Copyright
S.A. Ferrall.

A Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America online

. (page 13 of 15)
Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 13 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


discovered near Apple Creek, by a person while engaged in digging for rock
in that part of our country. He made known the circumstance to the
neighbours, who visited the place, where they killed 193 rattle-snakes,
the largest of which (as our informant, who was on the spot, told us)
measured nearly four feet in length. Besides these, there were sixteen
black snakes destroyed, together with one copper-head. Counting the young
ones, there were upwards of 1000 killed." There are two species of
rattle-snake, which are in constant hostility with each other. The common
black snake, whose bite is perfectly innoxious, and the copper-head, have
also a deadly enmity towards the rattle-snake, which, when they meet it,
they never fail to attack.

The next ridge of mountains is called the "laurel hills," which are
covered with an immense growth of different species of laurel. Between
these and the Alleghany ridge are situated "the glades" - beautiful fertile
plains in a high state of cultivation. This district is most healthy, and
fevers and agues are unknown to the inhabitants. Here the "Delawares of
the hills" once roamed the sole lords of this fine country; and perhaps
from the very eminence from whence I contemplated the beauty of the scene,
some warrior, returning from the "war path" or the chase, may have gazed
with pleasure on the hills of his fathers, the possessions of a long line
of Sylvan heros, and in the pride of manhood said - 'The Delawares are
men - they are strong in battle, and cunning on the trail of their foes - at
the 'council fire' there is wisdom in their words. Who counts more scalps
than the Lenni Lenapé warrior? - he can never be conquered - the stranger
shall never dwell in his glades.' Where now is the "Delaware of the
hills?" - gone! - his very name is unknown in his own land, and not a
vestige remains to tell that _there_ once dwelt a great and powerful
tribe. When the white man falls, his high towers and lofty battlements are
laid crumbling with the dust, yet these mighty ruins remain for ages,
monuments of his former greatness: but the Indian passes away, silent as
the noiseless tread of the moccasin - the next snow comes, and his "trail"
is blotted out for ever.

I toiled across the Alleghanies, which are completely covered with timber,
and passed on to a place within about thirty miles of Chambersburg, on a
branch of the Potomac. Here, coming in upon _civilization_, I took the
stage to Baltimore. In my pedestrian excursion the road lay for several
miles along the banks of the Juniata, which is a very fine river. The
scenery is romantic, and is much beautified by a large growth of
magnificent pines. The Alleghany ridge is composed chiefly of sand-stone,
clay-slate, and lime-stone-slate, sand-stone sometimes in large blocks.

I encountered several parties of French, Irish, Swiss, Bavarians, Dutch,
&c. going westward, with swarms of children, and considerable quantities
of household lumber: - symptoms of seeking _El dorado_.

In the neighbourhood of Baltimore there are many handsome residences, and
the farms are all well cleared, and in many cases walled in. The number of
comparatively miserable-looking cabins which are dispersed along the road
near this town, and the long lists of crimes and misdemeanours with which
the Journals of Baltimore and Philadelphia are filled, sufficiently
indicate that these cities have arrived to an advanced state of
civilization. For, wherever there are very rich people, there must be very
poor people; and wherever there are very poor people, there must
necessarily exist a proportionate quantity of crime. Men are poor, only
because they are ignorant; for if they possessed a knowledge of their own
powers and capabilities, they would then know, that however wealth may be
distributed, all real wealth is created by labour, and by labour alone.

Baltimore is seated on the north side of the Patapsco river, within a few
miles of the Chesapeak bay. It received its name in compliment to the
Irish family of the Calverts. The harbour, at Fell Point, has about
eighteen feet water, and is defended by a strong fort, called Mc Henry's
fort, on Observation Hill. Vessels of large tonnage cannot enter the
basin. In 1791 it contained 13,503 inhabitants; in 1810, 46,487; and at
present it contains 80,519. There are many fine buildings and monuments in
this city; and the streets in which business is not extensively
transacted, are planted with Lombardy poplar, locust, and pride-of-china
trees, - the last mentioned especially afford a fine shade.

