A RAMBLE OF SIX THOUSAND MILES THROUGH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
BY S. A. FERRALL, ESQ.
[Illustration: _Fac-simile of the first two Paragraphs of the Leading Article in the “CHEROKEE PHOENIX” of July 31, 1830_]
The few sketches contained in this small volume were not originally intended for publication–they were written solely for the amusement of my immediate acquaintances, and were forwarded to Europe in the shape of letters. Subsequent considerations have induced me to publish them; and if they be found to contain remarks on some subjects, which other travellers in America have passed over unnoticed, the end that I have in view will be fully answered.
Although I remained in the seaboard cities sufficiently long to have collected much information; yet knowing that the statistics of those places had been so often and so ably set before the public, I felt no inclination to trouble my friends with their repetition.
In Europe, the name of America is so associated with the idea of emigration, that to announce an intention of crossing the Atlantic, rouses the interfering propensity of friends and acquaintances, and produces such a torrent of queries and remonstrances, as will require a considerable share of moral courage to listen to and resist. All are on the tiptoe of expectation, to hear what the inducements can possibly be for travelling in America. America!! every one exclaims–what can you possibly see there? A country like America–little better than a mere forest–the inhabitants notoriously far behind Europeans in refinement–filled with wild Indians, rattle-snakes, bears, and backwoodsmen; ferocious hogs and ugly negros; and every other species of noxious and terrific animal!
Without, however, any definite scientific object, or indeed any motive much more important than a love of novelty, I determined on visiting America; within whose wide extent all the elements of society, civilized and uncivilized, were to be found–where the great city could be traced to the infant town–where villages dwindle into scattered farms–and these to the log-house of the solitary backwoodsman, and the temporary wig-wam of the wandering Pawnee.
I have refrained nearly altogether from touching on the domestic habits and manners of the Americans, because they have been treated of by Captain Hall and others; and as the Americans always allowed me to act as I thought proper, and even to laugh at such of their habits as I thought singular, I am by no means inclined to take exception to them.
Sail for New York in an American vessel–the crew–ostentation of the Captain–a heavy gale–soundings–icebergs–bay of New York–Negros and Negresses–White Ladies–climate–fires–vagrant pigs–Frances Wright–Match between an Indian canoe and a skiff
Depart for Albany–the Hudson–Albany–Cohoe’s Falls–Rome–the Little Falls–forest of charred trees–“stilly night” in a swamp–fire fly–Rochester–Falls of Gennessee–Sam. Patch–an eccentric character–Falls of Niagara–the Tuscarora Indians–Buffalo–Lake Erie–the Iroquois–the Wyandots–death of Seneca John, and its consequences–ague fever–Wyandot prairie–the Delawares’ mode of dealing with the Indians–the transporting of Negros to Canada
Arrive at Marion–divorces–woodlands–Columbus–land offices–population, &c. Shaking Quakers–kidnapping free Negros–Cincinnati–the farmers of Ohio–a corn-husking frolic–qualifications necessary to Senators, Legislators, and Electors–a camp-meeting–militia officers’ muster–Presbyterian parsons–price of land, cattle, &c.–fever and ague
Set out for New Harmony–the roads–a backwoodsman–the journey–peaches–casualties–travelling–New Harmony–M. Le Seur–barter–excursion down the Wabash–the co-operative community–Robert Owen
Depart for St. Louis–Albion–the late Messrs. Birkbeck and Flowers–Hardgrove’s prairie–the roads–the Grand prairie–prairie wolf–mode of training dogs–Elliott’s inn–inhabitants of Illinois–ablutions–coal–soil and produce–the American Bottom–St Louis–monopolies–Fur companies–incivility of a certain Major–trapping expedition–trade with Santa Fe–lead mines–Carondalot–Jefferson barracks–discipline–visit to a slave-holder–the Ioway hostages–Indian investigation–character of the Indians.
Leave St. Louis–Indian mounds–remains of ancient fortifications–burial caverns–mummies–Flint’s description of a mummy–the languages of America–town making–the Indian summer–population, &c. of Illinois–the prairie hen–the Turkey buzzard–settlers–forest in autumn–a gouging scrape–the country–extent and population of Indiana–hogs–a settler in bottom land–the sugar maple–roads–a baptism
Set out for New Orleans–Louisville–Mississippi steam-boats–the Ohio–the Mississippi–sugar plantations–the valley of the Mississippi–New Orleans–Quadroons–slavery–a Methodist slavite–runaway Negros–incendiary fires at Orleans–liberty of the press–laws passed by the legislature of Louisiana–Miss Wright–public schools–yellow fever–the Texas
Depart for Louisville–tellandsea, or Spanish moss–Natchez–the yellow fever–cotton plantations–Mississippi wood-cutters–freshets–planters, sawyers, and snags–steam-boat blown up–the Chickesaws–hunting in Tennessee–electioneering–vote by ballot–trade on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers–the People–the President’s veto–finances–government banks–Kentucky–the Kentuckians–court-houses–an election–universal suffrage–an Albino–Diluvian reliqua
The political condition of the Indians–Missionaries–the letter of Red-jacket–the speech of the wandering Pawnee chief
“The Workies”–Miss Wright–the opening of the West India ports to American vessels–voyage homeward–the stormy petrel–Gulf weed–the remora–the molusca–quarantine
Following the plan I had laid down for myself, I sought and found a goodly Yankee merchantman, bound for and belonging to the city of New York. Our vessel was manned with a real _American_ crew, that is, a crew, of which scarcely two men are of the same nation–which conveys a tolerably correct notion of the population of the United States. The crew consisted of one Russian, one German, one Italian, one Scotchman, one Newfoundlander, one Irishman, two Englishmen, two New Englanders, and two Negros–the cook and steward. The seamen of America are better paid, and better protected, than those of any other nation; but work harder, and must understand their duty well. Indeed if we had not had a good crew, our ship, being old, might have suffered severely.
In selecting this ship, in addition to accommodations, I only took into account her build; and so far was not disappointed, for when she _could_ carry sail, she scudded along in gallant style; but with ships as with horses, the more they _have done_, the less they have _to do_.
I had a strong impression on my mind that a person travelling in America as a professed tourist, would be unable to form a correct estimate of the real character and condition of the people; for, from their great nationality, they would be likely to show him the best side of every thing. Of this kind of ostentation I very soon had a slight proof. Our ship left port in gallant trim, but had no sooner gained the open sea, than all hands were employed in stowing away the finery, and covering the rigging with mats–even the very cabin doors were taken off the hinges, and brass knobs and other ornaments which appeared to have been fixtures, were unshipped and deposited below, where they remained until our approach to New York, when the finery was again displayed, and all was placed once more _in statu quo_.
For the first twelve days we had rather pleasant weather, and nothing remarkable occurred, unless a swallow coming on board completely exhausted with flying, fatigue made it so tame that it suffered itself to be caressed; it however popped into the coop, and the ducks literally gobbled it up alive. The ducks were, same day, suffered to roam about the decks, and the pigs fell foul of one of them, and eat the breast off it. Passing the cabouse, I heard the negro steward soliloquising, and on looking in, perceived him cutting a hen’s throat with the most heartfelt satisfaction, as he grinned and exclaimed, by way of answer to its screams, “Poor feller! I guess I wouldn’t hurt you for de world;” I could not help thinking with Leibnitz, that most sapient of philosophers, that this is the best of all possible worlds.
On the thirteenth day we encountered a heavy gale, which continued to increase for four successive days. During this period we were unable to carry more canvass than was barely necessary to render the vessel manageable. A heavy gale, for the first time, is rather interesting than otherwise: the novelty of the sea’s appearance–the anxiety of the crew and officers–the promptitude with which commands are given and executed–and the excitement produced by the other incidental occurrences, tend to make even a storm, when encountered in open sea, by no means destitute of pleasing interest. During this gale, the sailors appeared to be more than ordinarily anxious only upon one occasion, and then only for a minute–the circumstance was not calculated to create alarm in the mind of a person totally ignorant of nautical affairs, but being somewhat of a sailor, I understood the danger tolerably well. The helm was struck by a sea, and strained at the bolts; from the concussion occasioned by the blow, it was apprehended for a moment that it had been carried away. Without a helm, in such weather, much was to be feared; for her timbers being old, she could hardly meet the shock of an ocean wave upon her broadside without suffering serious injury. The helmsman was knocked down–the captain and mate jumped aft, to ascertain the extent of the damage; while the sailors scowled along the deck, as they laid their shoulders to the weather side of the ship–all was anxiety for the instant. At length the mate cried, “helm all right,” and the crew pulled away as usual. At the close of the fourth day the storm subsided, and we approached the banks of Newfoundland.
It is generally supposed that the colour of the sea is a sure indication of the presence or absence of soundings; that is, that there are soundings where the water is green, and that there are none where the water is blue. The former is, I believe, true in every instance; but the latter is certainly not so, as the first soundings we got here, were in water as blue as indigo, depth fifty odd fathoms.
We were thirty days crossing these tiresome banks; during which time we were befogged, and becalmed, and annoyed with all sorts of disagreeable weather. The fogs or mists were frequently so dense, that it was impossible to see more than thirty yards from the vessel. This course is not that usually taken by ships bound for the United States, as they generally cross the Atlantic at much lower latitudes, but our captain “calculated” on escaping calms, and avoiding the influence of the Gulf stream, and thus making a quicker passage; he was, however, mistaken, as a packet ship that left Liverpool four days after, arrived at New York sixteen days before us.
We found the thermometer of incalculable service, both for ascertaining when we got into the stream, and for disclosing our dangerous proximity to icebergs. That we had approached near icebergs we discovered one evening to be the case by the mercury falling, suddenly, below 40 deg., in foggy weather. We notwithstanding held on our course, and fortunately escaped accident. Many vessels which depart from port with gallant crews, and are never heard of more, are lost, I am convinced, by fatal collision with these floating islands. From the beginning of spring to the latter end of summer, masses of brash ice are occasionally encountered in these latitudes.
Towards the evening of the fiftieth day we entered the bay of New York: the bay is really beautiful, and at this season (summer) perhaps appeared to the greatest advantage. The numerous islands with which it is interspersed, were covered to the water’s edge with foliage and verdure, and here and there studded with handsome villas. The city appeared to be literally surrounded by a thick grove of masts, from which floated the flags of many nations–the scene, thus gradually unfolding itself to the eyes of one who had been for so long a time immured within a vessel, was really fascinating.
While at New York, I staid at the “Pearl-street Boarding-house,” and experienced from Messrs. Haskell and Perry, the proprietors, the most polite attention. Most Europeans are astonished at the rapidity with which the Americans despatch their meals; but I, having admitted the proposition, that there was “nothing new under the sun,” had long previously ceased to be _astonished_ at any thing. On the first day of my dining at the table d’hote, one of those gentlemen told me, when we sat down to dinner, that most of the persons at table were men of business, who were in the habit of eating much quicker than he knew I was accustomed to, and requested that that might not in the slightest interfere with my habits, but that I should entirely suit my own comfort and convenience. After that preface, I think I should have been most unreasonable to fall into a passion with the New Yorkers, because they _bolted_ instead of masticating.
New York is altogether a trading place, and different from any thing of the same magnitude in Europe: scarcely a single street is exclusively filled with private residences;–in a mercantile point of view, it is the Liverpool of the United States.
