« FöregåendeFortsätt »
fruit than fanaticism and hypocrisy, the other nothing but rents, taxes, restraints, and oppression.
It is of little importance to the reader to know what were the circumstances which brought about so hopeful a change in our traveller's sentiments, except in so far as they may tend to explain the source of his discontent, and of those hostile feelings which every where manifest themselves against the land of his forefathers. The change, however, was not without a cause. Patriots and expatriates are alike the children of circumstances, and generally, we believe, of adverse circumstances. With regard to Friend Morris we understand that, during the late war, he held the lease of a farm at a rent of about five hundred pounds, which was worth three times that sum; that on its expiring, he had it renewed at a rent more nearly approaching its value, when, the sudden change from war to peace having reduced the demand for produce, and consequently the value of land, to rid himself of his engagements and his country at the same time, he threw up his farm un beau matin, and, laughing in his sleeve at the humorous trick which he had played his unsuspecting landlord, set out on a land speculation into the back settlements of North America. Mr. Morris Birkbeck was not without a compagnon de
voyage; he prevailed, it seems, on a young man of the name of Flower to accompany him as a sort of squire. This Flower bloomed freely in the kindly soil of Hertfordshire, in possession of a fine flock of Merino sheep, and with them of every comfort of life; but in an unlucky moment he was persuaded by his guide, philosopher, and friend,' that to be happy and contented under such a government as that of Great Britain was contrary to all sound reason, and that for his credit's sake he must be transplanted into a more philosophical soil; accordingly the ill-starred Corydon sold off his sheep, and consented to seek an abode in a country where sheep cannot thrive. The two farmers had previously made a hasty tour through France, where, thanks to the Revolution,' every thing was right. The speculators in land,' however, had been before ihem. The property, of which the rich had been plundered, Mr. Morris Birkbeck saw with infinite pleasure partitioned out among the plunderers, or, as he delicately expresses it, among those who stood in need of it, thanks to the Revolution and they were too well acquainted with the value of their acquisitions to admit our friend to any share of them. Wonderful is the prosperity, boundless the affluence of France!-there, the peasantry have their six bottles of wine daily, and a change of linen amounting to twelve or fifteen shirts apiece--and in the Pyrennees (where money is nearly as plentiful as on the Himmaleyan mountains) Mr. Birkbeck found the
common labourers earning six and thirty shillings a week. And for all this they have to thank the Revolution'!
Our two expatriated farmers first land in Hampton Roads, and proceed to Norfolk in Virginia; a large town, with spacious streets, well paved causeways, and clean and good-looking houses. Here Mr. Birkbeck went into the market-house, where, says he, I observed the negroes selling for their masters
the worst meat I ever saw, and dearer than the best in England; veal, such as never was exposed in an English market, at 10d. per 1b.; lamb of similar quality and price. Most wretched horses waiting, without food or shelter, to drag home the carts which had brought in the provisions-but, worst of all, the multitudes of negroes, many of them mi
serable creatures, others cheerful enough; but on the whole, this first glimpse of a slave population is extremely distressing--and is it, thought I, to be a member of such a society that I have quitted England!
Friend Morris, in spite of the determination with which he set out, to be pleased with every thing in America, cannot reconcile his feelings towards the negroes, whether in a state of slavery or
freedom, In proceeding up James's river he passes Little Guinea, i a tract of land given by a planter to his negroes, whom he had
liberated; their inclosures were but indifferently cultivated, and the negroes had a character for thieving—deservedly, I dare say,' he subjoins,' for slavery is a school of depravity, and their equivocal or degraded station among whites is unfavourable to their moral improvement,'
He arrives at Petersburgh at the time of the races, and is introduced to a large assemblage of planters.
' A Virginian tavern resembles a French one with its table d'hôte, (though not in the excellence of the cookery) but somewhat exceeds it in filth, as it does an English one in charges. The usual number of guests at the ordinary in this tavern (and there are several large taverns in Petersburgb) is fifty, consisting of travellers, store-keepers, lawyers, and doctors.
