing but delusion if taken apart from
other facts, fully as certain, and not less important, but which
require more detail in describing, and which perhaps cannot be
fully comprehended, except by an eye-witness. The American poor
are accustomed to eat meat three times a day; I never enquired
into the habits of any cottagers in Western America, where this
was not the case. I found afterwards in Maryland, Pennsylvania,
and other parts of the country, where the price of meat was
higher, that it was used with more economy; yet still a much
larger portion of the weekly income is thus expended than with
us. Ardent spirits, though lamentably cheap,* still cost
something, and the use of them among the men, with more or less
of discretion, according to the character, is universal. Tobacco
also grows at their doors, and is not taxed; yet this too costs
something, and the air of heaven is not in more general use among
the men of America, than chewing tobacco. I am not now pointing
out the evils of dram-drinking, but it is evident, that where
this practice prevails universally, and often to the most
frightful excess, the consequence must be, that the money spent
to obtain the dram is less than the money lost by the time
consumed in drinking it. Long, disabling, and expensive fits of
sickness are incontestably more frequent in every part of
America, than in England, and the sufferers have no aid to look
to, but what they have saved, or what they may be enabled to
sell. I have never seen misery exceed what I have witnessed in
an American cottage where disease has entered.
*(About a shilling a gallon is the retail price of good
(whiskey. If bought wholesale, or of inferior quality, it
(is much cheaper.
But if the condition of the labourer be not superior to that
of the English peasant, that of his wife and daughters is
incomparably worse. It is they who are indeed the slaves of the
soil. One has but to look at the wife of an American cottager,
and ask her age, to be convinced that the life she leads is one
of hardship, privation, and labour. It is rare to see a woman in
this station who has reached the age of thirty, without losing
every trace of youth and beauty. You continually see women with
infants on their knee, that you feel sure are their grand-
children, till some convincing proof of the contrary is
displayed. Even the young girls, though often with lovely
features, look pale, thin, and haggard. I do not remember to
have seen in any single instance among the poor, a specimen of
the plump, rosy, laughing physiognomy so common among our cottage
girls. The horror of domestic service, which the reality of
slavery, and the fable of equality, have generated, excludes the
young women from that sure and most comfortable resource of
decent English girls; and the consequence is, that with a most
irreverend freedom of manner to the parents, the daughters are,
to the full extent of the word, domestic slaves. This condition,
which no periodical merry-making, no village FETE, ever occurs to
cheer, is only changed for the still sadder burdens of a teeming
wife. They marry very young; in fact, in no rank of life do you
meet with young women in that delightful period of existence
between childhood and marriage, wherein, if only tolerably well
spent, so much useful information is gained, and the character
takes a sufficient degree of firmness to support with dignity the
more important parts of wife and mother. The slender, childish
thing, without vigour of mind or body, is made to stem a sea of
troubles that dims her young eye and makes her cheek grow pale,
even before nature has given it the last beautiful finish of the
"We shall get along," is the answer in full, for all that can be
said in way of advice to a boy and girl who take it into their
heads to go before a magistrate and "get married." And they do
get along, till sickness overtakes them, by means perhaps of
borrowing a kettle from one and a tea-pot from another; but
intemperance, idleness, or sickness will, in one week, plunge
those who are even getting along well, into utter destitution;
and where this happens, they are completely without resource.
The absence of poor-laws is, without doubt, a blessing to the
country, but they have not that natural and reasonable dependence
on the richer classes which, in countries differently
constituted, may so well supply their place. I suppose there is
less alms-giving in America than in any other Christian country
on the face of the globe. It is not in the temper of the people
either to give or to receive.
I extract the following pompous passage from a Washington paper
of Feb. 1829, (a season of uncommon severity and distress,)
which, I think, justifies my observation.
