Petr Ivanovich Poletika.

A sketch of the internal condition of the United States of America : and of their political relations with Europe online

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1826. ^.j



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May 1913


fJisirict of Maryland — to wU:

BK IT RKMEMBERED, That on the thirj day of August, in the fiftieth year of the Iiirfe.
pendence of the Unitetl Stales of Amt-i'ica, Edward J. Coale, of the said District, halh deposited
«n this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words follow-
ing, to wit:

"A Sketch of the Internal Condition of the United States of America, and of their Political Re-
lations with Europe. By A Russian. Translated from the French, by an American; with notes."

In conformity wiih the Act of the Congress i>f the Unitetl States, entitk'd, "An Act for the en-
coiirngement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and bosks, to authors and
proprietors of such copies during the times therein mentioned;' and also to the Act, enti-
tled, '-An Act Supplementary to the Act.entitled.'An Actfor the encouragf-ment of learning, by
securing the coiiies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies,
durin;; the times then in mentioned,' and extending the benetits thereof to the arts of design
ing. engraTing,andetchinB-, hictorical, andothsr prints."

Ckrlc af the District of Maryland.


- ^^Q^^

A COPY of the following volume was re-
ceived, by the publisher, directly from the au-
thor. It was immediately translated from the
French, in which it was originally written, that
it might be offered without delay to the Ameri-
can public. The rapidity with which this was
executed, will be an apology for any inaccura-
cies that may be discovered. The notes are
meant for a further illustration of the distinguish-
ed author's opinions, and an explanation of such
as may, from the change of circumstances, seem
to be erroneous. His mistakes are so few and
slight, that it would be scarcely necessary to no-
tice them, if we did not suppose, from the dis-
tinguished author's impartiality and information,
that such corrections would give him pleasure.
Many alterations, both in our condition and poli-
cy, have ensued since the work w^as written,


w hich we find from the date of the author's pre-
face (accidentally omitted in the translation,) to
have been at Washington, hi February, 1823.
The acquaintance with our laws, manners and
customs, which he displays in the following
sketch, and the equal justice with which he
notes our merits and our faults, will do him honor
with the liberal and honest. In his praise he is
never indiscriminate, in his censure never harsh
or fretful: and his profound acquaintance with
our country, and due appreciation of our institu-
tions, must surprise us in a man, born and bred
under others so entirely dissimilar.


First Section.

General Considerations.

page 5

Second Section.

Chap. 1. Extent of Territory, - - . . 19

Chap. 2. Population,

Chap. 3. The American Confederation,

Chap. 4. The Federal Government,

Chap. 5. The Army, - - ..

Chap. 6. The Navy,

Chap. 7. Finances, - - ..
Chap. 8. The Pohtical Relations of the United States with

Third Section.

Chap. 1. Administration of Justice,
Chap. 2. Penitentiaries.




Fourth Section.
State of Society, - ..._

Appendix, containing notes. ^ - - . . 139


The materials of this work were originally
collected during my first residence in the Unit-
ed States of America, in the years 1810, 1811,
and 1812. On my return to Europe in the last
mentioned year, I had not leisure to commit
them to writing, being too much engaged in the
memorable events which caused the destruction
of the French Army in Russia; events, which,
to use such an expression, duty required me to
follow, and which in fact I did folio v, until the
dissolution of the Congress of Aix le la Chap-
elle about the end of the year 1818.

A second residence of three years in the Unit-
ed States, whither I returned in 1819, gave me
an opportunity of correcting and developing the
views I had previously taken of that country;
and the extensive excursions I made into the in-
terior, were vsith that object alone.