' A Virginian planter is a republican in politics, and exhibits the high-spirited independence of that character. But he is a slave-master, irascible, and too often lax in morals. A dirk is said to be a common appendage to the dress of a planter in this part of Virginia.
I never saw in England an assemblage of countrymen who would average so well as to dress and manners, none of them reached any thing like style; and very few descended to the shabby.
As it rained heavily, every body was confined the whole day to the tavern, after the race, which iook place in the forenoon. The conversation which this afforded me an opportunity of hearing, gave me a high opinion of the intellectual cultivation of these Virginian farmers.
* Negro slavery was the prevailing topic—the middle and the end an evil uppermost in every man's thoughts; which all deplored, many were anxious to fly, but for which no man can devise a remedy. One
gentleman, in a poor state of health, dared not encounter the rain, but was wretched at the thought of his famliy being for one night without his protection-from his own slaves! He was suffering under the effects of a poisonous potion, administered by a negro, who was his personal servant, to whom he had given indulgences and privileges unknown to the most favoured valet of an English gentleman. This happened in consequence of some slight unintentional affront on the part of the indulgent master. It is stated as a melancholy fact, that severe masters seldom suffer from their slaves' resentment.'-pp. 11, 12.
At Petersburgh our travellers embark on board the steam-boat which plies between Norfolk and Richmond, and which is thus described :
The steam-boat is a floating hotel, fitted up with much taste and neatness, with accommodations for both board and lodging. The ladies have their separate apartments and a female to attend them. Here we found ourselves at once in the society of about thirty persons, who appeared 10 be as polite, well dressed, and well instructed as if they had been repairing to the capital of Great Britain, instead of the capital of Virginia. We had a delightful passage, and reached Richmond about seven o'clock in the evening.'-p. 13.
Richmond is said to contain 13,000 inhabitants, nearly half of whom are negroes: the market is badly supplied; and the common necessaries of life are exceedingly dear, with the exception of bread of bad quality; for instance, eggs are 2d. each; butter 3s. 6d. a pound; meat of the worst description 1s. a pound; milk 4£d. a pint, &c. house-rent high beyond example—that which Mr. Birkbeck lodged in, situated in a back street, lets, he says, at 300 guineas a year; a common warehouse or store at 2001. a year; ground on building speculation sells currently at 10,000 dollars per acre; and in some of the streets near the river at 200 dollars per foot in front.
Our traveller, it is evident, is by no means satisfied with the appearance of things bitherto in the land of promise.' He seems to have had a considerable struggle with himself in making up his mind as to the preference which he ought to assign to the condition of the English labourer or that of the Virginian slave-to the most wretched of our paupers, or to the happy negro; and, wonderful to relate, finally decides in favour of the former.
He is also somewhat disturbed at Richmond by a grand stir about a monument to the memory of General Washington, as if Washington,' he exclaims, could be forgotten wbilst Anierica retains her independence! Let republicans leave bones and relics, and costly monuments, to monks and kings; free America is the mausoleum of its deliverers, who may say to posterity,“ Si quæris monumentum, circumspice!" He thinks, however, such is the consistency of republicanism, that the patriots of Richmond would do well to repair the mutilated bust of La Fayette, in their Capitol, which now, he says, 'stands an object of horror and derision,'—the horrific feel
ing, we suppose, arises from the loss of his nose; the ridicule, from what remains.
* On taking leave of Virginia, (he says,) I must observe, that I found more misery in the condition of the negroes, and a much higher tone of moral feeling in their owners than I had anticipated ; and I depart confirmed in my detestation of slavery, in principle and practice; but with esteem for the general character of the Virginians.”—p. 22. Here we find our traveller quite delighted with the lofty tone of morality' of the Virginian planter ; though he had described this same planter just before as 'lar in morals, irascible, and conmonly provided with a dirk,'—for no peaceable purpose, we pre
- But the reader of Mr. Birkbeck must be prepared for these contradictions. His natural shrewdness and turn for observation unconsciously counteract his prejudices, and his facts and his opinions are therefore continually at issue.
