S.A. Ferrall.

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

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"biggest bugs"[9] in the place.

The public buildings of Louisville are few, and the streets are laid out
in the usual style, crossing each other at right angles. It contains a
few good brick dwelling-houses, and a number of excellent hack-carriages
are stationed near the steam-boat landing. A canal round the Falls, from
Beargrass-creek to Shippingsport, is being constructed, which will enable
steam-boats of the largest tonnage to pass through; and thus it will open
an uninterrupted intercourse between the Upper and Lower Ohio, and the
Mississippi. The length of this canal is about two and a half miles, and
the original estimate was 200,000 dollars, but this sum has been found

At Louisville I took a berth on board a boat for New Orleans. The
steam-boats on the Mississippi are large, and splendidly appointed; the
interior has more the appearance of a well fitted up dining-room than the
cabin of a boat. The charge is twenty-five dollars, for which you are
found in every thing except liquors. Meats, fowls, vegetables, fruits,
preserves, &c., are served in abundance, and of the very best quality.
Here you may see tradesmen, "nigger traders," farmers, "congress men,"
captains, generals, and judges, all seated at the same table, in true
republican simplicity. There is no appearance of awkwardness in the
behaviour of the humblest person you see seated at those tables; and
indeed their general good conduct is remarkable - I mean when contrasted
with that of the same class in England. The truth is, the tradesman here
finds himself of some importance in the scale of society, and endeavours
to show that he is fully qualified to be seated at the same table, _en
passant_, with the most wealthy citizen. No doubt the higher classes have
some of that high polish rubbed off by these occasional contacts with
their less-civilized fellow citizens; but the humbler classes decidedly
gain what _they_ lose. All dress well, and are _American_ gentlemen.

The Ohio is formed by the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers
at Pittsburg, that town being seated in the fork - its breadth there, is
between eight and nine hundred yards. From the mouths of those two rivers
it narrows and deepens for some distance; but afterwards, from the
accession of the many tributary streams by which it is supplied, gradually
becomes wider and deeper, until it empties itself into the Mississippi.
The length of the Ohio, following its meanders, is about 950 miles, and it
may be said to be navigable almost the entire year, as the water must be
unusually low when the smaller steam-boats cannot ply to Pittsburg. The
character of this river is somewhat peculiar. But for the improvements on
the banks, when you have seen six or eight miles of this stream, you are
acquainted with the remainder as far as the Falls - that is to say, any
variety that may be in the scenery will occur in any given six miles from
Pittsburg to that point. Below Louisville there are one or two rocky
bluffs, and the face of the country is somewhat different. The channel of
the Upper Ohio lies between hills, which frequently approach the
_mamélle_ form, and are covered with a heavy growth of timber. Where the
hills or bluffs do not rise immediately from the river, but recede some
distance, the space between the river and the hill is called bottom land,
from the circumstance of its being overflown annually; or having at some
former period formed part of the river's bed, which is indicated by the
nature of the soil. The bluffs and bottoms invariably alternate; and when
you have bluffs on one side, you are sure to have bottom on the other. The
windings are extremely uniform, with few exceptions, curving in a
serpentine form in so regular a manner, that the Indians always calculated
the distance by the number of bends.

"The Falls" are improperly so termed, as this obstruction is nothing more
than a gradual descent for a distance of about a mile and a half, where
the water, forcing its way over a rugged rocky bottom, presents the
appearance of a rapid. Below this the country is of various
aspects - hills, bottom-land, and high rocky bluffs; and towards the mouth,
cotton-wood trees, (_populus angulata_), and cane brakes, are interspersed
along the banks. The junction of these two noble rivers, the Ohio and
Mississippi, is really a splendid sight - the scenery is picturesque, and
the water at the point of union is fully two miles broad.

The Mississippi[10] is in length, from its head waters to the _balize_ in
the gulf of Mexico, about two thousand three hundred miles, and flows
through an immense variety of country. The section through which it
passes, before its junction with the Missouri, is represented as being
elegantly diversified with woodlands, prairies, and rich bottoms, and the
banks are lined with a luxuriant growth of plants and flowers. Before
reaching the Missouri, the water of the Mississippi is perfectly limpid;
but, from the mouth of that river it becomes turgid and muddy - flows
through a flat, inundated country, and seems more like an immense flood,
than an old and deep-channelled river. As far as great things can be
compared to small, it much resembles, within its banks, the Rhone when
flooded, as it sweeps through the department of Vaucluse, after its
junction with the Saone.