Comparing tlicn my first impressions with the
result of my subsequent observations, I found
but little difficulty in discovering the imperfect-
ness of my former labour; for during the inter-
val of seven years which had elapsed between
my two visits to the United States, the changes,
or to speak more accurately, the improvements
in all the departments of domestic economy,
surpassed the most sanguine calculations of po-
litical prophecy. Wretched villages, w^hich I
had left in the midst of impenetrable forests,
had assumed the appearance of flourishing towns.
Cultivated fields had taken the place of heaths,
which not long before seemed impassible, and
over ground, which could scarcely be traversed
in country w^agons, mail stages were to be seen
whirling along with the greatest rapidity. Such
changes are particularly remarkable in the
W'estern part of the State of New York.

A metamorphosis so sudden and striking, con-
vinced me of the uselessness of swelling out this
work with details purely statistical: for as long
as the United States continues to offer so great a
disproportion betw^een the number of its inha-
bitants and the extent of its territory; and the


astonishing fertility of the soil in many sections
of the country, to repay liberally the labour of
the cultivator; it is certain that its statistics
will always in their details, be liable to impor-
tant alterations. It will therefore be difficult for
an exact and scrupulous observer to give a satis-
factory view of a country, subject at every mo-
ment to changes more or less obvious.

I think it therefore proper to apprise my read-
ers, if this work should be fortunate enough to
have them, that they will not find in it, statistical
details sufficiently copious to affiDrd a complete
view of the actual physical resources of the
United States. They will likewise, vainly seek
for private anecdotes in which loungers so much
In this view of the political and social condition
of the United States, the reader will find noth-
ing but facts, which, being permanent in them-
selves, will, for a long time to come, appear still
the same to the most superficial observer.


rai^imifAiL (O^MBMS'i^if



From the irrevocable recognition of the poHt-
ical independence of the United States of Amer-
ica, by the Treaty of Paris, of 1783, until to-
wards the present time, the world has seen them
prosper with a rapidity without example in the
history of the most civilized nations.

Natural and immutable causes, joined to others
entirely accidental and transient, have concurred
in producing the extraordinary developement of
industry, in a country so recently emancipated,
and so far from the great focus of civilization.


Among the permanent causes, we must assign
the first rank to the geographical situation of the
United States, which gives them all the advanta-
ges of an insular position, in regard to external
security, without excluding those which result
from the possession of a territory immense in ex-
tent and susceptible of every species of culture.
To be perfectly secure in the peaceful enjoyment
of this vast and beautiful domain, the North
Americans never had nor have they now any
other but tribes of Indian hunters to contend
^vith, which daily and visibly diminish by the
necessary effects of their precarious and wander-
ing life. The great extent of fertile lands, and
the abundance of the means of subsistence in
the United States are the more favourable to
the population, as it is naturally active, la-
borious and enterprising. Thus have we seen
it double itself in the space of twenty years suc-
ceeding the war of their Independence. This
single fact in their statistical annals, has not since
been repeated.

To this principal cause of the so rapidly in-
creasing prosperity of the United States, we
should undoubtedly add the salutary influence

of a government as imperceptible in its progress
as in its operations. Here, locality has again
been favourable to that country. The ab-
sence of all immediate neighbourhood that could
be dreaded, enables them to afford to their re-
publican institutions all the latitude which the
opinions and prevailing habits of the people
could claim. Wisely judging that the existence
of a standing army w^ould badly accord w^ith the
genius of a popular government, they have re-
duced it to a handful of men, so that they have
no cause to apprehend any serious inconven-
ience to the safety or tranquillity of the Ameri-
can Confederation.

Their civil and political law^s have been con-
ceived in a spirit eminently calculated to guard
individual liberty. Such must be the case in a
country, in which, since its first colonization, the
hatred of political or religious persecution has
been transmitted from age to age as a revered

It is well known that the first colonists who
came to the United States, were men who had
abandoned their own country to seek refuge
from the civil troubles with which England was

agitated about the middle of the seventeenth
century. Many of them fled from the reli-
gious persecution, to which the English protes-
tants were exposed during the reign of the Steu-
arts. These colonists were the first legislators
of the country. It is therefore natural that all
their ideas, all their solicitude should be directed
to the adoption of the most effectual measures
against arbitrary and religious intolerance. In
fact, among the first institutions and municipal
laws which governed the English Colonists of
North America until their emancipation, we
find the most protecting spirit of liberty and
the most unlimited freedom of conscience.
The war of Independence, commonly called in
Europe the American War, effected but little
change in these matters, because the sole object
of that war was political Independence* and not