The negros and mulattos constitute a considerable portion of the population. It is impossible to imagine the extreme ugliness of some of the sooty gentry; a decent ourang-outang might, without presumption, vie with many of these people, even of the _fair sex_, and an impartial judge should certainly decide that the said ourang-outang was the handsomer animal. Many of them are wealthy, and dress remarkably well. The females, when their shins and misshapen feet are concealed by long gowns, appear to have good figures. A few days after my arrival, walking down “Broadway” (the principal street) I was struck with the figure of a fashionably dressed woman, who was sauntering before me. After passing, I turned round, when–O angels and ministers of ugliness!–I beheld a face, as black as soot–a mouth that reached from ear to ear–a nose, like nothing human–and lips a full inch in diameter! On the following morning, whilst dressing at my bed-room window, I heard a squeaking sort of voice warbling forth, “Love was once a little Boy,” and “I’d be a Butterfly.” The strange _melody_ and unusual intonations induced me to look out, when, to my astonishment, I found that the _fair_ songstress was a most hideous-looking negress! Such are the scenes that constantly present themselves here, and remind a European that he is in a new region.
The white ladies dress fashionably, generally _a la Francoise_; have straight figures, and with the help of a little cotton, judiciously disposed, and sometimes, the smallest possible portion of rouge, contrive to look rather interesting; in general, they are lamentably deficient in _tournure_ and _en-bon-point_. The hands and feet of the greatest belle, are _pas mignon_, and would be termed plebeian by the Anglo-Normans–the aristocracy of England. Yet I have seen many girls extremely handsome indeed, having a delicate bloom and fair skin; but this does not endure long, as the variable nature of the climate–the sudden and violent transitions of temperature which occur on this continent, destroy, in a few years, the complexion of the finest woman. When she arrives at the age of thirty, her skin is shrivelled and discoloured; she is thin, and has all the indications of premature old age. The women of England retain their beauty at least ten years longer than those of America.
The inhabitants of that part of New York nearest the shipping, are extremely sallow and unhealthy looking, and many have a most cadaverous aspect. Malaria certainly exists here in some degree. A man will tell you that the city is perfectly healthy, whilst his own appearance most unquestionably indicates disease. I speak now of the quays and adjacent streets; and the cause is very apparent. The wharfs are faced with wood, and the retiring of the tide exposes a rotten vegetable substance to the action of an almost tropical sun, which, added to the filth that is invariably found in the neighbourhood of shipping, is quite sufficient to produce the degree of unhealthiness that exists. On going up the town, the appearance of the inhabitants gradually improves, and approaching the suburbs, the difference is striking,–in this district I have seen persons as stout and healthy looking as any in England or Ireland.
On the night of my arrival, a fire broke out, by which several extensive warehouses were entirely consumed. There is nothing more remarkable here than the frequent occurrence of this calamity, except the excellent arrangements that are made for arresting its progress. The engines, apparatus, and _corps de pompiers_, are admirably maintained, and the promptitude and regularity with which they arrive at the scene of devastation truly astonishing: indeed, were this not the case, the city must very soon be destroyed; for notwithstanding all their exertions, every conflagration makes it minus several houses, and few nights pass without bringing a misfortune of this nature.
There are several theatres, churches, and other public buildings, dispersed throughout the city. The City Hall, which stands near the upper end of a small enclosure, called the Park, is considered the handsomest building in the United States. It was finished in 1812, and cost half a million dollars.
The police regulations appear not to be so severe as they ought to be, for droves of hogs are permitted to roam about the streets, to the terror of fine ladies, and the great annoyance of all pedestrians.
New York was settled by the Dutch in 1615, and called by them New Amsterdam. In 1634, it was conquered by the English,–retaken by the Dutch in 1673, and restored in 1674. Its present population is estimated at 213,000.
Having heard that the celebrated Frances Wright, authoress of “A Few Days in Athens,” was publicly preaching and promulgating her doctrines in the city, I determined on paying the “Hall of Science” a visit, in which establishment she usually lectured. The address she delivered on the evening I attended had been previously delivered on the fourth of July, in the city of Philadelphia; but, at the request of a numerous party of “Epicureans,” she was induced to repeat it. The hall might contain perhaps ten or twelve hundred persons, and on this occasion it was filled to excess, by a well-dressed audience of both sexes.
The person of Frances Wright is tall and commanding–her features are rather masculine, and the melancholy cast which her countenance ordinarily assumes gives it rather a harsh appearance–her dark chestnut hair hangs in long graceful curls about her neck; and when delivering her lectures, her appearance is romantic and unique.
She is a speaker of great eloquence and ability, both as to the matter of her orations, and the manner of their delivery. The first sentence she utters rivets your attention; and, almost unconsciously, your sympathies are excited, and you are carried onward by the reasonings and the eloquence of this disciple of the Gardens. The impression made on the audience assembled on that occasion was really wonderful. Once or twice, when I could withdraw my attention from the speaker, I regarded the countenances of those around me, and certainly never witnessed any thing more striking. The high-wrought interest depicted in their faces, added to the breathless silence that reigned throughout the building, made the spectacle the most imposing I ever beheld. She was the Cumaean Sibyl delivering oracles and labouring under the inspiration of the God of Day.–This address was chiefly of a political character, and she took care to flatter the prejudices of the Americans, by occasionally recurring to the advantages their country possessed over European states–namely, the absence of country gentlemen, and of a church establishment; for to the absence of these the Americans attribute a large portion of the very great degree of comfort they enjoy.
Near Hoboken, about three miles up North river, at the opposite side to New York, a match took place between a boat rowed by two watermen, and a canoe paddled by two Indians. The boat was long and narrow, similar in form to those that ply on the Thames. The canoe was of the lightest possible construction, being composed of thin hickory ribs covered with bark. In calm weather, the Indians propel these vessels through the water with astonishing velocity; but when the wind is high, and the water much disturbed, their progress is greatly impeded. It so happened on this day that the water was rough, and consequently unfavourable to the Aborigines. At the appointed signal the competitors started. For a short distance the Indians kept up with their rivals, but the long heavy pull of the oar soon enabled the boatmen to leave them at a distance. The Indians, true to their character, seeing the contest hopeless, after the first turn, no longer contended for victory; they paddled deliberately back to the starting place, stepped out, and carried their canoe on shore. The superiority of the oar over the paddle was in this contest fully demonstrated.
Having determined on quitting “the London of the States,” as my friends the Yankees call New York, I had bag and baggage conveyed on board a steamer bound for Albany. The arrangements and accommodations on board this boat were superb, and surpassed any thing of the kind I ever met with in Europe, on the same scale; and the groups of well-dressed passengers fully indicated the general prosperity of the country.
The distance between New York and Albany is about 165 miles. The scenery on the Hudson is said to be the most beautiful of any in America, and I believe cannot be surpassed in any country. Many of the beauties of rich European scenery are to be found along the banks of that noble river. In the highlands, about fifty miles from New York, is West Point, on which stands a strong fortress, containing an arsenal, a military-school, and a garrison. It is romantically situated among lofty crags and mountains, which rise above the level of the water from 1100 to 1500 feet. There are many handsome country seats and villages between West Point and Hudson, where the river is more than a mile wide.
After a passage of about sixteen or seventeen hours, we arrived at Albany. The charge for passage, including dinner and tea, was only three dollars; and the day following the cost was reduced, through the spirit of opposition, to one dollar.
Albany is the legislative capital of New York. It is a handsome city, and one of the oldest in the Union. Most of the houses are built of wood, which, when tastefully painted (not often the case) have rather a pleasing appearance. The situation of this city is advantageous, both from the direct communication which it enjoys with the Atlantic, by means of sloops and schooners, and the large tract of back country which it commands. A trade with Canada is established by means of the Erie and Hudson canal. The capitol, and other public buildings, are large and handsome, and being constructed of either brick or stone, give the city a respectable appearance.
Albany, in 1614, was first settled by the Dutch, and was by them called Orange. On its passing into the hands of the English, in 1664, its present name was given to it, in honour of the Duke of York. It was chartered in 1686.
From Albany I proceeded along the canal, by West Troy and Junction, and near the latter place we came to Cohoe’s Falls, on the Mohawk. The river here is about 250 yards wide, which rushing over a jagged and uneven bed of rocks, produces a very picturesque effect. The canal runs nearly parallel with this river from Junction to Utica, crossing it twice, at an interval of seven miles, over aqueducts nearly fifty rods in length, constructed of solid beams of timber. The country is very beautiful, and for the most part well cultivated. The soil possesses every variety of good and bad. The farms along the canal are valuable, land being generally worth from fifty to a hundred dollars per acre.
Above Schenectady, a very ancient town, the bed of the canal gave way, which of course obliged us to come to a dead halt. I hired, for myself and two others, a family waggon (dignified here with the appellation of _carriage_) to take us beyond the break, in expectation of being able to get a boat thence onwards, but unfortunately all the upward-bound boats had proceeded. We were, therefore, obliged to wait until next morning. My fellow travellers having light luggage, got themselves and it into a hut at the other side of the lock; but I, having heavy baggage, which it was impossible to carry across, was compelled to remain on the banks, between the canal and the Mohawk, all night. On the river there were several canoes, with fishermen spearing by torch-light; while on the banks the boatmen and boys, Mulattos and whites, were occupied in gambling. They had tables, candles, dice, and cards. With these, and with a _quantum sufficit_ of spirits, they contrived to while away the time until day-break; of course interlarding their conversation with a reasonable quantity of oaths and imprecations. The breach being repaired early in the morning, the boats came up, and we proceeded to Utica.
Seven miles above Utica is seated Rome, a small and dirty town, bearing no possible resemblance to the “Eternal City,” even in its more modern condition, as the residence of the “Triple Prince;” but, on the contrary, having, if one could judge from the habitations, every appearance of squalid poverty. Fifteen miles further on, we passed the Little Falls. It was night when we came to them, but it being moonlight, we had an opportunity of seeing them to advantage. The crags are here stupendous–irregular and massive piles of rocks, from which spring the lofty pine and cedar, are heaped in frightful disorder on each other, and give the scene a terrifically grand appearance.
From Rome to Syracuse, a distance of forty-six miles, the canal is cut through a swampy forest, a great portion of which is composed of dead trees. One of the most dismal scenes imaginable is a forest of charred trees, which is occasionally to be met with in this country, especially in the route by which I was travelling. It is caused by the woods being fired, by accident or otherwise. The aspect of these blasted monuments of ruined vegetation is strange and peculiar; and the air of desertion and desolation which pervades their neighbourhood, reminds one of the stories that are told of the Upas valley of Java, for here too not a bird is to be seen. The smell arising from this swamp in the night, was so bad as to oblige us to shut all the windows and doors of the boat, which, added to the bellowing and croaking of the bull frogs–the harsh and incessant noise of the grasshoppers, and the melancholy cry of the whip-poor-will, formed a combination not of the most agreeable nature. Yet, in defiance of all this, we were induced occasionally to brave the terrors of the night, in order to admire that beautiful insect the fire-fly, or as it is called by the natives, “lightning bug.” They emit a greenish phosphorescent light, and are seen at this season in every part of the country. The woods here were full of them, and seemed literally to be studded with small stars, which emitted a bright flickering light.
After you pass Syracuse, the country begins to improve; but still it is low and marshy, and for the most part unhealthy, as the appearance of the people clearly indicates. In this country, as in every other, the canals are generally cut through comparatively low lands, and the low lands here, with few exceptions, are all swampy; however, a great deal of the unhealthiness which pervades this district, arises from want of attention. A large portion of the inhabitants are Low Dutch, who appear never to be in their proper element, unless when settled down in the midst of a swamp. They allow rotten timber to accumulate, and stagnant pools to remain about their houses, and from these there arises an effluvium which is most unpleasant in warm weather, which, however, they do not seem to perceive.