"Among the liberal evidences of sympathy for the suffering poor
of this city, two have come to our knowledge which deserve to be
especially noticed: the one a donation by the President of the
United States to the committee of the ward in which he resides of
fifty dollars; the other the donation by a few of the officers of
the war department to the Howard and Dorcas Societies, of
seventy-two dollars." When such mention is made of a gift of
about nine pounds sterling from the sovereign magistrate of the
United States, and of thirteen pounds sterling as a contribution
from one of the state departments, the inference is pretty
obvious, that the sufferings of the destitute in America are not
liberally relieved by individual charity.
I had not been three days at Mohawk-cottage before a pair of
ragged children came to ask for medicine for a sick mother; and
when it was given to them, the eldest produced a handful of
cents, and desired to know what he was to pay. The superfluous
milk of our cow was sought after eagerly, but every new comer
always proposed to pay for it. When they found out that "the
English old woman" did not sell anything, I am persuaded they by
no means liked her the better for it; but they seemed to think,
that if she were a fool it was no reason they should be so too,
and accordingly the borrowing, as they called it, became very
constant, but always in a form that shewed their dignity and
freedom. One woman sent to borrow a pound of cheese; another
half a pound of coffee; and more than once an intimation
accompanied the milk-jug, that the milk must be fresh, and
unskimmed: on one occasion the messenger refused milk, and said,
"Mother only wanted a little cream for her coffee."
I could never teach them to believe, during above a year that
I lived at this house, that I would not sell the old clothes
of the family; and so pertinacious were they in bargain-making,
that often, when I had given them the articles which they wanted
to purchase, they would say, "Well, I expect I shall have to do
a turn of work for this; you may send for me when you want me."
But as I never did ask for the turn of work, and as this
formula was constantly repeated, I began to suspect that it
was spoken solely to avoid uttering the most un-American phrase
"I thank you."
There was one man whose progress in wealth I watched with much
interest and pleasure. When I first became his neighbour,
himself, his wife, and four children, were living in one room,
with plenty of beef-steaks and onions for breakfast, dinner and
supper, but with very few other comforts. He was one of the
finest men I ever saw, full of natural intelligence and activity
of mind and body, but he could neither read nor write. He drank
but little whiskey, and but rarely chewed tobacco, and was
therefore more free from that plague spot of spitting which
rendered male colloquy so difficult to endure. He worked for us
frequently, and often used to walk into the drawing-room and seat
himself on the sofa, and tell me all his plans. He made an
engagement with the proprietor of the wooded hill before
mentioned, by which half the wood he could fell was to be his
own. His unwearied industry made this a profitable bargain, and
from the proceeds he purchased the materials for building a
comfortable frame (or wooden) house; he did the work almost
entirely himself. He then got a job for cutting rails, and, as
he could cut twice as many in a day as any other man in the
neighbourhood, he made a good thing of it. He then let half his
pretty house, which was admirably constructed, with an ample
portico, that kept it always cool. His next step was contracting
for the building a wooden bridge, and when I left Mohawk he had
fitted up his half of the building as an hotel and grocery store;
and I have no doubt that every sun that sets sees him a richer
man than when it rose. He hopes to make his son a lawyer, and I
have little doubt that he will live to see him sit in congress;
when this time arrives, the wood-cutter's son will rank with any
other member of congress, not of courtesy, but of right, and the
idea that his origin is a disadvantage, will never occur to the
imagination of the most exalted of his fellow-citizens.
This is the only feature in American society that I recognise as
indicative of the equality they profess. Any man's son may
become the equal of any other man's son, and the consciousness of
this is certainly a spur to exertion; on the other hand, it is
also a spur to that coarse familiarity, untempered by any shadow
of respect, which is assumed by the grossest and the lowest in
their intercourse with the highest and most refined. This is a
positive evil, and, I think, more than balances its advantages.
And here again it may be observed, that the theory of equality
may be very daintily discussed by English gentlemen in a London
dining-room, when the servant, having placed a fresh bottle of
cool wine on the table, respectfully shuts the door, and leaves
them to their walnuts and their wisdom; but it will be found
less palatable when it presents itself in the shape of a hard,
greasy paw, and is claimed in accents that breathe less of
freedom than of onions and whiskey. Strong, indeed, must be
the love of equality in an English breast if it can survive a
tour through the Union.