*The principal, and indeed the only cause of the differen-
ces between England and her colonies of North America, was
the right asserted by the British Parliament and Government
to tax the colonies without the consent of their local Legisla-
tures. It is only necessary to read the petitions which the col-
onists addressed to the King of England on that subject, and
the declaration of their Independence promulgated on the 4th.
of July 1776, to be convinced that civil liberty had no agency
ill causing that celebrated war, and that political rights alone
were the ground of hostilities. This assertion is confirmed by
Dr. Franklin in his memoirs.


civil liberty, which the Anglo-Americans had en-
joyed in an equal degree with their English

So true is this, that when the rupture took
place between the mother country and the col-
onies, some of the thirteen confederated states
retained their ancient constitutions granted by
the British Government; and what is still more
remarkable, these very states were considered
more democratical than the rest. It will be suffi-
cient to ofter as an example the state of Connec-
ticut, which, until the year 1818, had not chang-
ed its original constitution under which polit-
ical power was delegated but for six months.

The state of Rhode Island to this very mo-
ment is governed by a constitution granted by
the Kings of England, (^^pp- Note A.)

Yet however powerful may be the action of
these causes which we have mentioned, they
are not adequate to the explanation of the devel-
opement of the prodigious natural resources of
the United States of America. Accidental caus-
es have perhaps contributed more efficiently
than the former. At the epoch of the French
Revolution, the United States had just emerged


Irom iiinnbcrless diificuUies, against which they
had struggled in consequence of the deranged
condition of their finances whicli the sacrifices
incident to their war of Independence had render-
ed necessary; and by the inherent defects of a
confederated government, badly defined in its
powers, badly understood, and therefore badly

The Federal Constitution of 1788, which since
that period has governed, and still continues to
govern the American confederation, without
prejudice to the rights of sovereignty, reserved to
themselves respectively by the several states com-
posing the Union, being better adapted to the
wants of the country, looked to the most important
objects and marked out for the general govern-
ment, a safer course and a more regular action.
Under the aegis of this government as defective
as it would appear at the first glance, the United
States have presented themselves to the nations
of Europe to claim thSr part in the great com-
merce of the world and the navigation of its seas.
This participation would have been inconsidera-
ble, taking into consideration the spareness of the
population, the excessive dearness of every spe-


cies of workmanship, without the long andblcody
wars, of which the French Revolution was either
.the cause or the pretext. Seeing nothing to fear
Trom the eruptions of this political volcano, the
North Americans profited by the misfortunes of
Europe: and having by a series of favourable cir-
cumstances, become the only neutral nation of the
civilized world, they soon appropriated to them-
selves the universal coasting trade, concurrently
with the English, who ruled the seas, without
being able nevertheless to subdue the coasts, from
which they were constantly repulsed. Whether
the neutral commerce or the coasting trade prov-
ed most advantageous to the Americans, or to
the other nations with whom it was carried on,
certain it is that the profits derived from it by
the former were so enormous, that after having
paid for all the consumptions of the United
States, in foreign merchandise, there still re-
mained enough to gratify the expensive taste of
arising luxuriousness and the no less costly re-
finements of fashionable life.