We entered Rochester, through an aqueduct thirty rods in length, built of stone, across the Genessee river. Rochester is the handsomest town on this line. Some of the houses here are tastefully decorated. All the windows have Venetian blinds, and generally there are one or two covered balconies attached to the front of each house. Before the doors there are small _parterres_, planted with rose-trees, and other fragrant shrubs. About half a mile from the town are the Falls of Genessee. The water glides over an even bed of limestone rock, ninety-six feet above the level of the river below. There is a beautiful regularity in this fall, but its extreme uniformity divests it of picturesque effect. Here the celebrated diver, Sam. Patch, subsequently met his fate in diving off this precipice. He had performed similar feats at the Falls of Niagara, without sustaining any injury. He was not killed by the fall; but is supposed to have fainted when midway from, his leap, as his arms were observed to relax, and his legs to open, before he reached the water.
On my journey I met with an Englishman, a Mr. W—-. He dressed _a la Mungo Park_, wearing a jacket and trowsers of jean, and a straw hat. He was a great pedestrian; had travelled through most of the southern States, and was now on his tour through this part of the country. He was a gentleman about fifty,–silent and retiring in his habits. Enamoured of the orange-trees of Georgia, he intended returning there or to Carolina, and ending his days. We agreed to visit the Falls of Niagara together, and accordingly quitted the boat at Tonawanta. When we had dined, and had deposited our luggage in the safe keeping of the Niagara hotel-keeper, my companion shouldered his vigne stick, and to one end of which he appended a small bundle, containing a change of linen, &c., and I put on my shooting coat of many pockets, and shouldered my gun. Thus equipped, we commenced our journey to the Great Falls. The distance from Tonawanta to the village of the Falls, now called Manchester, is about eleven miles. The way lies through a forest, in which there are but a few scattered habitations. A great part of the road runs close to the river Niagara; and the occasional glimpses of this broad sheet of water, which are obtained through the rich foliage of the forest, added to the refreshing breeze that approached us through the openings, rendered our pedestrian excursion extremely delightful.
Towards evening we arrived at the village, and proceeded to reconnoitre, in order to fix our position for the night. After having done this satisfactorily, we then turned our attention to the all-important operation of eating and drinking. While supping, an eccentric-looking person passed out through the apartment in which we were. His odd appearance excited our curiosity, and we inquired who this mysterious-looking gentleman was. We were informed that he was an Englishman, and that he had been lodging there for the last six months, but that he concealed his real name. He slept in one corner of a large barrack room, in which there were of course several other beds. On a small table by his bed-side there were a few French and Latin books, and some scraps of poetry touching on the tender passion. These, and a German flute, which we observed standing against the window, gave us some clue to his character. He was a tall, romantic-looking young man, apparently about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years of age. His dress was particularly shabby. This the landlord told us was from choice, not from necessity, as he had two trunks full of clothes nearly new. The reason he gave for dressing as he did, was his knowing, he said, that if he dressed well, people would be talking to him, which he wished to avoid; but, that by dressing as he did, he made sure that no one would ever think of giving him any annoyance of that kind. I thought this idea unique: and whether he be still at Niagara, or has taken up his abode at the foot of the Rocky mountains, I pronounce him to be a Diogenes without a tub. He has read at least one page in the natural history of civilized man.
We visited the Falls, at the American side by moonlight. There was then an air of grandeur and sublimity in the scene which I shall long remember. Yet at this side they are not seen to the greatest advantage. Next morning I crossed the Niagara river, below the Falls, into Canada. I did not ascend the bank to take the usual route to the Niagara hotel, at which place there is a spiral staircase descending 120 feet towards the foot of the Falls, but clambered along at the base of the cliffs until I reached the point immediately below the stairs. I here rested, and indeed required it much, for the day was excessively warm, and I had unfortunately encumbered myself with my gun and shot pouch. The Falls are here seen in all their grandeur. Two immense volumes of water glide over perpendicular precipices upwards of 170 feet in height, and tumble among the crags below with a roaring that _we_ distinctly heard on our approach to the village, at the distance of five miles up the river: and down the river it can be heard at a much greater distance. The Falls are divided by Goat Island into two parts. The body of water which falls to the right of the island is much greater than that which falls to the left; and the cliffs to the right assume the form of a horse-shoe. To the left there is also a considerable indentation, caused by a late falling in of the rock; but it scarcely appears from the Canadian side. The rushing of the waters over such immense precipices–the dashing of the spray, which rises in a white cloud at the base of the Falls, and is felt at the distance of a quarter of a mile–the many and beautiful rainbows that occasionally appear,–united, form a grand and imposing _coup d’oeil_.
The Fall is supposed to have been originally at the table-land near Lewiston; and indeed, from the nature of the ground, and its present condition below the Falls, no reasonable objection can be entertained to that supposition. The upper part of the cliffs is composed of hard limestone, and underneath is a bed of schistus. Now this schistus is continually worn away by the water’s dashing against it. This leaves the upper part, or immediate bed of the river, without foundation. When, therefore, from extraordinary floods, the pressure of the incumbent fluid becomes more than usually great, the rock gives way; and thus, gradually, the Falls have receded several miles.
I at length ascended the stairs, and popped my head into the shanty, _sans ceremonie_, to the no small amazement of the cunning compounder of “cock-tails,” and “mint julaps” who presided at the bar. It was clear that I had ascended the stairs, but how the deuce I had got down was the question. I drank my “brandy sling,” and retreated before he had recovered from his surprise, and thus I escaped the volley of interrogatories with which I should have been most unsparingly assailed. I walked for some distance along the Canadian heights, and then crossed the river, where I met my friend waiting my return under a clump of scrub oak.
We had previously determined on visiting the Tuscarora village, an Indian settlement about eight miles down the river, and not far from Ontario. This is a tribe of one of the six nations, the last that was admitted into the Confederation. They live in a state of community; and in their arrangements for the production and distribution of wealth, approach nearer to the Utopean system than any community with which I am acquainted. The squaws told us that no Indian there could claim any thing but what was contained within his own cabin; that the produce of the land was common property, and that they never quarrelled about its division. We dined in one of their cabins, on lean mutton and corn bread. The interior of their habitations is not conspicuous for cleanliness; nor are they so far civilized as to be capable of breaking their word. The people at the Niagara village told us, that with the exception of two individuals in that community, any Indian could get from them on credit either money or goods to whatever amount he required.
I here parted with my fellow traveller, perhaps for ever. He went to Lewiston, whence he intended to cross into Canada, and to walk along the shores of Ontario; whilst I made the best of my way back through the woods to Manchester. I certainly think our landlord had some misgivings respecting the fate of my companion. We had both departed together: I alone was armed–and I alone returned. However, as I unflinchingly stood examination and cross-examination, and sojourned until next morning, his fears seemed to be entirely dispelled. Next day I took a long, last look at Niagara, and departed for Tonawanta.
At Tonawanta I again took the canal-boat to Buffalo, a considerable town on the shores of lake Erie, and at the head of the canal navigation. There are several good buildings in this town, and some well-appointed hotels. Lake schooners, and steam and canal boats are here in abundance, it being an entrepot for western produce and eastern merchandize. A few straggling Indians are to be seen skulking about Buffalo, like dogs in Cairo, the victims of the inordinate use of ardent spirits.
From Buffalo I proceeded in a steamer along lake Erie, to Portland in Ohio, now called Sandusky City; the distance 240 miles. After about an hour’s sail, we entirely lost sight of the Canadian shores. The scenery on the American side is very fine, particularly from Presqu’ Isle onward to the head of the lake, or rather from its magnitude, it might be termed an inland sea.
On landing at Sandusky, I learned that there were several Indian reserves between that place and Columbus, the seat of government. This determined me on making a pedestrian tour to that city. Accordingly, having forwarded my luggage, and made other necessary arrangements, I commenced my pergrinations among the Aborigines.
The woods in the upper part of Ohio, nearest the lake, are tolerably open, and occasionally interspersed with sumach and sassafras: the soil somewhat sandy. I met with but few Indians, until my arrival at Lower Sandusky, on the Sandusky river; here there were several groups returning to their reserves, from Canada, where they had been to receive the annual presents made them by the British government. In the next county (Seneca) there is a reservation of about three miles square, occupied by Senecas, Cayugas, and part of the Iroquois or six nations, once a most powerful confederation amongst the red men. In Crawford county there is a very large reserve belonging to the Huron or Wyandot Indians. These, though speaking a dialect of the Iroquois tongue, are more in connexion with the Delawares than with the Iroquois. The Wyandots are much esteemed by their white neighbours, for probity and good behaviour. They dress very tastefully. A handsome chintz shawl tied in the Moorish fashion about the head–leggings of blue cloth, reaching half way up the thigh, sewn at the outside, leaving a hem of about an inch deep–mocassins, or Indian boots, made of deer-skin, to fit the foot close, like a glove–a shirt or tunic of white calico–and a hunting shirt, or frock, made of strong blue-figured cotton or woollen cloth, with a small fringed cape, and long sleeves,–a tomahawk and scalping knife stuck in a broad leather belt. Accoutred in this manner, and mounted on a small hardy horse, called here an Indian pony, imagine a tall, athletic, brown man, with black hair and eyes–the hair generally plaited in front, and sometimes hanging in long wavy curls behind–aquiline nose, and fearless aspect, and you have a fair idea of the Wyandot and Cayuga Indian. The Senecas and Oneidas whom I met with, were not so handsome in general, but as athletic, and about the same average height–five feet nine or ten.
The Indians here, as every where else, are governed by their own laws, and never have recourse to the whites to settle their disputes. That silent unbending spirit, which has always characterized the Indian, has alone kept in check the rapacious disposition of the whites. Several attempts have been made to induce the Indians to sell their lands, and go beyond the Mississippi, but hitherto without effect. The Indian replies to the fine speeches and wily language of the whites, “We hold this small bit of land, in the vast country of our fathers, by _your_ written talk, and it is noted on _our_ wampums–the bones of our fathers lie here, and we cannot forsake them. You tell us our great father (the president) is powerful, and that his arm is long and strong–we believe it is so; but we are in hopes that he will not strike his red children for their lands, and that he will leave us this little piece to live upon–the hatchet is long buried, let it not be disturbed.”
Jackson has lately published a manifesto to all the Indian tribes within the limits of the United States, commanding them to sell their reserves; and with few exceptions, has been answered in this manner.
A circumstance occurred a few days previous to my arrival, in the Seneca reserve, which may serve to illustrate the determined character of the Indian. There were three brothers (chiefs) dwelling in this reservation. “Seneca John,” the eldest brother, was the principal chief of the tribe, and a man much esteemed by the white people. He died by poison. The chiefs in council, having satisfactorily ascertained that his second brother “Red-hand,” and a squaw, had poisoned him, decreed that Red-hand should be put to death. “Black-snake,” the other brother, told the chiefs that if Red-hand must die, he himself would kill him, in order to prevent feuds arising in the tribe. Accordingly in the evening he repaired to the hut of Red-hand, and after having sat in silence for some time, said, “My best chiefs say, you have killed my father’s son,–they say my brother must die.” Red-hand merely replied, “They say so;” and continued to smoke. After about fifteen minutes further silence, Black-snake said, pointing to the setting sun, “When he appears above those trees”–moving his arm round to the opposite direction–“I come to kill you.” Red-hand nodded his head in the short significant style of the Indian, and said “Good.” The next morning Black-snake came, followed by two chiefs, and having entered the hut, first put out the squaw, he then returned and stood before his brother, his eyes bent on the ground. Red-hand said calmly, “Has my brother come that I may die?”–“It is so,” was the reply. “Then,” exclaimed Red-hand, grasping his brother’s left hand with his own right, and dashing the shawl from his head, “Strike sure!” In an instant the tomahawk was from the girdle of Black-snake, and buried in the skull of the unfortunate man. He received several blows before he fell, uttering the exclamation “hugh,” each time. The Indians placed him on the grass to die, where the backwoodsman who told me the story, saw him after the lapse of two hours, and life was not then extinct,–with such tenacity does it cling to the body of an Indian. The scalping knife was at length passed across his throat, and thus ended the scene.