There was one house in the village which was remarkable from its
wretchedness. It had an air of indecent poverty about it, which
long prevented my attempting an entrance; but at length, upon
being told that I could get chicken and eggs there whenever I
wanted them, I determined upon venturing. The door being opened
to my knock, I very nearly abandoned my almost blunted purpose; I
never beheld such a den of filth and misery: a woman, the very
image of dirt and disease, held a squalid imp of a baby on her
hip bone while she kneaded her dough with her right fist only
A great lanky girl, of twelve years old, was sitting on a barrel,
gnawing a corn cob; when I made known my business, the woman
answered, "No not I; I got no chickens to sell, nor eggs neither;
but my son will, plenty I expect. Here Nick," (bawling at the
bottom of a ladder), "here's an old woman what wants chickens."
Half a moment brought Nick to the bottom of the ladder, and I
found my merchant was one of a ragged crew, whom I had been used
to observe in my daily walk, playing marbles in the dust, and
swearing lustily; he looked about ten years old.
"Have you chicken to sell, my boy?"
"Yes, and eggs too, more nor what you'll buy."
Having enquired price, condition, and so on, I recollected that I
had been used to give the same price at market, the feathers
plucked, and the chicken prepared for the table, and I told him
that he ought not to charge the same.
"Oh for that, I expect I can fix 'em as well as ever them was,
what you got in market."
"You fix them?"
"Yes to be sure, why not?"
"I thought you were too fond of marbles."
He gave me a keen glance, and said, "You don't know I.--When will
you be wanting the chickens?"
He brought them at the time directed, extremely well "fixed," and
I often dealt with him afterwards. When I paid him, he always
thrust his hand into his breaches pocket, which I presume, as
being _the keep_, was fortified more strongly than the
dilapidated outworks, and drew from thence rather more dollars,
half-dollars, levies, and fips, than his dirty little hand could
well hold. My curiosity was excited, and though I felt an
involuntary disgust towards the young Jew, I repeatedly conversed
"You are very rich, Nick," I said to him one day, on his making
an ostentatious display of change, as he called it; he sneered
with a most unchildish expression of countenance, and replied, "I
guess 'twould be a bad job for I, if that was all I'd got to
I asked him how he managed his business. He told me that he
bought eggs by the hundred, and lean chicken by the score, from
the waggons that passed their door on the way to market; that he
fatted the latter in coops he had made himself, and could easily
double their price, and that his eggs answered well too, when he
sold them out by the dozen.
"And do you give the money to your mother?"
"I expect not," was the answer, with another sharp glance of his
ugly blue eyes.
"What do you do with it. Nick?"
His look said plainly, what is that to you? but he only answered,
quaintly enough, "I takes care of it."
How Nick got his first dollar is very doubtful; I was told that
when he entered the village store, the person serving always
called in another pair of eyes; but having obtained it, the
spirit, activity, and industry, with which he caused it to
increase and multiply, would have been delightful in one of Miss
Edgeworth's dear little clean bright-looking boys, who would have
carried all he got to his mother; but in Nick it was detestable.
No human feeling seemed to warm his young heart, not even the
love of self-indulgence, for he was not only ragged and dirty,
but looked considerably more than half starved, and I doubt not
his dinners and suppers half fed his fat chickens.
I by no means give this history of Nick, the chicken merchant, as
an anecdote characteristic in all respects of America; the only
part of the story which is so, is the independence of the little
man, and is one instance out of a thousand, of the hard, dry,
calculating character that is the result of it. Probably Nick
will be very rich; perhaps he will be President. I once got so
heartily scolded for saying, that I did not think all American
citizens were equally eligible to that office, that I shall never
again venture to doubt it.
Another of our cottage acquaintance was a market-gardener, from
whom we frequently bought vegetables; from the wife of this man
we one day received a very civil invitation to "please to come
and pass the evening with them in prayer." The novelty of the
circumstance, and its great dissimilarity to the ways and manners
of our own country, induced me to accept the invitation, and also
to record the visit here.
