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Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope

Part 7 out of 7

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and shivering in ague, with the one last earthly hope, that each
heavy moment would prove the last.

Near to the spot which he had chosen for his miserable rest, but
totally concealed from it by the thick forest, was the last
straggling wigwam of an Indian village. It is not known how many
days the unhappy man had lain without food, but he was quite
insensible when a young squaw, whom chance had brought from this
wigwam to his hut, entered, and found him alive, but totally
insensible. The heart of woman is, I believe, pretty much the
same every where; the young girl paused not to think whether he
were white or red, but her fleet feet rested not till she had
brought milk, rum, and blankets, and when the sufferer recovered
his senses, his head was supported on her lap, while, with the
gentle tenderness of a mother, she found means to make him
swallow the restoratives she had brought.

No black eyes in the world, be they of France, Italy, or even
of Spain, can speak more plainly of kindness, than the large
deep-set orbs of a squaw; this is a language that all nations
can understand, and the poor Frenchman read most clearly, in
the anxious glance of his gentle nurse, that he should not die

So far the story is romantic enough, and what follows is hardly
less so. The squaw found means to introduce her white friend to
her tribe; he was adopted as their brother, speedily acquired
their language, and assumed their dress and manner of life. His
gratitude to his preserver soon ripened into love, and if the
chronicle spoke true, the French noble and the American savage
were more than passing happy as man and wife, and it was not till
he saw himself the father of many thriving children that the
exile began to feel a wish of rising again from savage to
civilized existence.

My historian did not explain what his project was in visiting
New York, but he did so in the habit of an Indian, and learnt
enough of the restored tranquillity of his country to give him
hope that some of the broad lands he had left there might be
restored to him.

I have made my story already too long, and must not linger upon
it farther than to say that his hopes were fulfilled, and that,
of a large and flourishing family, some are settled in France,
and some remain in America, (one of these, I understood, was a
lawyer at New York), while the hero and the heroine of the tale
continue to inhabit the Oneida country, not in a wigwam, however,
but in a good house, in a beautiful situation, with all the
comforts of civilized life around them.

Such was the narrative we listened to, from a stage coach
companion; and it appears to me sufficiently interesting to
repeat, though I have no better authority to quote for its
truth, than the assertion of this unknown traveller.


Return to New York--Conclusion

The comfortable Adelphi Hotel again received us at Albany, on the
14th of June, and we decided upon passing the following day
there, both to see the place, and to recruit our strength, which
we began to feel we had taxed severely by a very fatiguing
journey, in most oppressively hot weather. It would have been
difficult to find a better station for repose; the rooms were
large and airy, and ice was furnished in most profuse abundance.

But notwithstanding the manifold advantages of this excellent
hotel, I was surprised at the un-English arrangement communicated
to me by two ladies with whom we made a speaking acquaintance,
by which it appeared that they made it their permanent home.
These ladies were a mother and daughter; the daughter was an
extremely pretty young married woman, with two little children.
Where the husbands were, or whether they were dead or alive, I
know not; but they told me they had been _boarding_ there above
a year. They breakfasted, dined, and supped at the _table
d'hote_, with from twenty to a hundred people, as accident might
decide; dressed very smart, played on the piano, in the public
sitting-room, and assured me they were particularly comfortable
and well accommodated. What a life!

Some parts of the town are very handsome; the Town Hall, the
Chamber of Representatives, and some other public buildings,
stand well on a hill that overlooks the Hudson, with ample
enclosures of grass and trees around them.

Many of the shops are large, and showily set out. I was amused
by a national trait which met me at one of them. I entered it to
purchase some _eau de Cologne_, but finding what was offered to
me extremely bad, and very cheap, I asked if they had none at a
higher price, and better.

"You are a stranger, I guess," was the answer. "The Yankees want
low price, that's all; they don't stand so much for goodness as
the English."

Nothing could be more beautiful than our passage down the Hudson
on the following day, as I thought of some of my friends in
England, dear lovers of the picturesque, I could not but exclaim,

"Que je vous plains! que je vous plains!
Vous ne la verrez pas."

Not even a moving panoramic view, gliding before their eyes for
an hour together, in all the scenic splendour of Drury Lane, or
Covent Garden, could give them an idea of it. They could only
see one side at a time. The change, the contrast, the ceaseless
variety of beauty, as you skim from side to side, the liquid
smoothness of the broad mirror that reflects the scene, and most
of all, the clear bright air through which you look at it; all
this can only be seen and believed by crossing the Atlantic.