From Sandusky city, in Huron county, I passed into Sandusky county, and from thence through Seneca county. These three counties are entirely woodlands, with the exception of a few small prairies which lay eastward of my course. The land is generally fertile. Some light sandy soil is occasionally to be met with, which produces more quickly than the heavier soil, but not so abundantly. I saw in my travels through these counties a few persons who were ill of ague-fever, as it is here called. The prevalence of this disease is not to be attributed to a general unhealthiness of the climate, but can at all times be referred to localities.
I next entered Crawford county, and crossed the Wyandot prairie, about seven miles in length, to Upper Sandusky. This was the first of those extensive meadows I had seen, and I was much pleased with its appearance–although this prairie is comparatively but small, yet its beauty cannot be surpassed; and the groves, and clusters of trees, _iles de bois_, with which it is interspersed, make it much resemble a beautiful domain.
Attached to the Wyandot reserve (nine miles by sixteen) is that of the Delawares (three miles square). On reaching Little Sandusky–Kahama’s curse on the town baptizers of America!–there are often five or six places named alike in one state: upper and lower, little and big, great and small–and invariably the same names that are given to towns in one State, are to be found in every other. Then their vile plagiarisms of European names causes a Babelonish confusion of ideas, enough to disturb the equanimity of a “grisly saint;” and, with all humility, I disclaim having any pretensions to that character. I have frequently heard a long-legged, sallow-looking backwoodsman talk of having come lately from Paris, or Mecca, when instead of meaning the capital of _La grande nation_, or the city of “the holy prophet,” he spoke of some town containing a few hundred inhabitants, situated in the backwoods of Kentucky, or amidst the gloomy forests of Indiana. The Americans too speak in prospective, when they talk of great places; no doubt “calculating” that, one day, all the mighty productions of the old world will be surpassed by their ingenuity and perseverance.
I reached Little Sandusky about one o’clock in the day, and there learned that there was a treaty being holden with the Delawares–accordingly I repaired to the council ground. On a mat, under the shade of seven large elm trees, which in more prosperous times had waved over the war-like ancestors of this unfortunate people, were seated three old sachems, the principal of the tribe. The oldest appeared to be nearly eighty years of age, the next about seventy, and the last about fifty. On a chair to the right of the Indians was seated a young “half-breed” chief, the son of one of the sachems by a white squaw; and on their left, seated on another chair, a Delaware dressed in the costume of the whites. This young man was in the pay of the States, and acted as interpreter–he interpreting into and from the Delaware language, and a gentleman of the mission (a Captain Walker) into and from the Wyandot. At a table opposite the Indians were seated the commissioners.
The Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, as they were called by the English, from the circumstance of their holding their great “Council-fire” on the banks of the Delaware river, were once the most powerful of the several tribes that spoke the Delaware tongue, and possessed an immense tract of country east of the Alleghany mountains. This unfortunate people had been driven from place to place, until at last they were obliged to accept of an asylum from the Wyandot, whom they call their uncle; and now are forced to sell this, and go beyond the Mississippi. To a reflecting mind, the scene was touching beyond description. Here was the sad remnant of a great nation, who having been forced back from the original country of their fathers, by successive acts of rapacity, are now compelled to enter into a compact which obliges them, half civilized as they are, to return to the forest. The case is this,–the white people, or rather Jackson and the southerns, say, that the Indians “retard improvement”–precisely in the same sense that a brigand, when he robs a traveller, might say, that the traveller retarded improvement–that is, retarded _his_ improvement, inasmuch as he had in his pocket, what would improve the condition of the brigand. The Indians have cultivated farms, and valuable tracts of land, and no doubt it will improve the condition of the whites, to get possession of those farms and rich lands, for _one tenth of their saleable value_. The profits that have accrued to the United States from the systematic plunder of the Indians, are immense, and a great portion of the national debt has been liquidated by this dishonest means.
The reserve of the Delawares contained nine square miles, or 5760 acres. For this it was agreed at the treaty, that they should be paid 6000 dollars, and the value of the improvements, which I conceived to be a fair bargain. I was not then aware of the practice pursued by the government, of making deductions, under various pretences, from the purchase-money, until the unfortunate Indian is left scarcely anything in lieu of his lands, and says, that “the justice of the white man is not like the justice of the red man,” and that he cannot understand the honesty of his Christian brother. The following extract, taken from the New York American, will give some insight into the mode of dealing with the Indians.
“_The last of the Ottowas_.–Maumee Bay, Ohio, Sept. 3, 1831.–Mr. James B. Gardiner has concluded a very important treaty at Maumee Bay, in Michigan, for a cession of all the lands owned by the Ottowa Indians in Ohio, about 50,000 acres. It was attended with more labour and greater difficulties than any other treaty made in this state: it was the last foothold which that savage, warlike, and hostile tribe held in their ancient dominion. The conditions of this treaty are very similar to those treaties of Lewistown and Wapaghkenetta, _with this exception_, that the surplus avails of their lands, _after deducting seventy cents per acre to indemnify the government_, are to be appropriated for paying the debts of their nation, which amount to about 20,000 dollars.” [Query, what are those debts?–could they be the amount of _presents_ made them on former occasions?] “The balance, _if any_, accrues to the tribe. Seventy thousand acres of land are granted to them west of the Mississippi. The Ottowas are the most depredating, drunken, and ferocious in Ohio. The reservations ceded by them are very valuable, and those on the Miami of the lake embrace some of the best mill privileges in the State.”
The Delawares were too few (being but fifty-one in number) to contend the matter, and therefore accepted of the proposed terms. At the conclusion of the conference, the Commissioners told them that they should have a barrel of flour, with the beef that had been killed for the occasion, which was received with “Yo-ha!–Yo-ha!” They then said, laughing, “that they hoped their father would allow them a little milk,” meaning whisky, which was accordingly granted. They drank of this modern Lethe and forgot for a time their misfortunes.
On the Osage fork of the Merrimack river, there are two settlements of the Delawares, to the neighbourhood of which these Indians intend to remove.
Near the Delaware reserve, I fell in with a young Indian, apparently about twenty years of age, and we journeyed together for several miles through the forest. He spoke English fluently, and conformed as far as his taste would permit him, to the habits of the whites. His dress consisted of a blue frock coat, blue cloth leggings, moccasins, a shawl tied about the head, and a red sash round his waste. In conversation, I asked him if he were not a Cayuga–: “No,” says he, “an Oneida,” placing both his hands on his breast–“a _clear_ Oneida.” I could not help smiling at his national pride;–yet this is man: in every country and condition he is proud of his descent, and loves the race to which he belongs. This Oneida was a widow’s son. He had sixteen acres of cleared land, which, with occasional assistance, he cultivated himself. When the produce was sold, he divided the proceeds with his mother, and then set out, and travelled until his funds were exhausted. He had just then returned from a tour to New York and Philadelphia, and had visited almost every city in the Union. As Guedeldk–that was the Oneida’s name–and I were rambling along, we met a negro who was journeying in great haste–he stopped to inquire if we had seen that day, or the day previous, any nigger-woman going towards the lake. I had passed the day before two waggon loads of negros, which were being transported, by the state, to Canada. A local law prohibits the settlement of people of colour within the state of Ohio, which was now put in force, although it had remained dormant for many years.
There was much hardship in the case of this poor fellow. He had left his family at Cincinnati, and had gone to work on the canal some eighteen or twenty miles distant. He had been absent about a week; and on his return he found his house empty, and was informed that his wife and children had been seized, and transported to Canada. The enforcement of this law has been since abandoned; and I must say, although the law itself is at variance with the Constitution of the United States, which is paramount to all other laws, that its abandonment is due entirely to the good feeling of the people of Ohio, who exclaimed loudly against the cruelty of the measure.
 De Witt Clinton, speaking of the Iroquois, or five nations, says, “Their exterior relations, general interests, and national affairs, were conducted and superintended by a great council, assembled annually in Onondaga, the central canton, composed of the chiefs of each republic; and eighty sachems were frequently convened at this national assembly. It took cognizance of the great questions of war and peace; of the affairs of the tributary nations, and their negotiations with the French and English colonies. All their proceedings were conducted with great deliberation, and were distinguished for order, decorum, and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and in all the characteristics of profound policy, they surpassed the assembly of feudal barons, and perhaps were not inferior to the great Amphictyonic Council of Greece.”
Amount of lands sold up to the year 1824 44,229,837
173,176,606 acres unsold, estimated at one dollar per acre. The Congress price was
then two dollars, but was subsequently reduced to a dollar and a quarter, and
is now 75 cents. 173,176,606 ———–
Deduct value of annuities, expenses of surveying, &c. &c., being the amount of purchase-money paid for same 4,243,632 ———–
Profit arising to the United States from purchases of land from the Indians 213,162,811 ———–
Allowing 480 cents, to the pound sterling, the gross profit is L44,408,918. 19_s_. 2_d_.
 There are lands west of the Mississippi, which would be dear at ten cents per hundred acres.
From Little Sandusky, I passed through Marion, in Marion county. This town, like most others in Ohio, is advancing rapidly, and has at present several good brick buildings. The clap-boarded frame houses, which compose the great mass of habitations in the towns throughout the western country, in general have a neat appearance. I here saw gazetted three divorces, all of which had been granted on the applications of the wives. One, on the ground of the husband’s absenting himself for one year: another, on account of a blow having been given: and the third for general neglect. There are few instances of a woman’s being refused a divorce in the western country, as dislike is very generally–and very rationally–supposed to constitute a sufficient reason for granting the ladies their freedom.
I crossed Delaware county into Franklin county, where Columbus, the capital of the state, is situated. The roads from the lake to this city, with few exceptions, passed through woodlands, and the country is but thinly settled. Beech, oak, elm, hickory, walnut, white-oak, ash, &c. compose the bulk of the forest trees; and in the bottom lands, enormous sycamores are to be seen stretching their white arms almost to the very clouds. The land is of various denominations, but in general may be termed fertile.
Columbus, the capital of Ohio, is seated on the Scioto river, which is navigable for keel and flat boats, and small craft, almost to its source; and by means of a portage of about four miles, to Sandusky river, which flows into lake Erie, a convenient communication is established between the lakes, and the great western waters. The town is well laid out. The streets are wide; and the court-house, town-hall, and public offices, are built of brick. There are some good taverns here, and the tables d’hotes are well and abundantly supplied.
There are land offices in every county seat, in which maps and plans of the county are kept. On these, the disposable tracts of country are distinguished from those which have been disposed of. The purchaser pays one fourth of the purchase money, for which he gets a receipt,–this constitutes his title, until, on paying the residue, he receives a regular title deed. He may however pay the full amount at once, and receive a discount of, I believe, eight per cent. A township comprises thirty-six square miles (twenty three thousand and forty acres) in sections of six hundred and forty acres each, which are subdivided, to accommodate purchasers, into quarter sections, or lots of a hundred and sixty acres. The sixteenth section is not sold, but reserved for the support of the poor, for education, and other public uses. There is no provision made in this, or any other state, for the ministers of religion, which is found to be highly beneficial to the interests of practical Christianity. The congress price of land has lately been reduced from a dollar and a quarter per acre, to seventy-five cents.
Ohio averages 184 miles in extent, from north to south, and 220 miles from east to west. Area, 40,000 square miles, or 25,600,000 acres. The population in 1790, was 3000; in 1800, 45,365; in 1810, 230,760; and in 1820, 581,434. White males, 300,609; white females, 275,955; free people of colour, 4723; militia in 1821, 83,247. The last census, taken in 1830, makes the population 937,679.