From St. Louis to New Orleans, a distance of twelve hundred miles, there
are but six elevated points - the four Chickesaw bluffs, the Iron banks,
and the Walnut hills. Numerous islands are interspersed through this
river; and from the mouth of the Ohio, tall cotton-wood trees and
cane-brakes grow in immense quantities along the banks; the latter, being
evergreens, have a pleasing effect in the winter season. The windings of
the Mississippi are, like those of the Ohio, constant, but not so
serpentine, and some of them are of immense magnitude. You traverse every
point of the compass in your passage up or down: for example, there is a
bend near _Bayou Placquamine_, the length of which by the water is upwards
of sixty miles, and from one point to the other across the distance is but

The town of "Baton Rouge" is situated about 190 miles above New Orleans,
and contains a small garrison; - the esplanade runs down to the
water's-edge, and the whole has a pretty effect. Here the sugar
plantations commence, and the face of the country is again changed - you
find yourself in the regions of the south. For a distance of from
half-a-mile to two miles back, at each side, the land is planted with
sugar-canes, and highly cultivated. The planters' houses are tastefully
built, surrounded by gardens full of orange-trees, flowers, and
evergreens, presenting the idea of perpetual spring, which here is indeed
the case. The winters are seldom more severe than a mild spring in
England. I first came in on this region at night, at the season of
planting, when the cast or used canes are burned in heaps on each
plantation. The dark turgid waters - the distant fires, surrounded by
clouds of white smoke ascending in winding columns to the skies - the
stillness of the night, interrupted only by the occasional cry of the
pelican or the crane, and the monotonous thumping of the steam-boat
paddles, formed a strange combination; and had the days of witches and
warlocks not long since passed away, one would have sworn that these
gentry were performing incantations over the mystic cauldrons, casting
"seven bullets," or "raising spirits from the vasty deep."

The Mississippi is in few places more than from half-a-mile to a mile
wide; and were one to judge of its magnitude by its breadth alone, a very
erroneous estimate would be formed. It is only by contemplating the many
vast rivers which empty themselves into the Mississippi that you can form
a correct idea of the immense volume of water that flows through this
channel into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of its larger tributary streams
have the appearance of being as great as itself - the depth alone
indicating the superiority of this mighty river over every other in
America; and, considering its length, perhaps over any other in the world.

The great valley of the Mississippi extends, in length, from the Gulf of
Mexico to a distance of nearly 3000 miles; and is in breadth, from the
base of the Alleghanies to the foot of the Rocky mountains, about 2,500
miles. The soil is composed of alluvial deposits, to a depth of from
twenty to fifty feet; and I have myself seen, near New Orleans, trees
lying in the horizontal position six or seven feet below the surface. This
valley has been frequently visited by earthquakes, which have sometimes
changed part of the channel of the river, and at others formed lakes.
Those which occurred between the years 1811 and 1813, did serious injury,
particularly in the neighbourhood of New Madrid, near the west bank,
below the mouth of the Ohio. At several points the bank is sunk eight or
ten feet below the surface of the adjacent ground, with the trees
remaining upright as before.

New Orleans is seated on the south-east bank of the Mississippi; and,
following the sinuosities of the current, about 109 miles from the Gulf of
Mexico. The river takes here a right-angular sweep, and the city proper is
built on the exterior point of the bend, the _fauxbourgs_ extending at
each side along the banks. At high water the river rises three feet above
any part of the city; consequently, were it not for levées that have been
constructed here, and also along the banks of the river for more than a
hundred miles, at both sides, above and below, the whole country would be
periodically inundated. The fall from the levée to Bayou St. John, which
communicates with _Lac Pontchartrain_, is about thirty feet, and the
distance one mile. This fall is certainly inconsiderable; but I apprehend
that it would be sufficient to drain the streets effectually, if proper
attention were directed to that object.