A considerable schooner trade is carried on by the merchants of Baltimore
with South America. The schooners of this port are celebrated for their
beauty, and are much superior to those of any other port on the Continent.
They are sharp built, somewhat resembling the small Greek craft one sees
in the Mediterranean. A rail-road is being constructed from this place to
the Ohio river, a distance of upwards of three hundred miles, and about
fourteen miles of the road is already completed, as is also a viaduct. If
the enterprising inhabitants of Baltimore be able to finish this
undertaking, it must necessarily throw a very large amount of wealth into
their hands, to the prejudice of Philadelphia and New York. But the
expense will be enormous.

I left Baltimore for Philadelphia in one of those splendid and spacious
steam-boats peculiar to this country. We paddled up the Chesapeak bay
until we came to Elk river - the scenery at both sides is charming. A
little distance up this river commences the "Chesapeak and Delaware
canal," which passes through the old state of Delaware, and unites the
waters of the two bays. Here we were handed into a barge, or what we in
common parlance would term a large canal boat; but the Americans are the
fondest people in the universe of big names, and ransack the Dictionary
for the most pompous appellations with which to designate their works or
productions. The universal fondness for European titles that obtains here,
is also remarkable. The president, is "his excellency," - "congressmen,"
are "honorables," - and every petty merchant, or "dry-goods store-keeper,"
is, at least, an esquire. Their newspapers contain many specimens of this
love of monarchical distinctions - such as, "wants a situation, as
store-keeper (shopman), a gentleman, &c." "Two gentlemen were convicted
and sentenced to six months' imprisonment for horse-stealing, &c." These
two items I read myself in the papers of the western country, and the
latter was commented on by a Philadelphia journal. You may frequently see
"Miss Amanda," without shoes or stockings - certainly for convenience or
economy, not from necessity, and generally in Dutch houses - and "that
_ere_ young lady" scouring the pails! An accident lately occurred in one
of the factories in New England, and the local paper stated, that "one
young lady was seriously injured," - this young lady was a spinner.
Observe, I by no means object to the indiscriminate use of the terms
_gentleman_ and _lady_, but merely state the fact. On the contrary, so far
am I from finding fault with the practice, that I think it quite fair;
when any portion of republicans make use of terms which properly belong to
a monarchy, that all classes should do the same, it being unquestionably
their right. It does not follow, because a man may be introduced as an
_American gentleman_, that he may not be simply a mechanic.

The Chesapeak and Delaware canal is about fourteen miles in length; and
from the nature of the soil through which it is cut, there was some
difficulty attending the permanent security of the work. On reaching the
Delaware, we were again handed into a steamer, and so conducted to
Philadelphia. The merchant shipping, and the numerous pleasure and
steam-boats, and craft of every variety, which are constantly moving on
the broad bosom of the Delaware, present a gay and animated scene.

Philadelphia is a regular well-built city, and one of the handsomest in
the states. It lies in latitude 39° 56' north, and longitude, west of
London, 75° 8'; distant from the sea, 120 miles. The city stands on an
elevated piece of ground between the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, about
a mile broad from bank to bank, and six miles from their junction. The
Delaware is about a mile wide at Philadelphia, and ships of the largest
tonnage can approach the wharf. The city contains many fine buildings of
Schuylkill marble. The streets are well paved, and have broad _trottoirs_
of hard red brick. The police regulations are excellent, and cleanliness
is much attended to, the kennels being washed daily during the summer
months, with water from the reservoirs. The markets, or shambles, extend
half-a-mile in length, from the wharf up Market-street, in six divisions.
In addition to the shambles, farmers' waggons, loaded with every kind of
country produce for sale, line the street.

There are five banking establishments in the city: the Bank of North
America, the United States Bank, the Bank of Pennsylvania, the Bank of
Philadelphia, and the Farmers' Bank.