Having no more Indian reserves to visit, I took the stage, and rumbled over corduroys, republicans, stumps, and ruts, until my ribs were literally sore, through London, Xenia, and Lebanon, to Cincinnati.
At Lebanon there is a large community of the shaking Quakers. They have establishments also in Mason county, and at Covington, in Kentucky: their tenets are strictly Scriptural. They contend, that confessing their sins to one another, is necessary to a state of perfection; that the church of Christ ought to have all things in common; that none of the members of this church ought to cohabit, but be literally virgins; and that to dance and be merry is their duty, which part of their doctrines they take from the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah.
Their ceremonies are as follows:–The men sit on the left hand, squatting on the floor, with their knees up, and their hands clasped round them. Opposite, in the same posture, sit the women, whose appearance is most cadaverous and sepulchral, dressed in the Quaker costume. After sitting for some time in this hatching position, they all rise and sing a canting sort of hymn, during which the women keep time by elevating themselves on their toes. After the singing has ceased, a discourse is delivered by one of the elders; which being ended, the men pull off their coats and waistcoats. All being prepared, one of the brethren steps forward to the centre of the room, and in a loud voice, gives out a tune, beating time with his foot, and singing _lal lal la, lal lal la_, &c., being joined by the whole group, all jumping as high as possible, clapping their hands, and at intervals twirling round,–but making rather ungraceful _pirouettes_: this exercise they continue until they are completely exhausted. In their ceremonials they much resemble the howling Dervishes of the Moslems, whom they far surpass in fanaticism.
Within about ten miles of Cincinnati we took up an old doctor, who was going to that city for the purpose of procuring a warrant against one of his neighbours, who, he had reason to believe, was concerned in the kidnapping of a free negro the night before. This is by no means an uncommon occurrence in the free states bordering the great rivers. The unfortunate black man, when captured, is hurried down to the river, thrust into a flat boat, and carried to the plantations. Such negros are not exposed for sale in the public bazaars, as that would be attended with risk; but a false bill of sale is made out, and the sale is effected to some planter before they reach Orleans. There is, of course, always collusion between the buyer and seller, and the man is disposed of, generally, for half his value.
These are certainly atrocious acts; yet when a British subject reads such passages as the following, in the histories of East India government, he must feel that if they were ten times as infamous and numerous as they are in reality, it becomes not _him_ to censure them. Bolts, who was a judge of the mayor’s court of Calcutta, says, in his “Considerations on India Affairs,” page 194, “With every species of monopoly, therefore, every kind of oppression to manufacturers of all denominations throughout the whole country has daily increased; insomuch that weavers, for daring to sell their goods, and Dallals and Pykars, for having contributed to, or connived at, such sales, have by the _Company’s agents,_ been frequently seized and imprisoned, confined in irons, fined considerable sums of money, flogged, and deprived, in the most ignominious manner, of what they esteem most valuable, their castes. Weavers also, upon their inability to perform such agreements as have been _forced from them by the Company’s agents_, universally known in Bengal by the name of _Mutchulcahs_, have had their goods seized and sold on the spot, to make good the deficiency: and the winders of raw silk, called _Nagaards_, have been treated also with such injustice, that instances have been known of their cutting off their thumbs, to prevent their being forced to wind silk. This last kind of workmen were pursued with such rigour, during Lord Clive’s late government in Bengal, from a zeal for _increasing the Company’s investment_ of raw silk, that the most sacred laws of society were atrociously violated; for it was _a common thing for the Company’s scapoys_ to be sent by force of arms to break open the houses of the Armenian merchants established at Sydabad (who have from time immemorial been largely concerned in the silk trade), and forcibly take the _Nagaards_ from their work, and carry them away to the English factory.”
As we approached Cincinnati the number of farms, and the extent of cultivated country, indicated the comparative magnitude of that city. Fields in this country have nothing like the rich appearance of those in England and Ireland, being generally filled with half-rotten stumps, scattered here and there among the growing corn, producing a most disagreeable effect. Then, instead of the fragrant quickset hedge, there is a “worm fence”–the rudest description of barrier known in the country–which consists simply of bars, about eight or nine feet in length, laid zig-zag on each other alternately: the improvement on this, and the _ne plus ultra_ in the idea of a west country farmer, is what is termed a “post and rail fence.” This denomination of fence is to be seen sometimes in the vicinity of the larger towns, and is constructed of posts six feet in length, sunk in the ground to the depth of about a foot, and at eight or ten feet distance; the rails are then laid into mortises cut into the posts, at intervals of about thirteen or fourteen inches, which completes the work.
Cincinnati is built on a bend of the Ohio river, which takes here a semicircular form, and runs nearly west; it afterwards flows in a more southerly direction. A complete chain of hills, sweeping from one point of the bend round to the other, encloses the city in a sort of amphitheatre. The houses are mostly brick, and the streets all paved. There are several spacious and handsome market houses, which on market days are stocked with all kinds of provisions–indeed I think the market of Cincinnati is very nearly the best supplied in the United States. There are many respectable public buildings here, such as a court-house, theatre, bazaar, (built by Mrs. Trollope, but the speculation failed), and divers churches, in which you may see well-dressed women, and hear orthodox, heterodox, and every other species of doctrine, promulgated and enforced by strength of lungs, and length of argument, with pulpit-drum accompaniment, and all other requisites _ad captandum vulgus_.
The city stands on two plains: one called the bottom, extends about 260 yards back from the river, and is three miles in length, from Deer Creek to Mill Creek; the other is fifty feet higher than the first, and is called the Hill; this extends back about a mile. The bottom is sixty-five feet above low water mark. In 1815 the population was estimated at 6000, and at present it is supposed to be upwards of 25,000 souls. By means of the Dayton canal, which runs from that town nearly parallel with the “Big Miami” river, a very extensive trade, for all kinds of produce, is established with the back country. Steamers are constantly arriving at, and departing from the wharf, on their passage up and down the river. This is one of the many examples to be met with in the western country, of towns springing into importance within the memory of comparatively young men–a log-house is still standing, which is shewn as the first habitation built by the backwoodsman, who squatted in the forest where now stands a handsome and flourishing city.
On arriving at Cincinnati, I learned that my friend T—- had taken up his abode at a farm-house a few miles from town, where I accordingly repaired, and found him in good health, and initiated into all the manners, habits, customs, and diversions of the natives. Farming people in Ohio work hard. The women have no sinecures, being occupied the greater part of the day in cooking; as they breakfast at eight, dine at half-past twelve, and sup at six, and at each of these meals, meat, and other cooked dishes are served up. In farming they co-operate with each other. When a farmer wishes to have his corn husked, he rides round to his neighbours and informs them of his intention. An invitation of this kind was once given in my presence. The farmer entered the house, sat down, and after the customary compliments were passed, in the usual laconic style, the following dialogue took place. “I guess I’ll husk my corn to-morrow afternoon.”–“You’ve a mighty heap this year.”–“Considerable of corn.” The host at length said, “Well, I guess we’ll be along”–and the matter was arranged. All these gatherings are under the denomination of “frolics”–such as “corn-husking frolic,” “apple-cutting frolic,” “quilting frolic,” &c.
Being somewhat curious in respect to national amusements, I attended a “corn-husking frolic” in the neighbourhood of Cincinnati. The corn was heaped up into a sort of hillock close by the granary, on which the young “Ohiohians” and “buck-eyes”–the lasses of Ohio are called “buck-eyes”–seated themselves in pairs; while the old wives, and old farmers were posted around, doing little, but talking much. Now the laws of “corn-husking frolics” ordain, that for each red ear that a youth finds, he is entitled to exact a kiss from his partner. There were two or three young Irishmen in the group, and I could observe the rogues kissing half-a-dozen times on the same red ears. Each of them laid a red-ear close by him, and after every two or three he’d husk, up he’d hold the redoubtable red-ear to the astonished eyes of the giggling lass who sate beside him, and most unrelentingly inflict the penalty. The “gude wives” marvelled much at the unprecedented number of red-ears which that lot of corn contained: by-and-by, they thought it “a kind of curious” that the Irishmen should find so many of them–at length, the cheat was discovered, amidst roars of laughter. The old farmers said the lads were “wide awake,” and the “buck-eyes” declared that there was no being up to the plaguy Irishmen “no how,” for they were always sure to have every thing their own way. But the mischief of it was, the young Americans took the hint, and the poor “buck-eyes” got nothing like fair play for the remainder of that evening. All agreed that there was more laughing, and more kissing done at that, than had been known at any corn-husking frolic since “the Declaration.”
The farmers of Ohio are a class of people about equivalent to our second and third rate farmer, inasmuch as they work themselves, but possessing infinitely more independence in their character and deportment. Every white male, who is a citizen of the United States, and has resided one year in the state, and paid taxes, has a vote. The members of the legislature are elected annually, and those of the senate biennially; half of the members of the latter branch vacating their seats every year. The representatives, in addition to the qualifications necessary to the elector, must be twenty-five years of age; and the senators must have resided in the state two years, and must be thirty years of age. The governor must be thirty years of age, an inhabitant of the state four years, and a citizen of the United States twelve years,–he is eligible only for six years in eight.
Notwithstanding the numerous religious sects that are to be found in this country, there is nothing like sectarian animosity prevailing. This is to be attributed to the ministers of religion being paid as they deserve, and no one class of people being taxed to support the religious tenets of another.
The farmers of this state are by no means religious, in a doctrinal sense; on the contrary, they appear indifferent on matters of this nature. The girls _sometimes_ go to church, which here, as in all Christian countries, is equivalent to the bazaars of Smyrna and Bagdad; and as the girls go, their “dads” must pay the parson. The Methodists are very zealous, and have frequent “revivals” and “camp-meetings.” I was at two of the latter assemblages, one in Kentucky, and the other in Ohio. I shall endeavour to convey some idea of this extraordinary species of religious festival.
To the right of Cheriot, which lies in a westerly direction, about ten miles from Cincinnati, under the shade of tall oak and elm trees, the camp was pitched in a quadrangular form. Three sides were occupied by tents for the congregation, and the fourth by booths for the preachers. A little in advance before the booths was erected a platform for the performing preacher, and at the foot of this, inclosed by forms, was a species of sanctuary, called “the penitents’ pen.” People of every denomination might be seen here, allured by various motives. The girls, dressed in all colours of the rainbow, congregated to display their persons and costumes; the young men came to see the girls, and considered it a sort of “frolic;” and the old women, induced by fanaticism, and other motives, assembled in large numbers, and waited with patience for the proper season of repentance. At the intervals between the “preachments,” the young married and unmarried women promenaded round the tents, and their smiling faces formed a striking contrast to the demure countenances of their more experienced sisters, who, according to their age or temperament, descanted on the folly, or condemned the sinfulness of such conduct. Some of those old dames, I was informed, were decoy birds, who shared the profits with the preachers, and attended all the “camp-meetings” in the country.
The psalmodies were performed in the true Yankee style of nasal-melody, and at proper and seasonable intervals the preachings were delivered. The preachers managed their tones and discourses admirably, and certainly displayed a good deal of tact in their calling. They use the most extravagant gestures–astounding bellowings–a canting hypocritical whine–slow and solemn, although by no means _musical_ intonations, and the _et ceteras_ that complete the qualifications of a regular camp-meeting methodist parson. During the exhortations the brothers and sisters were calling out–Bless God! glory! glory! amen! God grant! Jesus! &c.
At the adjournment for dinner, a knowing-looking gentleman was appointed to deliver an admonition. I admired this person much for the ingenuity he displayed in introducing the subject of collection, and the religious obligation of each and every individual to contribute largely to the support of the preacher and his brothers of the vineyard. He set forth the respectability of the county, as evinced by former contributions, and thence inferred, most logically, that the continuance of that respectable character depended on the amount of that day’s collection. A conversation took place behind me, during this part of the preacher’s exhortation, between three young farmers, which, as being characteristic, I shall repeat.