We were received with great attention, and a place was assigned
us on one of the benches that surrounded the little parlour.
Several persons, looking like mechanics and their wives, were
present; every one sat in profound silence, and with that quiet
subdued air, that serious people assume on entering a church. At
length, a long, black, grim-looking man entered; his dress, the
cut of his hair, and his whole appearance, strongly recalled the
idea of one of Cromwell's fanatics. He stepped solemnly into the
middle of the room, and took a chair that stood there, but not to
sit upon it; he turned the back towards him, on which he placed
his hands, and stoutly uttering a sound between a hem and a
cough, he deposited freely on either side of him a considerable
portion of masticated tobacco. He then began to preach. His
text was "Live in hope," and he continued to expound it for two
hours in a drawling, nasal tone, with no other respite than what
he allowed himself for expectoration. If I say that he repeated
the words of this text a hundred times, I think I shall not
exceed the truth, for that allows more than a minute for each
repetition, and in fact the whole discourse was made up of it.
The various tones in which he uttered it might have served as a
lesson on emphasis; as a question--in accents of triumph--in
accents of despair--of pity--of threatening--of authority--of
doubt--of hope--of faith. Having exhausted every imaginable
variety of tone, he abruptly said, "Let us pray," and twisting
his chair round, knelt before it. Every one knelt before the
seat they had occupied, and listened for another half hour to a
rant of miserable, low, familiar jargon, that he presumed to
improvise to his Maker as a prayer. In this, however, the
cottage apostle only followed the example set by every preacher
throughout the Union, excepting those of the Episcopalian and
Catholic congregations; THEY only do not deem themselves
privileged to address the Deity in strains of crude and unweighed
importunity. These ranters may sometimes be very much in
earnest, but surely the least we can say of it is, that they
"Praise their God amiss."
I enquired afterwards of a friend, well acquainted with such
matters, how the grim preacher of "Hope" got paid for his
labours, and he told me that the trade was an excellent one, for
that many a gude wife bestowed more than a tithe of what her gude
man trusted to her keeping, in rewarding the zeal of these self-
chosen apostles. These sable ministers walk from house to house,
or if the distance be considerable, ride on a comfortable ambling
nag. They are not only as empty as wind, but resemble it in
other particulars; for they blow where they list, and no man
knoweth whence they come, nor whither they go. When they see a
house that promises comfortable lodging and entertainment, they
enter there, and say to the good woman of the house, "Sister,
shall I pray with you?" If the answer be favourable, and it is
seldom otherwise, he instals himself and his horse till after
breakfast the next morning. The best meat, drink, and lodging
are his, while he stays, and he seldom departs without some
little contribution in money for the support of the crucified and
suffering church. Is it not strange that "the most intelligent
people in the world" should prefer such a religion as this, to a
form established by the wisdom and piety of the ablest and best
among the erring sons of men, solemnly sanctioned by the nation's
law, and rendered sacred by the use of their fathers?
It would be well for all reasoners on the social system to
observe steadily, and with an eye obscured by no beam of
prejudice, the result of the experiment that is making on the
other side of the Atlantic. If I mistake not, they might learn
there, better than by any abstract speculation, what are the
points on which the magistrates of a great people should dictate
to them and on what points they should be left freely to their
own guidance, I sincerely believe, that if a fire-worshipper, or
an Indian Brahmin, were to come to the United States, prepared to
preach and pray in English, he would not be long without a "very
The influence of a religion, sanctioned by the government, could
in no country, in the nineteenth century, interfere with the
speculations of a philosopher in his closet, but it might, and
must, steady the weak and wavering opinions of the multitude.
There is something really pitiable in the effect produced by the
want of this rudder oar. I knew a family where one was a
Methodist, one a Presbyterian, and a third a Baptist; and
another, where one was a Quaker, one a declared Atheist, and
another an Universalist. These are all females, and all moving
in the best society that America affords; but one and all of them
as incapable of reasoning on things past, present, and to come,
as the infants they nourish, yet one and all of them perfectly
fit to move steadily and usefully in a path marked out for them.