The principal institutions are, the Franklin library, which contains
upwards of 20,000 volumes. Strangers are admitted gratis, and are
permitted to peruse any of the books. The Americans should adopt this
practice in all their national exhibitions, and rather copy the liberality
of the French than the sordid churlishness of the English, who compel
foreigners to pay even for seeing the property of the nation. The other
institutions are, the University of Pennsylvania, a College, Medical
Theatre, College of Physicians, Philosophical Hall, Agricultural and
Linnean Societies, Academy of Fine Arts, and the Cincinnati Society, which
originated in an attempt to establish a sort of aristocracy. The members
were at its formation the surviving officers of the revolution; they wear
an eagle, suspended by a ribbon, which, at their death, they have
appointed to be taken by their eldest sons. There are besides, the
Academies of the Philadelphian Friends, and the German Lutherans; Sunday
and Lancasterian schools; and, of course, divers Bible and Tract
Societies, which are patronized by all the antiquated dames in the city,
and superintended by the Methodist and Presbyterian parsons. The Methodist
parsons of this country have the character of being men of gallantry; and
indeed, from the many instances I have heard of their propensity in this
way, from young Americans, I should be a very sceptic to doubt the fact.

There are also St. George's, St. Patrick's, St. David's, and St. Andrew's
Societies for the relief and colonization of British emigrants; a French
and a German Emigrant Society, and several hospitals. There are two
theatres and an amphitheatre. Peal's Museum contains a large collection,
which is scientifically arranged; among other fossils is the perfect
skeleton of a mammoth, found in a bed of marle in the state of New York.
The length of this animal, from the bend of the tusks to the rump, was
about twenty-seven feet, and the height and bulk proportionate.

The navy-yard contains large quantities of timber, spars, and rigging,
prepared for immediate use, as also warlike stores of every description.
There is here, a ship of 140 guns, of large calibre, and a frigate. Both
are housed completely, and in a condition to be launched in a few months,
if necessary. They are constructed of the very best materials, and in the
most durable and solid manner. There are now being constructed, seriatim,
twenty-five ships of the line - one for every state in the Union. The
government occasionally sells the smaller vessels of war to merchants, in
order to increase the shipping, and to secure that those armed vessels
which are afloat, may be in the finest possible condition. A corvette,
completely equipped, was lately sold to his majesty the autocrat of the
Russias; but was dismasted in a day or two after her departure from
Charleston. She was taken in tow by the vessel of a New York merchant, and
carried into the port of that city. The merchant refused any compensation
from the Russian minister, although his vessel was, when she fell in with
the wreck, proceeding to the Austral regions, and her putting about was
greatly disadvantageous. The minister returned thanks publicly, on the
part of his master, and expressed his majesty's sense of the invariable
consideration and friendship with which his majesty's subjects are treated
by the citizens of America. There appears to be a universal wish among the
Americans to cultivate an alliance, offensive and defensive, with his
majesty of Russia. The cry is, "all the Russians want is a fleet, and
we'll lend them that." In fact, a deadly animosity pervades America
towards Great Britain; and although it is not publicly confessed, for the
Americans are too able politicians to do that, yet it is no less certain,
that "_Delenda est Carthago_," is their motto. Let England look to it. Her
power is great; but, if the fleets of America, France, and Russia, were to
combine, and land on the shores of England hordes of Russians, and
battalions of disciplined Frenchmen - if this were to be done, with the
Irish people, instead of allies as they should be, her deadly enemies, her
power is annihilated at a blow! For let it be remembered, that there is no
rallying principle in the temperament of the mass of the English people;
and that formerly one single victory, - the victory of Hastings, completely
subjugated them. Hume, who was decidedly an impartial historian, is
compelled to say of that conquest, "It would be difficult to find in all
history a revolution more destructive, or attended with a more complete
subjection of the ancient inhabitants. Contumely seems even to have been
wantonly added to oppression; and the natives were universally reduced to
such a state of meanness and poverty, that the English name became a term
of reproach; and several generations elapsed before one family of Saxon
pedigree was raised to any considerable honours, or could so much as
obtain the rank of baron of the realm." - Yet the English people owe much
to the ancestors of the aristocracy, who introduced among them the arts
and refinements of civilization, and by their wisdom and disciplined
valour have raised the country to that pitch of greatness, so justly
termed "the envy of surrounding nations." I do not contend, that because a
nation may have acquired the name of great, that therefore _the people_
are more happy; but am rather inclined to think the contrary, for
conquests are generally made and wealth is accumulated for the benefit of
the few, and at the expense of the many.