The violent measures against neutral naviga-
tion adopted at diflferent periods, by the govern-
ments of France and England, diminished some-


'What the gains of the Americans by multiply-
ing the risks: but they could not suppress their
spirit of enterprise and speculation, because in
the event of success, their profits amply compen-
-sated them for the hazard they were obliged to

On the other hand, the war which took place
in Spain, opened to the Americans a certain and
lucrative market. During five or six years fol-
lowing the commencement of the year 1809,
the English, Spanish and Portuguese armies
w^ere supplied with provisions exported from
the United States. The large profits they ob-
tained at Lisbon and Cadiz, by the sale of Amer-
ican flour, raised the price of that article to ten
and eleven dollars per barrel in all the maritime
cities of the United States. Mr. Pitkin, who
for a long time was a representative from Connec-
ticut in the American Congress, and whose statis-
tics of the United States are held in high es-
teem for their accuracy, makes the American
flour exported! to Spain and Portugal during the

*i< •


years 1812 and 1813 amount to the quantities
stated below.*

The influence of such high prices, kept up by
circumstances during several years, on all branch-
es of agriculture, or rather on the general in-
dustry of the United States, may be easily con-
ceived. Some statistical facts, dravs n from the
most authentic sources, hereto annexed, v^ ill serve
to confirm our assertions.

In 1791
Number of Inhabitants, I 3,921,326
Value of Exports in dollars! 19,012,041

Tonnage — tons, -
Revenue in dollars,
Expenditure do -
Public Debt do -





In 1801



In 1811



This table is extracted from a work published
in 1818, in Philadelphia, under the title of,
Statistical Annals of the United States of Amer-
ica, founded on official documents, commencing

* To Spain: Flour in barrels.

1812. - - 8,865. - - - 381,726.

1813. - - 74,409. - - - 431,101.

To Portugal.

1812. - - - 33,591. - - 557,218.

1813. - - - 214,126. - - 542,399.

These exportations for the year 1813 alone were worth on the
spot, 11,213,447 dollars, and ought to have produced when sold
at Market at least 15,000,000 dollars,— (75,000,000 roubles in
Bank Notes.)


an the 4th of March, 1789, and ending on the
20th of Jipril, 1818. By Ad aim Scybert, M .
D. (Page 10.) f.%;. Note B.)

This prosperous state of things did not begin to
alter until the anti-commercial decrees of Napo-
leon, and the scarcely less unjust and iniquitous
British orders in Council were executed in all
their force, not only on the high seas, but even
on the coasts of the United States; and, if we
may use the expression, within the very glare of
the American light-houses. Nevertheless these
inconveniences were diminished by means of
licenses, which the French government then
publickly sold, and which were obtained as easily
in England, notwithstanding that government
managed the affair with more apparent modesty
and good faith.

The war declared by the American govern-
ment against England in 1812, in opposition to
its own judgment, and solely to gratify the clam-
orous demands of a powerful party actuated by
personal considerations, a war awkwardly con-
ducted by both parties, but which terminated so
fortunately for the United States, was the first
retrogressive step in their career of prosperity.


It is difficult to estimate the disastrous couse-
quences which the prolongation of it another
year, would have entailed on the finances, agri-
culture, commerce and navigation of the United

The miraculous peace of Ghent, as the Amer-
icans themselves call it, re-produced an extraor-
dinary, although transient activity in the gene-
ral industry of the country, or rather revived
the extravagant spirit of speculation among the
inhabitants. But the pacification of Europe en-
tirely reversed the former order of things, whose
operation was so favourable to the Americans.
The changes which took place in Europe para-
lized all the efforts they made after tlie conclu-
sion of the Treaty of Ghent, to repossess them-
selves of the advantages they had ^o long enjoy-
ed in commerce and navigation.

When the great avenues to these two sources
of national wealth were opened to all the nations
of Europe, and when they hastened successively
to reclaim their share, that of the Americans di-
minished as rapidly as it had increased. Of the
truth of this assertion, facts extracted from offi-


cial documents published by the order of Con-
gress in 1821, will offer irrefragable proof.*

All the maritime cities of the United States
were glutted with European merchandise,
whilst a portion of the products of the soil, such
as corn and flour, for want of a market in Eu-
rope, rotted on their hands. In consequence of
the pacification this branch of commerce devolv-
ed on Russia, From her ports on the Black Sea,
Europe was supplied with provisions during the
calamitous years of 1816, and 1817; and it is
more than probable that Russia will, for a long
time, continue to furnish the south of Europe
with grain at least, for she can partially do so,
at a much cheaper rate than the United States.