“The old man is wide awake, I guess.”
“I reckon he knows a thing or two.”
“I calculate he’s been on board a flat afore now.”
“Yes, I guess a Yankee ‘d find it damned hard to sell him _hickory_ nutmegs.”
“It’d take a pretty smart man to poke it on to a parson any how.”
“I guess’d it’d come to dollars and cents in the end.”
After sunset the place was lighted up by beacon fires and candles, and the scene seemed to be changing to one of more deep and awful interest. About nine o’clock the preachers began to rally their forces–the candles were snuffed–fuel was added to the fires–clean straw was shook in the “penitents’ pen”–and every movement “gave dreadful note of preparation.” At length the hour was sounded, and the faithful forthwith assembled. A chosen leader commenced to harangue–he bellowed–he roared–he whined–he shouted until he became actually hoarse, and the perspiration rolled down his face. Now, the faithful seemed to take the infection, and as if overcome by their excited feelings, flung themselves headlong on the straw into the penitents’ pen–the old dames leading the way. The preachers, to the number of a dozen, gave a loud shout and rushed into the thick of the penitents. A scene now ensued that beggars all description. About twenty women, young and old, were lying in every direction and position, with caps and without caps, screeching, bawling, and kicking in hysterics, and profaning the name of Jesus. The preachers, on their knees amongst them, were with Stentorian voices exhorting them to call louder and louder on the Lord, until he came upon them; whilst their _attachees,_ with turned-up eyes and smiling countenances, were chanting hymns and shaking hands with the multitude. Some would now and then give a hearty laugh, which is an indication of superior grace, and is called “the holy laugh.” The scene altogether was highly entertaining–penitents, parsons, caps, combs, and straw, jumbled in one heterogeneous mass, lay heaving on the ground, and formed at this juncture a grouping that might be done justice to by the pencil of Hogarth, or the pen of the author of Hudibras; but of which I fear an inferior pen or pencil must fail in conveying an adequate idea.
The women were at length carried off, fainting, by their friends, and the preachers began to prepare for another scene. From the time of those faintings, the “new birth” is dated, which means a spiritual resurrection or revival.
The scene that followed appeared to be a representation of “the Last Supper.” The preachers assembled round a table, and acted as disciples, whilst one of them, the leader, presided. The bread was consecrated, divided and eaten–the wine served much after the same manner. The faithful, brothers and sisters, were now called upon to partake of the Sacrament–proper warning, however, being given to the gentlemen, that when the wine was handed to them, they were not to take a _drink_, as that was quite unnecessary, as a small sup would answer every purpose. One gentleman seemed to have forgotten this hint, and attempted to take rather more than a sup; but he was prevented by the administering preacher snatching the goblet from him with both hands. Many said they were obliged to substitute _brandy and water_ for wine; but for this fact I cannot vouch. Another straw-tumbling scene now began; and, as if by way of variety, the inmates of five or six tents got up similar scenes among themselves. The preachers left the field to join the tenters; and, if possible, surpassed their previous exhibitions. The women were occasionally making confessions, _pro bono publico_, when sundry “backslidings” were acknowledged for the edification of the multitude. We left the camp about two o’clock in the morning, when these poor fanatics were still in full cry.
At Hell Town, near this place, there was an officer’s muster held about this time. Every citizen exercising the elective franchise is also eligible to serve in the militia. There are two general musters held every year in each county, and several company meetings. Previous to the general muster there is an officer’s muster, when the captains and subalterns are put through their exercise by the field officers. At this muster, which I attended, the superior officers in command certainly appeared to be sufficiently conversant with tactics, and explained the rationale of each movement in a clear and concise manner; but the captains and subalterns went through their exercise somewhat in the manner of the yeomen of the Green Island. When the gentlemen were placed in line, and attention was commanded, the General turned round to converse with his coadjutors–no sooner had he done this than about twenty heroes squatted _a l’Indien;_ no doubt deeming it more consistent, the day being warm, to sit than stand. On the commander observing this movement, which he seemed to think quite unmilitary, he remonstrated–the warriors arose; but, alas! the just man _falls_ seven times a day, and the militia officers of Hamilton county seemed to think it not derogatory to their characters to _squat_ five or six. The offence was repeated several times, and as often censured. They wheeled into battalions, and out of battalions, in most glorious disorder–their _straight_ lines were _zig-zag._ In marching abreast, they came to a fence next the road–the tavern was opposite, and the temptation too great to be resisted–a number threw down their muskets–tumbled themselves over the fence, and rushed into the bar-room to refresh! An American’s heart sickens at restraint, and nothing but necessity will oblige him to observe discipline.
The question naturally arises, how would these forces resist the finely disciplined troops of Europe? The answer is short: If the Americans would consent to fight _a bataille rangee_ on one of the prairies of Illinois, undoubtedly the disciplined troops would prevail; but as neither their experience nor inclination is likely to lead them into such circumstances, my opinion is, that send the finest army Europe can produce into this country, in six months, the forests, swamps, and deadly rifle, united, will annihilate it–and let it be remembered, that at the battle of New Orleans, there were between two and three thousand British slain, and there were only twelve Americans killed, and perhaps double that number wounded. In patriotism and personal courage, the Americans are certainly not inferior to the people of any nation.
There had been lately throughout the States a good deal of excitement produced by an attempt, made by the Presbyterians, to stop the mails on the sabbath. This party is headed by a Doctor Ely, of Philadelphia, a would-be “lord spiritual,” and they made this merely as a trial of strength, preparatory to some other measures calculated to lead to a church establishment. Their designs, however, have been detected, and measures accordingly taken to resist them. At a meeting at which I was present at Cincinnati, the people were most enthusiastic, and some very strong resolutions were passed, expressive of their abhorrence of this attempt to violate the constitution of America.
Good farms within about three or four miles of Cincinnati, one-third cleared, are sold at from thirty to fifty dollars per acre. Cows sell at from ten to twenty dollars. Horses, at from twenty-five to seventy-five and one hundred dollars. Sheep from two to three dollars. There are some tolerable flocks of sheep throughout this state, but they are of little value beyond the price of the wool, a most unaccountable antipathy to mutton existing among the inhabitants.
Whilst on the banks of Lake Erie, having heard a great deal of conversation about the “lake fever,” I made several inquiries from the inhabitants on that subject, the result of which confirmed me in the opinion, that the shores of the lakes are quite as healthy as any other part of the country, and that here, as elsewhere, the disease arises from stagnant pools, swamps, and masses of decayed animal and vegetable matter, which are allowed to remain and accumulate in the vicinity of settlements. When at New York, I met an old and wealthy farmer, who was himself, although eighty years of age, in the enjoyment of rude health. He informed me that he had resided in Canada, on the shores of Lake Erie, for the last fifty years, and that neither he nor any one of his family had ever been afflicted with fever of any description. The district in which he lived, was entirely free from local nuisances, and the inhabitants he represented as being as healthy as any in the United States.
My observations, so far, lead me to conclude, that this climate agrees fully as well with Europeans as with the natives, indeed that the susceptibility to fever and ague is greater in the natives than in Europeans of good habits. The cause I conceive to be this: the early settlers had to encounter swamps of the most pestilential description, and dense forests through which the sun’s rays had never penetrated, and which industry and cultivation have since made in a great measure to disappear. They notoriously suffered much from the ravages of malaria, and such as survived the baleful effects of this disease, escaped with impaired constitutions. Now this susceptibility to intermittent fever, appears to me to have been transmitted to their descendants, and to act as the predisposing cause. I have seen English and Irish people who have been in the country upwards of thirty years, who look just as you would expect to find persons of their age at home.
There are situations evidently unhealthy, such as river bottoms, and the vicinity of creeks. The soil in those situations is alluvial, and its extreme fertility often induces unfortunate people to reside in them. The appearance of those persons in general is truly wretched.
The women here, although they live as long as those in the old country, yet they fade much sooner, and, with few exceptions, have bad teeth.
Having decided on visiting New Harmony, in Indiana, where our friend B—- had been for some time enjoying the delights of sylvan life, and the refinements of backwoods-society, T—- and I purchased a horse, and Dearborne, a species of light waggon used in this country for travelling. We furnished ourselves with a small axe, hunting knives, and all things necessary for encamping when occasion required, and so set out about the beginning of September.
We crossed the Big-Miami river, and proceeded by a tolerable road, and some good farms, to Lawrenceburg, a handsome town on the Ohio, within a mile of the outlet of the Miami. From thence we drove on towards Wilmington; but our horse becoming jaded, we found it expedient to “camp out,” within some miles of that town. Next morning we passed through Wilmington, but lost the direct track through the forest, and took the road to Versailles, which lay in a more northerly direction than the route we had proposed to ourselves. This road was one of those newly cut through the forest, and there frequently occurred intervals of five or six miles between the settlements; and of the road itself, a tolerably correct idea may be formed by noting the stipulations made with the contractors, which are solely that the roads shall be of a certain width, and that no stump shall be left projecting more than _fifteen inches_ above the ground.
On the night of the second day we reached the vicinity of Versailles, and put up at the residence of a backwoodsman–a fine looking fellow, with a particularly ugly _squaw_. He had come from Kentucky five years before–sat down in the forest–“built him” a log-house–wielded his axe to the tune of “The Hunters of Kentucky,” and had now eighteen acres of cleared land, and all the _et ceteras_ of a farm. We supped off venison-steaks and stewed squirrel. Our host told us that there was “a pretty smart chance of deer” in the neighbourhood, and that when he first “located,” “there was a small sprinkling of _baar_” (bear), but that at present nothing of the kind was to be seen. There was very little comfort in the appearance of this establishment; yet the good dame had a side-saddle, hung on a peg in one of the apartments, which would not have disgraced the lady of an Irish squireen. This appears to be an article of great moment in the estimation of West-country ladies, and when nothing else about the house is even tolerable, the side-saddle is of the most fashionable pattern.
From Versailles, we took the track to Vernon, through a rugged and swampy road, it having rained the night before. The country is hilly, and interspersed with runs, which are crossed with some difficulty, the descents and ascents being very considerable. The stumps, “corduroys” (rails laid horizontally across the road where the ground is marshy) swamps, and “republicans,” (projecting roots of trees, so called from the stubborn tenacity with which they adhere to the ground, it being almost impossible to grub them up), rendered the difficulty of traversing this forest so great, that notwithstanding our utmost exertions we were unable to make more than sixteen miles from sunrise to sunset, when, both the horse and ourselves being completely exhausted, we halted until morning. I was awoke at sunrise by a “white-billed woodpecker,” which was making the woods ring by the rattling of its bill against a tree. This is a large handsome bird, (the _picus principalis_ of Linnaeus), it is sometimes called here the wood-cock. Pigeons, squirrels, and turtle-doves abound in all these forests, and my friend being an expert gunner, we had always plenty of game for dinner. The morning was still grey when we set forward.
We forded the Muskakituck river at Vernon, which stands on its head waters, and is a country seat. We then directed our course to Brownstown, on the east branch of White river. We found the roads still bad until we came within about ten miles of that place. There the country began to assume a more cultivated appearance, and the roads became tolerably good, being made through a sandy or gravelly district. In the neighbourhood of Brownstown there are some rich lands, and from that to Salem, a distance of twenty-two miles, we were much pleased with the country. We had been hitherto journeying through dense forests, and except when we came to a small town, could never see more than about ten yards on either side. All through Indiana the peaches were in great abundance this year, and such was the weight of fruit the trees had to sustain, that the branches were invariably broken where not propped.