A law has been lately passed by the legislature of Pennsylvania, taxing
wholesale and retail dealers in merchandize, excepting those importers of
foreign goods who vend the articles in the form in which they are
imported. This act classes the citizens according to their annual amount
of sales, and taxes them in the same proportion. Those who effect sales to
the amount of fifty thousand dollars, constitute the first class; of forty
thousand dollars, the second class; of thirty thousand dollars, the third
class; of twenty thousand dollars, the fourth class; of fifteen thousand
dollars, the fifth class; of ten thousand dollars, the sixth class; of
five thousand dollars, the seventh class; and all persons effecting sales
not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars, constitute the eighth
class. The first class shall pay for license, annually, fifty dollars; the
second class, forty dollars; the third class, thirty dollars; the fourth
class, twenty-five dollars; the fifth class, twenty dollars; the sixth
class, fifteen dollars; the seventh class, twelve dollars and fifty cents,
and the eighth class ten dollars.

Direct taxation has been found in all cases to be obnoxious, and this
particular mode, I apprehend, is calculated to produce very pernicious
effects. The laws of a republic should all tend to establish and support,
as far as is practicable, the principle of equality, and any act that has
a contrary tendency must be injurious to the community. Now this act draws
a direct line of demarcation between citizens, in proportion to the extent
of their dealings; and as in this country a man's importance is entirely
estimated by his supposed wealth, the citizens of Pennsylvania can
henceforth only claim a share of respectability, proportionate to the
_class_ to which they belong. The west country ladies have shewn a great
aptitude for forming "circles of society," and the promulgation of this
law affords them a most powerful aid in establishing a _store-keeping
aristocracy_.

The large cities in America are by no means so lightly taxed as might be
supposed from the cheapness of the government; the public works, public
buildings, and police establishments, requiring adequate funds for their
maintenance and support; however, the inhabitants have the consolation of
knowing that this must gradually decrease, and that their money is laid
out for their own advantage, and not for the purpose of pensioning off the
mistresses and physicians of viceroys, as in Ireland.[23] Another thing is
to be observed, that in addition to the _national_ debt, each state has a
_private_ debt, which in many cases is tolerably large. These debts have
been created by expenditures on roads, canals, and public buildings. The
mode of taxation latterly adopted by the legislature is not popular, and
many of the public prints have remonstrated against the system. "The
Philadelphia Gazette," of the 24th Sept. 1830, makes the following
remarks - "The subject of unequal and oppressive taxation deserves more
attention than it has hitherto received from our citizens. The misery of
England is occasioned less by the amount of revenue that is raised there,
than by the manner in which it is raised. In Pennsylvania we are going on
rapidly, making our state a second England in regard of debt and taxation.
Our public debt is already 13,000,000 dollars; and before our canals and
rail-roads shall be completed, it will probably amount to 18 or 20
millions. The law imposing taxes of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 dollars on
retailers, is not the only just subject of complaint. The _collateral
inheritance_ tax is equally unjust. The tavern-keepers are besides to be
taxed from 20 to 50 dollars each. Nor does the matter end here. At the
next session of the legislature, it will, in all probability, be found
necessary to lay on additional taxes: and when the principle of unjust
taxation is once admitted in legislation, it is difficult to say how far
it will be carried."

Whilst staying at Philadelphia an account of the French revolution
arrived, and the merchants, there and at New York, were in high spirits,
thinking that war was inevitable. A war in Europe is always hailed with
delight in America, as it opens a field for commercial enterprise, and
gives employment to the shipping, of which at present they are much in
need.