The general distress which prevailed in the
United States as well as in Europe, brought
about by the too rapid transition from a long

i^Tlie annual products of the United States were in

1815 36,306,022 dollars, 51 cents.

1816 27,484,100 dollars, 36 cents.

1817 17,524,775 dollars, 15 cents.

1818 21,828,451 dollars, 48 cent3.

1819 19,116,702 dollars.

1820 15,005,320 dollars,

(^Report of the Committee of ways and means, upon the
subject of the Revenue February 1821.)


state of war to that of universal peace, was height-
ened by the multiplication of Banks and the
shameful abuses of which some were guilty in
the employment of their funds.

The disappearance of specie, the invariable
consequence of too great an emission of paper
money, the general distrust, the simultaneous
stagnation in all branches of industry, the de-
preciation of every species of property, the re-
duction of salaries, were all the bitter fruits of
unsuccessful and inordinate speculation,by whi^h
it was attempted to replace commerce in its for-
mer prosperous condition. Having made enor-
mous fortunes during the space of about a quar-
ter of a century, either by the coasting trade or
by other commercial enterprizes, the inhabitants
of the United States persuaded themselves that
this state of things would last for ever; and when
the pacification of Europe restored commerce
to its natural channels, the thirst after gain and
the want of luxury had made too great progress,
not to cloud the councils of prudence in the
minds of the merchants.

Such is, even at this moment, the internal con-
dition of that country. A general depression is


felt throughout the populous cities on the shores
of the atlantic. as well as in the rising towns on
the banks of the Ohio and Mississippi. Every
where is heard the complaint of the hardness of
the times, the depreciation of property, and the
low price of the produce of tlie soil.

But this state of suffering and depression can-
not be otherwise than temporary, since all the
natural means of prosperity which result from
local circumstances, such as the extent of territo-
ry, the richness and variety of its productions, the
advantages of geographical position, possessed
by the United States in an eminent degree, re-
main untouched. When the effects of a sudden
transition from w ar to peace shall have ceased to
operate throughout all the countries of the civil-
ized world; when commerce and general indus-
try shall have found their natural level; the part
to be acted by the United States will be suffi-
ciently important to assure them a distinguished
rank among commercial nations, and to afford
every requisite encouragement to her domestic

Geographical and statistical details of the Unit-
ed States, will complete the sketch which we
have marked out for ourselves in this work.




According to the maps made hy American
geographers since the treaty of Washington of
the22d February, 1819, with Spain,* the ter-
ritory of the United States, lies between 25° 50"
and 49° 37" north latitude, and 10° east, and 48*
20' west longitude, by the meridian of Wash-

The greatest extent of territory from north to
south-east, is 1650 English miles; the greatest
breadth from east to west, 2,700. Its super-
ficies is computed to contain 2,379,350 square
miles, or 1,522,784,000 acres.

Anterior to the treaty of Washington of 1 809,
with Spain, the superficies of the territory of

*This treaty, although shortly after ratified by the Senate and
President of the United States, was not immediately approve4
by the Court of Madrid. Nevertheless, the Americans flatter
themselves that it will ultimately be concluded; and it was
under this belief and corresponding to its provisions, that the
last edition of the general map of the United States by Melish,
published in 1819, was drawn.


the United States, as stated hy Blodget, was
1,280,000,000 acres; but tlie authority of this
author has always been dou])ted, and his cal-
culations are evidently much exaggerated. By
Mr. Blodget's estimate, the quantity of cultivat-
ed lands in 1809, did not amount to more than
40,000,000 acres.

In 1783, the period of the recognition of the
Independence of the United States, their terri-

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Online LibraryPetr Ivanovich PoletikaA sketch of the internal condition of the United States of America : and of their political relations with Europe → online text (page 1 of 8)