As we approached New York the burning heat of the day relaxed,
and the long shadows of evening fell coolly on the beautiful
villas we passed. I really can conceive nothing more exquisitely
lovely than this approach to the city. The magnificent boldness
of the Jersey shore on the one side, and the luxurious softness
of the shady lawns on the other, with the vast silvery stream
that flows between them, altogether form a picture which may well
excuse a traveller for saying, once and again, that the Hudson
river can be surpassed in beauty by none on the outside of

It was nearly dark when we reached the city, and it was with
great satisfaction that we found our comfortable apartments in
Hudson Street unoccupied; and our pretty, kind (Irish) hostess
willing to receive us again. We passed another fortnight there;
and again we enjoyed the elegant hospitality of New York, though
now it was offered from beneath the shade of their beautiful
villas. In truth, were all America like this fair city, and all,
no, only a small proportion of its population like the friends we
left there, I should say, that the land was the fairest in the

But the time was come to bid it adieu! The important business of
securing our homeward passage was to be performed. One must know
what it is to cross the ocean before the immense importance of
all the little details of accommodation can be understood. The
anxious first look: into the face of the captain, to ascertain if
he be gentle or rough; another, scarcely less important, in that
of the steward, generally a sable one, but not the less
expressive; the accurate, but rapid glance of measurement thrown
round the little state-rooms; another at the good or bad
arrangement of the stair-case, by which you are to stumble up and
stumble down, from cabin to deck, and from deck to cabin; all
this, they only can understand who have felt it. At length,
however, this interesting affair was settled, and most happily.
The appearance promised well, and the performance bettered it.
We hastened to pack up our "trumpery," as Captain Mirven
unkindly calls the paraphernalia of the ladies, and among the
rest, my six hundred pages of griffonage. There is enough of it,
yet I must add a few more lines.

I suspect that what I have written will make it evident that I do
not like America. Now, as it happens that I met with individuals
there whom I love and admire, far beyond the love and admiration
of ordinary acquaintance, and as I declare the country to be fair
to the eye, and most richly teeming with the gifts of plenty, I
am led to ask myself why it is that I do not like it. I would
willingly know myself, and confess to others, why it is that
neither its beauty nor its abundance can suffice to neutralize,
or greatly soften, the distaste which the aggregate of my
recollections has left upon my mind.

I remember hearing it said, many years ago, when the advantages
and disadvantages of a particular residence were being discussed,
that it was the "who?" and not the "where?" that made the
difference between the pleasant or unpleasant residence. The
truth of the observation struck me forcibly when I heard it; and
it has been recalled to my mind since, by the constantly
recurring evidence of its justness. In applying this to America,
I speak not of my friends, nor of my friends' friends. The small
patrician band is a race apart; they live with each other, and
for each other; mix wondrously little with the high matters of
state, which they seem to leave rather supinely to their tailors
and tinkers, and are no more to be taken as a sample of the
American people, than the head of Lord Byron as a sample of the
heads of the British peerage. I speak not of these, but of the
population generally, as seen in town and country, among the rich
and the poor, in the slave states, and the free states. I do not
like them. I do not like their principles, I do not like their
manners, I do not like their opinions.

Both as a woman, and as a stranger, it might be unseemly for me
to say that I do not like their government, and therefore I will
not say so. That it is one which pleases themselves is most
certain, and this is considerably more important than pleasing
all the travelling old ladies in the world. I entered the
country at New Orleans, remained for more than two years west of
the Alleghanies, and passed another year among the Atlantic
cities, and the country around them. I conversed during this
time with citizens of all orders and degrees, and I never heard
from any one a single disparaging word against their government.
It is not, therefore, surprising, that when the people of that
country hear strangers questioning the wisdom of their
institutions, and expressing disapprobation at some of their
effects, they should set it down either to an incapacity
of judging, or a malicious feeling of envy and ill-will.

"How can any one in their senses doubt the excellence of a a
government which we have tried for half a century, and loved the
better the longer we have known it." Such is the natural enquiry
of every American when the excellence of their government is
doubted; and I am inclined to answer, that no one in their
senses, who has visited the country, and known the people, can
doubt its fitness for them, such as they now are, or its utter
unfitness for any other people..

Whether the government has made the people what they are, or
whether the people have made the government what it is, to suit
themselves, I know not; but if the latter, they have shown a
consummation of wisdom which the assembled world may look upon
and admire.

It is a matter of historical notoriety that the original stock of
the white population now inhabiting the United States, were
persons who had banished themselves, or were banished from the
mother country. The land they found was favourable to their
increase and prosperity; the colony grew and flourished. Years
rolled on, and the children, the grand-children, and the great
grand-children of the first settlers, replenished the land, and
found it flowing with milk and honey. That they should wish to
keep this milk and honey to themselves, is not very surprising.
What did the mother country do for them? She sent them out gay
and gallant officers to guard their frontier; the which they
thought they could guard as well themselves; and then she taxed
their tea. Now, this was disagreeable; and to atone for it, the
distant colony had no great share in her mother's grace and
glory. It was not from among them that her high and mighty were
chosen; the rays which emanated from that bright sun of honour,
the British throne, reached them but feebly. They knew not, they
cared not, for her kings nor her heroes; their thriftiest trader
was their noblest man; the holy seats of learning were but the
cradles of superstition; the splendour of the aristocracy, but a
leech that drew their "golden blood." The wealth, the learning,
the glory of Britain, was to them nothing; the having their own
way every thing.