During the long and ruinous war in Europe, the mercantile and shipping
interests of the United States advanced with an unexampled degree of
rapidity. The Americans were then the carriers of nearly all Europe, and
scarcely any merchandize entered the ports of the belligerent powers, but
in American bottoms. This unnatural state of prosperity could not last:
peace was established, and from that era the decline of commerce in the
United States may be dated. The merchants seem not to have calculated on
this event's so soon taking place, or to have overrated the increase of
prosperity and population in their own country, as up to that period, and
for some years afterwards, there does appear to have been no relaxation of
ship-building, and little diminution of mercantile speculations. At
present the ship-owners are realizing little beyond the expenses of their
vessels, and in many cases the bottoms are actually in debt. The frequent
failures in the Atlantic cities, of late, are mainly to be attributed to
unsuccessful ship speculations; and I am myself aware of more than one
instance, where the freight was so extremely low, as to do little more
than cover the expenditure of the voyage. On my return to Europe, while
staying at Marseilles, twelve American vessels arrived in that port within
the space of two months; and before my departure, nine of these returned
to the United States with ballast (stones), and I believe only two with
full cargos.

In a national point of view, the difficulty of obtaining employment for
the shipping of America may not have been so injurious as at first view
it appears to be; on the contrary, I am of opinion that it has been
advantageous. Whilst a profitable trade could with facility be carried on
with and in Europe, the merchants seldom thought of extending their
enterprises to any other parts of the world; but since the decline of that
trade, communications have been opened with the East Indies, Africa, all
the ports of the Mediterranean, and voyages to the Pacific, and to the
Austral regions, are now of common occurrence. The museums in the Atlantic
cities bear ample testimony to the enterprising character of the American
merchants, which by their means are filled with all the curious and
interesting productions of the East. This has encouraged a taste for
scientific studies, and for travelling; which must ultimately tend to
raise the nation to a degree of respectability little inferior to the
oldest European state.

FOOTNOTES:

[23] An Irish viceroy lately paid his physician by conferring on him a
baronetcy, and a pension of two hundred pounds a year, of the public
money.




CHAPTER XI.


Having sojourned for more than three weeks at Philadelphia, I departed for
New York. The impressions made on my mind during that time were highly
favourable to the Philadelphians and their city. It is the handsomest city
in the Union; and the inhabitants, in sociability and politeness, have
much the advantage of any other body of people with whom I came in
contact.

The steamer takes you up the Delaware river to Bordentown, in New Jersey,
twenty-four miles from Philadelphia. The country at either side is in a
high state of cultivation. It is interspersed with handsome country seats,
and on the whole presents a most charming prospect. There is scarcely a
single point passed up the windings of the Delaware, but presents a new
and pleasing variety of landscape - luxuriant foliage - gently swelling
hills, and fertile lawns; which last having been lately mown, were covered
with a rich green sward most pleasing to the eye. The banks of the river
at Bordentown are high, and the town, as seen from the water, has a pretty
effect. Here a stage took us across New Jersey to Amboy. This is not a
large town, nor can it ever be of much importance, being situated too near
the cities of New York and Philadelphia. At Amboy we again took the
steam-boat up the bay, and after a delightful sail of thirty miles,
through scenery the most beautiful and magnificent, we arrived at New
York.

When I was at New York about fifteen months before, I was informed that
the working classes were being organized into regular bodies, similar to
the "union of trades" in England, for the purpose of retaining all
political power in their own hands. This organization has taken place at
the suggestion of Frances Wright, of whom I shall again have occasion to
speak presently, and has succeeded to an astonishing extent. There are
three or four different bodies of the "workies," as they call themselves
familiarly, which vary somewhat from each other in their principles, and
go different lengths in their attacks on the present institutions of
society. There are those of them called "agrarians," who contend that
there should be a law passed to prohibit individuals holding beyond a
certain quantity of ground; and that at given intervals of time there
should be an equal division of property throughout the land. This is the
most ultra, and least numerous class; the absurdity of whose doctrines
must ultimately destroy them as a body. Various handbills and placards may
be seen posted about the city, calling meetings of these unions. Some of
those handbills are of a most extraordinary character indeed. I shall
here insert a copy of one, which I took off a wall, and have now in my
possession. It may serve to illustrate the character of those clubs.

THE CAUSE OF THE POOR.

The Mechanics and other working men of the city of New York, and
of _these_ such and such only as live by their own useful
industry, who wish to retain all political power in their own
hands;


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15

Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 13 of 15)