But I shall be called an itinerant preacher myself if I pursue
As I have not the magic power of my admirable friend, Miss
Mitford, to give grace and interest to the humblest rustic
details, I must not venture to linger among the cottages that
surrounded us; but before I quit them I must record the pleasing
recollection of one or two neighbours of more companionable rank,
from whom I received so much friendly attention, and such
unfailing kindness, in all my little domestic embarrassments,
that I shall never recall the memory of Mohawk, without paying an
affectionate tribute to these far distant friends. I wish it
were within the range of hope, that I might see them again, in my
own country, and repay, in part, the obligations I owe them.
Theatre--Fine Arts--Delicacy--Shaking Quakers--
Big-Bone Lick--Visit of the President
The theatre at Cincinnati is small, and not very brilliant in
decoration, but in the absence of every other amusement our young
men frequently attended it, and in the bright clear nights of
autumn and winter, the mile and a half of distance was not enough
to prevent the less enterprising members of the family from
sometimes accompanying them. The great inducement to this was
the excellent acting of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Drake, the
managers. [Mr. Drake was an Englishman.] Nothing could be more
distinct than their line of acting, but the great versatility of
their powers enabled them often to appear together. Her cast was
the highest walk of tragedy, and his the broadest comedy; but
yet, as Goldsmith says of his sister heroines, I have known them
change characters for a whole evening together, and have wept
with him and laughed with her, as it was their will and pleasure
to ordain. I think in his comedy he was superior to any actor I
ever saw in the same parts, except Emery. Alexander Drake's
comedy was like that of the French, who never appear to be acting
at all; he was himself the comic being the author aimed at
depicting. Let him speak whose words he would, from Shakspeare
to Colman, it was impossible not to feel that half the fun was
his own; he had, too, in a very high degree, the power that
Fawcett possessed, of drawing tears by a sudden touch of natural
feeling. His comic songs might have set the gravity of the
judges and bishops together at defiance. Liston is great, but
Alexander Drake was greater.
Mrs. Drake, formerly Miss Denny, greatly resembles Miss
O'Neil; a proof of this is, that Mr. Kean, who had heard of
the resemblance, arrived at New York late in the evening, and
having repaired to the theatre, saw her for the first time
across the stage, and immediately exclaimed, "that's Miss Denny."
Her voice, too, has the same rich and touching tones, and is
superior in power. Her talent is decidedly first-rate. Deep
and genuine feeling, correct judgment, and the most perfect good
taste, distinguish her play in every character. Her last act
of Belvidera is superior in tragic effect to any thing I ever
saw on the stage, the one great exception to all comparison,
Mrs. Siddons, being set aside.
It was painful to see these excellent performers playing to a
miserable house, not a third full, and the audience probably
not including half a dozen persons who would prefer their playing
to that of the vilest strollers. In proof of this, I saw them,
as managers, give place to paltry third-rate actors from London,
who would immediately draw crowded houses, and be overwhelmed
Poor Drake died just before we left Ohio, and his wife, who,
besides her merit as an actress, is a most estimable and amiable
woman, is left with a large family. I have little, or rather no
doubt, of her being able to obtain an excellent engagement in
London, but her having property in several of the Western
theatres will, I fear, detain her in a neighbourhood, where she
is neither understood nor appreciated. She told me many very
excellent professional anecdotes collected during her residence
in the West; one of these particularly amused me as a specimen of
Western idiom. A lady who professed a great admiration for Mrs.
Drake had obtained her permission to be present upon one occasion
at her theatrical toilet. She was dressing for some character in
which she was to stab herself, and her dagger was lying on the
table. The visitor took it up, and examining it with much
emotion, exclaimed, "what! do you really jab this into yourself
We also saw the great American star, Mr. Forrest. What he may
become I will not pretend to prophesy; but when I saw him play
Hamlet at Cincinnati, not even Mrs. Drake's sweet Ophelia could
keep me beyond the third act. It is true that I have seen
Kemble, Macready, Kean, Young, C. Kemble, Cook, and Talma play
Hamlet, and I might not, perhaps, be a very fair judge of this
young actor's merits; but I was greatly amused when a gentleman,
who asked my opinion of him, told me upon hearing it, that he
would not advise me to state it freely in America, "for they
would not bear it." The theatre was really not a bad one, though
the very poor receipts rendered it impossible to keep it in high
order; but an annoyance infinitely greater than decorations
indifferently clean, was the style and manner of the audience.