Can any blame their wish to obtain it? Can any lament that they

And now the day was their own, what should they do next? Their
elders drew together, and said, "Let us make a government that
shall suit us all; let it be rude, and rough, and noisy; let it
not affect either dignity, glory, or splendour; let it interfere
with no man's will, nor meddle with any man's business; let us
have neither tithes nor taxes, game laws, nor poor laws; let
every man have a hand in making the laws, and no man be troubled
about keeping them; let not our magistrates wear purple, nor our
judges ermine; if a man grow rich, let us take care that his
grandson be poor, and then we shall all keep equal; let every man
take care of himself, and if England should come to bother us
again, why then we will fight altogether."

Could any thing be better imagined than such a government for a
people so circumstanced? Or is it strange that they are
contented with it? Still less is it strange that those who have
lived in the repose of order, and felt secure that their country
could go on very well, and its business proceed without their
bawling and squalling, scratching and scrambling to help it,
should bless the gods that they are not republicans.

So far all is well. That they should prefer a constitution which
suits them so admirably, to one which would not suit them at all,
is surely no cause of quarrel on our part; nor should it be such
on theirs, if we feel no inclination to exchange the institutions
which have made us what we are, for any other on the face of the

But when a native of Europe visits America, a most extraordinary
species of tyranny is set in action against him; and as far as my
reading and experience have enabled me to judge, it is such as no
other country has ever exercised against strangers.

The Frenchman visits England; he is _abime d'ennui_ at our
stately dinners; shrugs his shoulders at our _corps de ballet_,
and laughs _a gorge deployee_ at our passion for driving, and
our partial affection for roast beef and plum pudding. The
Englishman returns the visit, and the first thing he does on
arriving at Paris, is to hasten to _le Theatre des Varietes_,
that he may see "_Les Anglaises pour rire_," and if among the
crowd of laughters, you hear a note of more cordial mirth than
the rest, seek out the person from whom it proceeds, and you
will find the Englishman.

The Italian comes to our green island, and groans at our climate;
he vows that the air which destroys a statue cannot be wholesome
for man; he sighs for orange trees, and maccaroni, and smiles at
the pretensions of a nation to poetry, while no epics are
chaunted through her streets. Yet we welcome the sensitive
southern with all kindness, listen to his complaints with
interest, cultivate our little orange trees, and teach our
children to lisp Tasso, in the hope of becoming more agreeable.

Yet we are not at all superior to the rest of Europe in our
endurance of censure, nor is this wish to profit by it all
peculiar to the English; we laugh at, and find fault with, our
neighbours quite as freely as they do with us, and they join the
laugh, and adopt our fashions and our customs. These mutual
pleasantries produce no shadow of unkindly feeling; and as long
as the governments are at peace with each other, the individuals
of every nation in Europe make it a matter of pride, as well as
of pleasure, to meet each other frequently, to discuss, compare,
and reason upon their national varieties, and to vote it a mark
of fashion and good taste to imitate each other in all the
external embellishments of life.

The consequence of this is most pleasantly perceptible at the
present time, in every capital of Europe. The long peace has
given time for each to catch from each what was best in customs
and manners, and the rapid advance of refinement and general
information has been the result.

To those who have been accustomed to this state of things, the
contrast upon crossing to the new world is inconceivably
annoying; and it cannot be doubted that this is one great cause
of the general feeling of irksomeness, and fatigue of spirits,
which hangs upon the memory while recalling the hours passed in
American society.

A single word indicative of doubt, that any thing, or every
thing, in that country is not the very best in the world,
produces an effect which must be seen and felt to be understood.
If the citizens of the United States were indeed the devoted
patriots they call themselves, they would surely not thus encrust
themselves in the hard, dry, stubborn persuasion, that they are
the first and best of the human race, that nothing is to be
learnt, but what they are able to teach, and that nothing is
worth having, which they do not possess.

The art of man could hardly discover a more effectual antidote to
improvement, than this persuasion; and yet I never listened to
any public oration, or read any work, professedly addressed to
the country, in which they did not labour to impress it on the
minds of the people.

To hint to the generality of Americans that the silent current of
events may change their beloved government, is not the way to
please them; but in truth they need be tormented with no such
fear. As long as by common consent they can keep down the
pre-eminence which nature has assigned to great powers, as long
as they can prevent human respect and human honour from resting
upon high talent, gracious manners, and exalted station, so long
may they be sure of going on as they are.

I have been told, however, that there are some among them who
would gladly see a change; some, who with the wisdom of
philosophers, and the fair candour of gentlemen, shrink from a
profession of equality which they feel to be untrue, and believe
to be impossible.

I can well believe that such there are, though to me no such
opinions were communicated, and most truly should I rejoice to
see power pass into such hands.

If this ever happens, if refinement once creeps in among them, if
they once learn to cling to the graces, the honours, the chivalry
of life, then we shall say farewell to American equality, and
welcome to European fellowship one of the finest countries on the


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