Proceeding to the Potowmack, our emigrant and his companions (for besides Mr. Flower, he had several women and children in his train) embark in the steam-boat for Washington. This federal city, including George Town, is said to contain 20,000 inhabitants, scattered over an immense space like a number of petty hamlets in a populous country. Here again our Friend is sore troubled in spirit at the thought that ninety marble capitals should have been imported at vast cost from Italy to crown the columns of the Capitol, and shew how. un-American is the whole plan.'
. There is nothing in America,' he adds, to which I can liken this affectation of splendor, except the painted face and gaudy head-dress of a half-naked Indian.'
At M'Connel's Town the road joins the great turopike from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and the line of stages from George Town terminates; ' so here we are,' he says, 'niue in number, one hundred and thirty miles of mountain-country between us and Pittsburgh!—No vehicles were to be procured, and the only alternative was that of staying where they were or making the journey on foot: they preferred the latter, and, each taking his little bundle, they set out on their pilgrimage, over the Alleghany ridge. * We have now," he repeats for the third or fourth time, fairly turned our backs on the old world, and find ourselves in the very stream of emigration. Old America* seems to be breaking up and moving westward. This accords with an observation in a letter now before us from a very intelligent native of Cambridge near Boston. "Our towns and cities,' he says, on the salt sea shores
Strange as it may appear, the south-western part of the New World has already beun to consider the north-eastern as having passed the meridian of life, and accordingly given it the name of Old America. The line of the Alleghany mountains forms the physical, as in no great length of time it will probably do the political, barrier, or line of de marcation between the two countries,
mily groups deserting poor old worn out America, and travelling 14
are not improving so fast as our interior. Indeed people are emigrating daily and hourly from the Atlantic shores, especially from the coast of New England to the interior of Kentucky and Ohio, carrying with them the characteristic enterprize of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode island. During the revolutionary war, adds our Cambridge correspondent,' the physical and intellectual power of these colonies might be compared to a wedge, the broadest end of which was here in New England, and the thinvest in Georgia, but now, alas! the wedge is turned end forward, and the thickest end is in the south-west.'
The following is the picture which Friend Morris gives of fato seek new homes amidst the freshness of the back settlements.
• A small waggon (so light that you might almost carry it, yet strong enough to bear a good load of bedding, utensils and provisions, and a swarm of young citizens,—and to sustain marvellous shocks in its passage over these rocky heights) with two small horses; sometimes a cow or two, comprises their all; excepting a little store of hard-earned ) cash for the land office of the district, where they may obtain a title for as many acres as they possess half-dollars, being one fourth of the purchase-money. The waggon has a tilt, or cover, made of a sheet, or) perhaps a blanket. The family are seen before, behind, or within the vehicle, according to the road or the weather, or perhaps the spirits of
The New Englanders, they say, may be known by the cheerful air of the women advancing in front of the vehicle; the Jersey people, by their being fixed steadily within it; whilst the Pennsylvanians creep lingering behind, as though regretting the homes they have left. A cart and single horse frequently affords the means of transfer, sometimes a horse and pack-saddle. Often the back of the poor pilgrim bears all his effects, and his wife follows, naked-footed, bending under the hopes of the family.'
The mountainous district is pronounced to be a land of plents, and that to which they are proceeding' a land of abundance;' an earnest of which is given by the noble droves of oxen met on the road from the western country, in their way to the city of Philadelphia. But though the cattle were good and plentiful, and the horses excellent, the sheep were few and miserable. * Twenty or thirty half-starved creatures are seen now and then straggling about in much wretchedness,'-a comfortable sight for the flower of Merino farmers !
The Americans, it seems, are fond of journeying; they are, in fact, a migrating people; they have few or none of those local attachments and fixed habits, which make it in Europe so painful a task to separate from those objects which time and memory have endeared. We are told, that not fewer than 12,000 waggons