Men came into the lower tier of boxes without their coats; and I
have seen shirt sleeves tucked up to the shoulder; the spitting
was incessant, and the mixed smell of onions and whiskey was
enough to make one feel even the Drakes' acting dearly bought
by the obligation of enduring its accompaniments. The bearing
and attitudes of the men are perfectly indescribable; the heels
thrown higher than the head, the entire rear of the person
presented to the audience, the whole length supported on
the benches, are among the varieties that these exquisite
posture-masters exhibit. The noises, too, were perpetual, and
of the most unpleasant kind; the applause is expressed by cries
and thumping with the feet, instead of clapping; and when a
patriotic fit seized them, and "Yankee Doodle" was called for,
every man seemed to think his reputation as a citizen depended
on the noise he made.
Two very indifferent figurantes, probably from the Ambigu
Comique, or la Gaiete, made their appearance at Cincinnati while
we were there; and had Mercury stepped down, and danced a _pas
seul_ upon earth, his godship could not have produced a more
violent sensation. But wonder and admiration were by no means
the only feelings excited; horror and dismay were produced in at
least an equal degree. No one, I believe, doubted their being
admirable dancers, but every one agreed that the morals of the
Western world would never recover the shock. When I was asked if
I had ever seen any thing so dreadful before, I was embarrassed
how to answer; for the young women had been exceedingly careful,
both in their dress and in their dancing, to meet the taste of
the people; but had it been Virginie in her most transparent
attire, or Taglioni in her most remarkable pirouette, they could
not have been more reprobated. The ladies altogether forsook the
theatre; the gentlemen muttered under their breath, and turned
their heads aside when the subject was mentioned; the clergy
denounced them from the pulpit; and if they were named at the
meetings of the saints, it was to show how deep the horror such a
theme could produce. I could not but ask myself if virtue were a
plant, thriving under one form in one country, and flourishing
under a different one in another? If these Western Americans are
right, then how dreadfully wrong are we! It is really a very
But this was not the only point on which I found my notions of
right and wrong utterly confounded; hardly a day passed in which
I did not discover that something or other that I had been taught
to consider lawful as eating, was held in abhorrence by those
around me; many words to which I had never heard an objectionable
meaning attached, were totally interdicted, and the strangest
paraphrastic sentences substituted. I confess it struck me, that
notwithstanding a general stiffness of manner, which I think must
exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Americans have
imaginations that kindle with alarming facility. I could give
many anecdotes to prove this, but will content myself with a few.
A young German gentleman of perfectly good manners, once came to
me greatly chagrined at having offended one of the principal
families in the neighbourhood, by having pronounced the word
_corset_ before the ladies of it. An old female friend had
kindly overcome her own feelings so far as to mention to him the
cause of the coolness he had remarked, and strongly advised his
making an apology. He told me that he was perfectly well
disposed to do so, but felt himself greatly at a loss how to
An English lady who had long kept a fashionable boarding-school
in one of the Atlantic cities, told me that one of her earliest
cares with every new comer, was the endeavour to substitute real
delicacy for this affected precision of manner; among many
anecdotes, she told me one of a young lady about fourteen, who on
entering the receiving room, where she only expected to see a
lady who had enquired for her, and finding a young man with her,
put her hands before her eyes, and ran out of the room again,
screaming "A man! a man! a man!"