From Salem we took a westward track by Orleans to Hindostan, crossed the east branch of White river, and passed through Washington. At a short distance from this town, we had to cross White river again, near the west branch, which is much larger than the east branch. We attempted to ford it, and had got into the middle of the stream before we discovered that the bottom was quicksands. The horse was scared at the footing,–he plunged and broke the traces; however, after a tolerable wetting, we succeeded in getting safe out. A little above the place where we made the attempt, we found there was a ferry-flat. The ferryman considered our attempt as dangerous, for had we gone much further into the stream we should have shot into the quicksands in the deep current. This day the fates were most unpropitious to us; and had we had, like Socrates, a familiar demon at our elbow, he most assuredly would have warned us not to proceed. We had no sooner got into the ferry-flat, and pushed off from shore, than the horse tumbled overboard, carriage and all, and was with difficulty saved from drowning.
We passed through Petersburg to Princeton; but having lost the track, and got into several _culs de sacs_, an occurrence which is by no means pleasant–as in this case you are unable to turn the carriage, and have no alternative but cutting down one or two small trees in order to effect a passage. After a great deal of danger and difficulty, we succeeded in returning on the true bridle-path, and arrived about ten at night in a small village, through which we had passed three hours before. The gloom and pitchy darkness of an American forest at night, cannot be conceived by the inhabitants of an open country, and the traversing a narrow path interspersed with stumps and logs is both fatiguing and dangerous. Our horse seemed so well aware of this danger, that whenever the night set in, he could not be induced to move, unless one of us walked a little in advance before him, when he would rest his nose on our arm and then proceed. We crossed the Potoka to Princeton, a neat town, surrounded by a fast settling country, and so on to Harmony.
New Harmony is seated on the banks of the Wabash; and following the sinuosities of that river, it is distant sixty-four or five miles from the Ohio, but over land, not more than seventeen. This settlement was purchased by Messrs. Mac Clure and Owen from Mr. Rapp, in the year 1823. The Rappites had been in possession of the place for six years, during which they had erected several large brick buildings of a public nature, and sundry smaller ones as residences, and had cultivated a considerable quantity of land in the immediate vicinity of the town. Mr. Owen intended to have established here a community of union and mutual co-operation; but, from a too great confidence in the power of the system which he advocates, to _reform_ character, he has been necessitated to abandon that design at present.
Harmony must have been certainly a desirable residence when it was the abode of the many literary and scientific characters who composed a part of that short-lived community. A few of these still linger here, and may be seen stalking through the streets of Harmony, like Marius among the ruins of Carthage, deploring the moral desolation that now reigns in this once happy place.
Le Seur, the naturalist, and fellow traveller of Peron, in his voyage to the Austral regions, is still here. The suavity of manners, and the scientific acquirements of this gentleman, command the friendship and esteem of all those who have the pleasure of his acquaintance. He has a large collection of specimens connected with natural history, which the western parts of this country yield in abundance. The advantages presented here for the indulgence of retired habits, form at present the only attractions sufficient to induce him to live out of _la belle France_.
Mr. Thomas Say, of Philadelphia, who accompanied Major Long on his expedition to the Rocky Mountains, also resides here. He too is a recluse, and is now preparing a work on his favourite subject, natural history. His garden contains a tolerable collection of Mexican and other exotic plants.
Harmony is built on the second bottom of the Wabash, and is perhaps half a mile from the river at low water, the first bottom being about that breadth. Mosquitos abound here, and are extremely troublesome. There are several orchards in the neighbourhood well stocked with apples, peaches, &c.; and the soil being rich alluvion, the farms are productive–so much as fifty dollars per acre is asked for cleared land, close to the town. There is a great scarcity of money here, as in most parts of Indiana, and trade is chiefly carried on by barter. Pork, lard, corn, bacon, beans, &c., being given, by the farmers, to the store-keepers, in exchange for dry goods, cutlery, crockery-ware, &c. The store-keepers either sell the produce they have thus collected to river-traders, or forward it to New Orleans on their own account.
We made an excursion down the river in true Indian style. Our party, consisting of four, equipped in a suitable manner, the weather being then delightfully warm, having stowed on board a canoe plenty of provisions, paddled down the Wabash. The scenery on the banks of this river is picturesque. The foliage in some places springs from the water’s edge, whilst at other points it recedes, leaving a bar of fine white sand. The breadth of the Wabash, at Harmony, is about 200 yards, and it divides frequently on its course to the Ohio, forming islands of various degrees of beauty and magnitude. On one of these, about six miles from Harmony, called the “Cut-off,” we determined on encamping. Accordingly, we moored our canoe–pitched our tent–lighted our fire–bathed–and having acquired enormous appetites by exertion, commenced the very agreeable operation of demolishing our provisions. We roamed about that and an adjacent island, until evening, when we returned to regale. These islands are generally covered with “cane brakes,” and low brush wood, which renders it difficult to effect a passage across them. Cotton-wood, beech, maple, hickory, and white oak, are the trees in greatest abundance. Spice-wood, sassafras, and dittany, are also plenty. Of these a decoction is made, which some of the woods-people prefer to tea; but it is not in general repute. The paw-paw tree (_annona triloba_) produces a fruit somewhat resembling in taste and shape the fig-banana, but certainly much inferior to that delicious fruit. We saw several deer in the woods, and some cranes upon the shore. With smoking, &c., we passed the evening, and then retired–not to bed, for we had none–but to a right good substitute, a few dry leaves strewn upon the ground–our heads covered by the tent, and at our feet a large fire, which we kept up the whole night. Thus circumstanced, we found it by no means disagreeable.
We spent greater part of next day much after the manner of the preceding, and concluded that it would be highly irrational to shoot game, having plenty of provisions; yet I suspect our being too lazy to hunt, influenced us not a little in that philosophical decision.
Whilst at Harmony, I collected some information relative to the failure of the community, and I shall here give a slight sketch of the result of my inquiries. I must observe that so many, and such conflicting statements, respecting public measures, I believe never were before made by a body of persons dwelling within limits so confined as those of Harmony. Some of the _ci-devant_ “communicants” call Robert Owen a fool, whilst others brand him with still more opprobrious epithets: and I never could get two of them to agree as to the primary causes of the failure of that community.
The community was composed of a heterogeneous mass, collected together by public advertisement, which may be divided into three classes. The first class was composed of a number of well-educated persons, who occupied their time in eating and drinking–dressing and promenading–attending balls, and _improving the habits_ of society; and they may be termed the _aristocracy_ of this Utopian republic. The second class was composed of practical co-operators, who were well inclined to work, but who had no share, or voice, in the management of affairs. The third and last class was a body of theoretical philosophers–Stoics, Platonics, Pythagoreans, Epicureans, Peripatetics, and Cynics, who amused themselves in _striking out plans_–exposing the errors of those in operation–caricaturing–and turning the whole proceedings into ridicule.
The second class, disliking the species of co-operation afforded them by the first class, naturally became dissatisfied with their inactivity–and the third class laughed at them both. Matters were in this state for some time, until Mr. Owen found the funds were completely exhausted. He then stated that the community should divide; and that he would furnish land, and all necessary materials, for operations, to such of them as wished to form a community apart from the original establishment. This intimation was enough. The first class, with few exceptions, retired, followed by part of both the others, and all exclaiming against Mr. Owen’s conduct. A person named Taylor, who had entered into a distillery speculation with one of Mr. Owen’s sons, seized this opportunity to get the control of part of the property. Mr. Owen became embarrassed. Harmony was on the point of being sold by the sheriff–discord prevailed, and co-operation ceased.
Of the many private and public charges brought against Mr. Owen, I shall only notice one. It is said that he invited people to throw up their establishments in other parts of America, and come to Harmony, conscious at the same time that the community could not succeed, and, indeed, not caring much about its success, having ultimately in view the increase of the value of his purchase, by collecting a number of persons together, and thus making a town–a common speculation in America. Whether these were his intentions or not, it is impossible for any man to assert or deny; but the fact is no less true, that such has been the result, and that the purchase has been increased in value by the failure of the community, so that _ultimately_ he is not likely to lose anything by the experiment. As to Mr. Owen’s statements in public, “that he had been informed that the people of America were capable of governing themselves, and that he tried the experiment, and found they were not so,”–and that “the place having been purchased, it was necessary to get persons to occupy it.” These constitute but an imperfect excuse for having induced the separation of families, caused many thriving establishments to be broken up, and even the ruin of some few individuals, who, although their capital was but small, yet having thrown it all into the common stock, when the community failed, found themselves in a state of complete destitution. These persons, then, forgetting the “doctrine of circumstances,” and everything but the result, and the promises of Mr. Owen, censured him in no measured language, and cannot be convinced of the purity of his intentions in _that_ affair. Indeed, they have always at hand such a multiplicity of facts to prove that Mr. Owen himself mainly contributed to the failure, that one must be blinded by that partiality which so known a philanthropist necessarily inspires, not to be convinced that, however competent he may be to preach the doctrines of co-operation, he is totally incompetent to carry them into effect.
But Mr. Owen has also declared in public that “the New Harmony experiment succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations.” Now what may be his peculiar notions of success, the public are totally ignorant, as he did not think fit to furnish any explanation; but this the public do know, that between the former and the latter statement there is a slight discrepancy.
Some of Mr. Owen’s friends _in London_ say, that every thing went on well at Harmony until he gave up the management–that is, that he governed the community for the first few weeks, the short period of its prosperity, and that it declined only from the time of his ceding the dictatorship. Now Mr. Owen _himself_ says, that he only interfered when he observed they were going wrong; implying that he did not interfere in the commencement, but did so subsequently. These are contradictions which would require a good deal of mystification to reconcile in appearance. All the communicants whom I met in America, although they differed on almost every other point, yet agreed on this,–that Mr. Owen interfered from first to last during his stay at Harmony, and that at the time when he first quitted it nothing but discord prevailed.
Very little experience of a residence in the backwoods convinced Mr. Owen that he was not in the situation most consonant with his feelings. He had been, when in Europe, surrounded by people who regarded him as an oracle, and received his _ipse dixit_ as a sufficient solution for every difficulty. His situation at Harmony was very different; for most of the persons who came there had been accustomed to exercise their judgment in matters of practice, and this Mr. Owen is said not to have been able to endure. He would either evade, or refuse, answering direct questions, which naturally made men so accustomed to independence as the Americans are, indignant. The usual answer he gave to any presuming disciple who ventured to request an explanation, was, that “his young friend” was in a total state of ignorance, and that he should therefore attend the lectures more constantly for the future. There is this peculiarity respecting the philosophy propounded by Mr. Owen, which is, that after a pupil has been attending his lectures for eighteen months, he (Mr. Owen) declares that the said pupil knows nothing at all about his system. This certainly argues a defect either in matter or manner.
His followers appear not to be aware of the fact, that Mr. Owen has not originated a single new idea in his whole book, but has simply put forward the notions of Rousseau, Voltaire, Condorcet, Plato, Sir Thomas More, &c., in other language. His merit consists in this, and no small merit it is, that he has collated the ideas of these philosophers–arranged them in a tangible shape, and has devoted time and money to assist their dissemination.
I find on one of his cards, printed for distribution, the following axioms, in the shape of queries, set forth as being _his_ doctrine,–not the doctrine which _he advocates_.
“Does it depend upon man to be born of such and such parents?
“Can he choose to take, or not to take, the opinions of his parents and instructors?
“If born of Pagan or Mahometan parents, was it in his power to become a Christian?”
These positions are laid down by Rousseau, in many passages of his works; but as one quotation will be sufficient to establish my assertion, I shall not trouble myself to look for others. He says, in his “Lettre a M. de Beaumont,” p. 124, “A l’egard des objections sur les sectes particulieres dans lesquelles l’universe est divise, que ne puis-je leur donnez assez de force pour rendre chacun moins entete de la sienne et moins ennemi des autres; pour porter chacque homme a l’indulgence, a la douceur, par cette consideration si frappante et si naturelle; que s’il fut ne dans un autre pays, dans une autre secte il prendrait infailliblement pour l’erreur ce qu’il prends pour la verite, et pour la verite, ce qu’il prends pour l’erreur.”