On another occasion, one of the young ladies in going up stairs
to the drawing-room, unfortunately met a boy of fourteen coming
down, and her feelings were so violently agitated, that she
stopped panting and sobbing, nor would pass on till the boy had
swung himself up on the upper banisters, to leave the passage
At Cincinnati there is a garden where the people go to eat ices,
and to look at roses. For the preservation of the flowers, there
is placed at the end of one of the walks a sign-post sort of
daub, representing a Swiss peasant girl, holding in her hand a
scroll, requesting that the roses might not be gathered.
Unhappily for the artist, or for the proprietor, or for both,
the petticoat of this figure was so short as to shew her ancles.
The ladies saw, and shuddered; and it was formally intimated to
the proprietor, that if he wished for the patronage of the ladies
of Cincinnati, he must have the petticoat of this figure
lengthened. The affrighted purveyor of ices sent off an express
for the artist and his paint pot. He came, but unluckily not
provided with any colour that would match the petticoat; the
necessity, however, was too urgent for delay, and a flounce of
blue was added to the petticoat of red, giving bright and shining
evidence before all men of the immaculate delicacy of the
I confess I was sometimes tempted to suspect that this ultra
refinement was not very deep seated. It often appeared to me
like the consciousness of grossness, that wanted a veil; but the
veil was never gracefully adjusted. Occasionally, indeed, the
very same persons who appeared ready to faint at the idea of a
statue, would utter some unaccountable sally that was quite
startling, and which made me feel that the indelicacy of which we
were accused had its limits. The following anecdote is hardly
fit to tell, but it explains what I mean too well to be omitted.
A young married lady, of _high standing_ and most fastidious
delicacy, who had been brought up at one of the Atlantic
seminaries of highest reputation, told me that her house, at the
distance of half a mile from a populous city, was unfortunately
opposite a mansion of worse than doubtful reputation. "It is
abominable," she said, "to see the people that go there; they
ought to be exposed. I and another lady, an intimate friend of
mine, did make one of them look foolish enough last summer: she
was passing the day with me, and, while we were sitting at the
window, we saw a young man we both knew ride up there, we went
into the garden and watched at the gate for him to come back, and
when he did, we both stepped out, and I said to him, "are you not
ashamed, Mr. William D., to ride by my house and back again in
that manner?" I never saw a man look so foolish!"
In conversing with ladies on the customs and manners of Europe, I
remarked a strong propensity to consider every thing as wrong to
which they were not accustomed. I once mentioned to a young lady
that I thought a picnic party would be very agreeable, and that I
would propose it to some of our friends. She agreed that it
would be delightful, but she added, "I fear you will not succeed;
we are not used to such sort of things here, and I know it is
considered very indelicate for ladies and gentlemen to sit down
together on the grass."
I could multiply anecdotes of this nature; but I think these
sufficient to give an accurate idea of the tone of manners in
this particular, and I trust to justify the observations I
One of the spectacles which produced the greatest astonishment
on us all was the Republican simplicity of the courts of justice.
We had heard that the judges indulged themselves on the bench
in those extraordinary attitudes which, doubtless, some
peculiarity of the American formation leads them to find the
most comfortable. Of this we were determined to judge for
ourselves, and accordingly entered the court when it was in full
business, with three judges on the bench. The annexed sketch
will better describe what we saw than any thing I can write.
Our winter passed rapidly away, and pleasantly enough, by the
help of frosty walks, a little skaiting, a visit to Big-Bone
Lick, and a visit to the shaking Quakers, a good deal of chess,
and a good deal of reading, notwithstanding we were almost in the
back woods of Western America.
The excursion to Big-Bone Lick, in Kentucky, and that to the
Quaker village, were too fatiguing for females at such a season,
but our gentlemen brought us home mammoth bones and shaking
Quaker stories in abundance.
These singular people, the shaking Quakers of America, give
undeniable proof that communities may exist and prosper, for they
have continued for many years to adhere strictly to this manner
of life, and have been constantly increasing in wealth. They
have formed two or three different societies in distant parts of
the Union, all governed by the same general laws, and all
uniformly prosperous and flourishing.
There must be some sound and wholesome principle at work in these
establishments to cause their success in every undertaking, and
this principle must be a powerful one, for it has to combat much
that is absurd and much that is mischievous.