None but a man whose mind had been warped by the too constant contemplation of one particular subject, as Mr. Owen’s mind has been warped by the eternal consideration of the Utopian republic, could suppose the practicability of carrying those plans into full effect during the existence of the present generation. He himself, whilst preaching to his handful of disciples the doctrine of perfect equality, is acting on quite different principles; and he has his new lecture-room divided into compartments separating the classes in society–thus proving that even his few followers are unprepared for such a change as he wishes to introduce into society, and that he finds the necessity of temporising even with _them_.
Another proof of the variance there is between the theory and the practice of Mr. Owen, may be found in the constitution of his new community. The first article says, that, “An annual subscription paid, of not less than one pound, constitutes _a member_, who is entitled to attend and _vote_ at all public meetings of the association.” These may be termed the twenty-shilling freeholders of the community. Then follow the other grades and conditions. A donation of one hundred pounds, constitutes _a visitor_ for life: a donation of five hundred pounds, _a vice-president_ for life: and a donation of one thousand pounds, _a president_, who, “in addition to the last-mentioned privileges,” will enjoy many others of a valuable nature.
King James sold two hundred baronetcies of the United Kingdom, for one thousand pounds each; and Mr. Owen offers an unlimited number of presidentships in his incipient Utopia on the same advantageous terms. I by no means dispute that the distinction Mr. Owen will confer on his purchasers may be quite as valuable, in his eyes and those of his disciples, as that conferred by King James; yet I cannot help suspecting, despite of the insatiable yearning the aristocracy have after vain-glorious titles, that few of them will come forward as candidates for his Utopian honours.
 Since writing the above, I find that the constitution has already undergone an essential change; but Mr. Owen appears to entertain views of reformation very different indeed from our present Whig administration, for he has actually placed both _members_ and _visitors_ in schedule (A) of _his_ reform bill, and at one fell swoop has deprived this most deserving class of all political existence. None but vice-presidents and presidents have now the power of voting.
Having remained about a fortnight at Harmony, we made the necessary arrangements, and, accompanied by B—-, set out for St. Louis, in Missouri. We crossed the Wabash into Illinois, and proceeded to Albion, the settlement made by the late Mr. Birkbeck.
Albion is at present a small insignificant town surrounded by prairies, on which there are several handsome farms. Messrs. Birkbeck and Flowers purchased large tracts of land in this neighbourhood, for the purpose of re-selling or letting it to English or other emigrants. These two gentlemen were of the class called in England, “gentlemen farmers,” and brought with them from that country very large capitals; a considerable portion of which, in addition to the money laid out on purchase, they expended on improvements. They are both now dead–their property has entirely passed into other hands, and the members of their families who still remain in this country are in comparative indigence.
The most inveterate hostility was manifested by the backwoods people towards those settlers, and the series of outrages and annoyances to which they were exposed, contributed not a little to shorten their days. It at length became notorious that neither Birkbeck nor Flowers could obtain redress for any grievance whatever, unless by appealing to the superior courts,–as both the magistrates and jurors were exclusively of the class of the offenders; and the “Supreme Court of the United States” declared, that the verdicts of the juries, and the decisions of the magistrates were, in many cases, so much at variance with the evidences, that they were disgraceful to the country. A son of the latter gentleman, a lad about fourteen years old, was killed in open day whilst walking in his father’s garden, by a blow of an axe handle, which was flung at him across the fence. The evidence was clear against the murderer, and yet he was acquitted. Whilst I was at Vandalia, I saw in a list of lands for sale, amongst other lots to be sold for taxes, one of Mr. Flowers’. The fate of these gentlemen and their families should be a sufficient warning to persons of their class in England, not to attempt settling _in the backwoods_; or if they have that idea, to leave aside altogether refined notions, and never to bring with them either the feelings or the habits of a _gentleman farmer_. The whole secret and cause of this _guerre a mort_, declared by the backwoodsmen against Messrs. Birkbeck and Flowers, was, that when they first settled upon the prairies, they attempted to act the _patron_ and the _benefactor_, and considered themselves _entitled_ to some respect. Now a west-country American would rather die like a cock on a dunghill, than be patronized after the English fashion; he is not accustomed to receive benefactions, and cannot conceive that any man would voluntarily confer favours on him, without expecting something in return, either in the shape of labour, or goods;–and as to respect, that has totally disappeared from his code since “the Declaration.”
Mr. Birkbeck was called “Emperor of the Prairies;” and notwithstanding the hostility of his neighbours, he seems to have been much respected in the other parts of Illinois, as he was chosen secretary of state; and in that character he died, in 1825. He at last devoted himself entirely to gaining political influence, seeing that it was the duty of every man in a free country to be a politician, and that he who “takes no interest in political affairs,” must be a bad man, or must want capacity to act in the common occurrences of life.
From Albion we proceeded towards the Little Wabash; but had not got many miles from that town, when an accident occurred which delayed us some time. We were driving along through a wood of scrub-oak, or barren, when our carriage, coming in contact with a stump that lay concealed beneath high grass, was pitched into a rut–it was upset–and before we could recover ourselves, away went the horse dashing through the wood, leaving the hind wheels and body of the vehicle behind. He took the path we had passed over, and fortunately halted at the next corn-field. We repaired the damage in a temporary manner, and again set forward.
After having crossed the Little Wabash, we had to pass through three miles of swamp frequently above our ancles in the mire, for the horse could scarcely drag the empty waggon. We at length came out on “Hardgrove’s prairie.” The prospect which here presented itself was extremely gratifying to our eyes. Since I had left the little prairie in the Wyandot reserve, I had been buried in eternal forests; and, notwithstanding all the efforts one may make to rally one’s spirits, still the heart of a European sickens at the sameness of the scene, and he cannot get rid of the idea of imprisonment, where the visible horizon is never more distant than five or six hundred yards. Yet this is the delight of an Indian or a backwoodsman, and the gloomy ferocity that characterizes these people is evidently engendered by the surrounding scenery, and may be considered as indigenous to the forest. Hardgrove’s is perhaps the handsomest prairie in Illinois–before us lay a rich green undulating meadow, and on either side, clusters of trees, interspersed through this vast plain in beautiful irregularity–the waving of the high grass, and the distant groves rearing their heads just above the horizontal line, like the first glimpse of land to the weary navigator, formed a combination of ideas peculiar to the scene which lay before us.
With the exception of one or two miles of wood, occasionally, the whole of our journey through Illinois lay over prairie ground, and the roads were so level, that without any extraordinary exertion on the part of our horse, he carried us from thirty to forty miles a day.
We next crossed the “grand prairie,” passing over the Indian trace. Although this is by no means so picturesque as Hardgrove’s, yet the boundless prospect that is presented on first entering this prairie is far the more sublime–the ideas expand, and the imagination is carried far beyond the limits of the eye. We saw some deer scouring the plains, and several “prairie wolves” skulking in the high grass–this animal is sometimes destructive to sheep. The size is about that of our fox. Most farmers keep three or four hounds, which are trained to combat the wolf. The training is thus–a dead wolf is first shewn to a young dog, when he is set on to tear it; the next process is to muzzle a live wolf, and tie him to a stake, when the dog of course kills him; the last is, setting the dog on an unmuzzled wolf, which has been tied to a stake, with his legs shackled. The dog being thus accustomed to be always the victor, never fails to attack and kill the prairie wolf whenever he meets him.
Within thirteen miles of Carlisle, we stopped at an inn, a solitary establishment, the nearest habitation being more than six miles distant. The landlord, Mr. Elliot, told us that he was unable to accommodate us with beds, as his house was already quite full; but that if we could dispense with beds, he would provide us with every thing else. Having no alternative, we of course acceded to his proposal. There was then holding at his house what is termed an “inn fair,” or the day after the wedding. The marriage takes place at the house of the bride’s father, and the day following a party is given by the bridegroom, when he takes home his wife. The people here assembled had an extremely healthy appearance, and some of the girls were decidedly handsome, having, with fine florid complexions, regular features and good teeth. The landlord and his sons were very civil, as indeed were all the company there assembled.
A great many respectable English yeomen have at different periods settled in Illinois, which has contributed not a little to improve the state of society; for the inhabitants of these prairies, generally speaking, are much more agreeable than those of most other parts of the western country.
When the night was tolerably far advanced, the decks were cleared, and three feather beds were placed _seriatem_ on the floor, on which a general scramble took place for berths–we wrapped ourselves in our cloaks, and lay seventeen in a bed until morning, when we arose, and went out to “have a wash.” The practice at all inns and boarding-houses throughout the western country, excepting at those in the more considerable towns, is to perform ablutions gregariously, under one of the porches, either before or behind the house–thus attendance is avoided, and the interior is kept free from all manner of pollutions.
An abundance of good stone-coal is found all through this state, of which I saw several specimens. Were it not for this circumstance, the difficulty of procuring wood for fuel and fencing, would more than counterbalance the advantages, in other respects, presented to settlers on the prairies.
The average crops of Indian corn are about fifty bushels per acre, which when planted, they seldom plough or hoe more than once. In the bottom lands of Indiana and Ohio, from seventy to eighty bushels per acre is commonly produced, but with twice the quantity of labour and attention, independent of the trouble of clearing. There are two denominations of prairie: the upland, and the river or bottom prairie; the latter is more fertile than the former, having a greater body of alluvion, yet there are many of the upland prairies extremely rich, particularly those in the neighbourhood of the Wabash. The depth of the vegetable soil on some of those plains, has been found frequently to be from eighteen to twenty feet, but the ordinary depth is more commonly under five. The upland prairies are much more extensive than the river prairies, and are invariably free from intermittent fever–an exemption, which to emigrants must be of the utmost importance.
Previous to our leaving Elliott’s inn, we witnessed a chase of two wolves, which had the boldness to come to the sheep-pens close to the house. Unfortunately the dogs were not at hand, and the wolves escaped among the high grass. Mr. Elliott positively refused accepting of any compensation in lieu of our supper and lodging: he said he considered our lodging a thing not to be spoken of; and as to our supper–which by-the-by was a capital one–he had invited us to that. We merely paid for the horse, thanked him for his hospitality, and departed. During our journey through Indiana we had invariably to use persuasion, in order to induce the farmers to take money for either milk or fruit; and whenever we stayed at a farm-house, we never paid more than what appeared to be barely sufficient to cover the actual cost of what we consumed.
At Carlisle, a village containing about a dozen houses, we got our vehicle repaired. We required a new shaft: the smith walked deliberately out–cast his eye on a rail of the fence close by, and in half an hour he had finished a capital shaft of white oak.
The next town we came to was Lebanon, and we determined on staying there that evening, in order to witness a revival. They have no regular places of worship on the prairies, and the inhabitants are therefore subject to the incursions of itinerant preachers, who migrate annually, in swarms, from the more thickly settled districts. There appeared to be a great lack of zeal among the denizens of Lebanon, as notwithstanding the energetic exhortations of the preachers, and their fulminating denunciations against backsliders, they failed in exciting much enthusiasm. The meeting ended, as is customary on such occasions, by a collection for the preachers, who set out on horseback, next morning, to levy contributions on another body of the natives.
From Lebanon we proceeded across a chain of hills, and came in on a beautiful plain, called the “American bottom.” Some of those hills were clear to the summit, while others were crowned with rich foliage. Before us, to the extreme right, were six or seven tumuli, or “Indian mounds;” and to the left, and immediately in front, lay a handsome wood. From the hills to the river is about six miles; and this space appears evidently to