The societies are generally composed of about an equal proportion
of males and females, many of them being men and their wives; but
they are all bound by their laws not to cohabit together. Their
religious observances are wholly confined to singing and dancing
of the most grotesque kind, and this repeated so constantly as to
occupy much time; yet these people become rich and powerful
wherever they settle themselves. Whatever they manufacture,
whatever their farms produce, is always in the highest repute,
and brings the highest price in the market. They receive all
strangers with great courtesy, and if they bring an introduction
they are lodged and fed for any length of time they choose to
stay; they are not asked to join in their labours, but are
permitted to do so if they wish it.
The Big-Bone Lick was not visited, and even partially examined,
without considerable fatigue.
It appeared from the account of our travellers, that the spot
which gives the region its elegant name is a deep bed of blue
clay, tenacious and unsound, so much so as to render it both
difficult and dangerous to traverse. The digging it has been
found so laborious that no one has yet hazarded the expense of a
complete search into its depths for the gigantic relics so
certainly hidden there. The clay has never been moved without
finding some of them; and I think it can hardly be doubted that
money and perseverance would procure a more perfect specimen of
an entire mammoth than we have yet seen. [Since the above was
written an immense skeleton, nearly perfect, has been extracted.]
And now the time arrived that our domestic circle was again to be
broken up. Our eldest son was to be entered at Oxford, and it
was necessary that his father should accompany him; and, after
considerable indecision, it was at length determined that I and
my daughters should remain another year, with our second son. It
was early in February, and our travellers prepared themselves to
encounter some sharp gales upon the mountains, though the great
severity of the cold appeared to be past. We got buffalo robes
and double shoes prepared for them, and they were on the eve of
departure when we heard that General Jackson, the newly-elected
President, was expected to arrive immediately at Cincinnati, from
his residence in the West, and to proceed by steamboat to
Pittsburgh, on his way to Washington. This determined them not
to fix the day of their departure till they heard of his arrival,
and then, if possible, to start in the same boat with him; the
decent dignity of a private conveyance not being deemed necessary
for the President of the United States.
The day of his arrival was however quite uncertain, and we could
only determine to have every thing very perfectly in readiness,
let it come when it would. This resolution was hardly acted upon
when the news reached us that the General had arrived at
Louisville, and was expected at Cincinnati in a few hours. All
was bustle and hurry at Mohawk-cottage; we quickly dispatched our
packing business, and this being the first opportunity we had had
of witnessing such a demonstration of popular feeling, we all
determined to be present at the debarkation of the great man.
We accordingly walked to Cincinnati, and secured a favourable
station at the landing-place, both for the purpose of seeing the
first magistrate and of observing his reception by the people.
We had waited but a few moments when the heavy panting of the
steam engines and then a discharge of cannon told that we were
just in time; another moment brought his vessel in sight.
Nothing could be better of its kind than his approach to the
shore: the noble steam-boat which conveyed him was flanked on
each side by one of nearly equal size and splendour; the roofs of
all three were covered by a crowd of men; cannon saluted them
from the shore as they passed by, to the distance of a quarter of
a mile above the town; there they turned about, and came down the
river with a rapid but stately motion, the three vessels so close
together as to appear one mighty mass upon the water.
When they arrived opposite the principal landing they swept
gracefully round, and the side vessels, separating themselves
from the centre, fell a few feet back, permitting her to approach
before them with her honoured freight. All this manoeuvring was
extremely well executed, and really beautiful.
The crowd on the shore awaited her arrival in perfect stillness.
When she touched the bank the people on board gave a faint huzza,
but it was answered by no note of welcome from the land: this
cold silence was certainly not produced by any want of friendly
feeling towards the new President; during the whole of the
canvassing he had been decidedly the popular candidate at
Cincinnati, and, for months past, we had been accustomed to the
cry of "Jackson for ever" from an overwhelming majority; but
enthusiasm is not either the virtue or the vice of America.
More than one private carriage was stationed at the water's edge
to await the General's orders, but they were dismissed with the