The city extends only half-a-mile back, and, including the _fauxbourgs_,
about two miles along the river. The streets, being only partially paved,
can never be perfectly cleaned, and stagnant water remains in the kennels
at all seasons; this and the exhalations from the swamps in warm weather,
produce that pestilential scourge with which the place is annually
afflicted. The mortality here last season (the autumn of 1829) has been
variously stated in the public prints at from five to seven thousand, who
died of the yellow fever in the space of about ten weeks. This statement,
however, is erroneous; as, from information which I received from the
sexton of the American grave-yard, and from the number of fresh graves
which I saw there, I am inclined to think that the total amount falls
short of 2500, out of a resident population of less than 40,000 souls.
About 700 were buried in the American grave-yard, and perhaps double that
number in that of the French.

The port of New Orleans presents the most extraordinary medley of any port
in the world. Craft of every possible variety may be seen moored along the
levées, and the markets and adjacent streets crowded with people of almost
every nation in Europe, Africa, and America, who create a frightful
confusion of tongues. A particular part of the quay is appropriated to
each description of craft, and a penalty is enforced for any deviation
from port regulations. The upper part is occupied with flat-boats, arks,
peeroges, rafts, keel-boats, canoes, and steam-boats; and below these are
stationed schooners, cutters, brigs, ships, &c., in regular succession.
The levée is almost constantly filled with merchandize; and the scene of
bustle and confusion which is exhibited here during the early part of the
day, fully proves the large amount of commercial intercourse which this
city enjoys.

When Louisiana was ceded to the United States, in 1803, Orleans was then
entirely occupied by Creole-French and Spanish, consequently the majority
of the habitations and public buildings, are in the French and Spanish
style. The cathedral, which presents a handsome façade of about seventy
feet, the town-hall, and courts, occupy one side of the _place
d'armes,_ - these, with the American theatre, the _théâtre d'Orleans,_ or
French opera house, the hospital, and three or four churches, are the only
public buildings in the city. The houses are all flat-roofed, and those in
the back streets and fauxbourgs are seldom more than one story high; the
practice of building houses in this manner was pursued in order to avoid
injury from tornadoes, which occasionally visit the valley of the
Mississippi; latterly they have not been of frequent occurrence, although
when they do arise, they are extremely violent. The town of Urbana, in
Ohio, this year (1830) has been nearly destroyed by a visitation of this

Pharo-banks, roulette-tables, and gambling of all kinds, are publicly
permitted; but the proprietor of each establishment pays a tax of 5000
dollars per annum. The _théâtre d'Orleans_ on Sunday evenings, is
generally crowded with beautiful French women. Every night during the
winter season there is a _bal paré et masqué_, and occasionally "quadroon
balls," which are attended by the young men of the city and their _chères
amies_ quadroons, who are decidedly the finest women in the country, being
well formed, and graceful in their carriage. The Louisianians are
prohibited by law from marrying with quadroons, although this _caste_ is
free, and many of them have been educated in France, and are highly

In the south, slavery exists in its most unqualified condition, wanting
those milder modifications which serve to dress and decorate the person of
this ugly fiend. Here may be seen hundreds of animals of our own genus
exposed in the public bazaars for sale, and examined with as much care,
and precisely in the same manner, as we examine horses. In some of the
slave states the law prohibits the separation of families, but this
prohibition is little attended to, as the slave has no possibility of
coming in contact with any dispensers of justice but the magistrates of
the state, who, being slave-holders themselves, instead of redressing his
grievances, would be more likely to order him a lashing, for presuming to
complain. Many melancholy instances occur here, which clearly illustrate
the evils of slavery and its demoralizing influence on the human
character. The arguments against slavery are deduced from self-evident
propositions, and must carry conviction to every well organized mind; yet
from their application being of too general a character, they seldom
interest the feelings, and in the end leave less impression than the
simple statement of a particular occurrence. During my stay, a Doctor
- - came down the river with thirty slaves, among which were an old negro
and negress, each between sixty and seventy years of age; this unfortunate
old woman had borne twenty-one children, all of whom had been at different
times sold in the Orleans market, and carried into other states, and into
distant parts of Louisiana. The Doctor said, in order to induce her to
leave home quietly, that he was bringing her into Louisiana for the
purpose of placing her with some of her children - "and now," says the old
negress, "aldo I suckle my massa at dis breast, yet now he sell me to
sugar planter, after he sell all my children away from me." This gentleman
was a strict Methodist, or "saint," and is, I was informed, much esteemed
by the preachers of that persuasion, because of his liberal contributions
to their support.

Negresses, when young and likely, are often employed as wet nurses by
white people, as also by either the planter or his friends, to administer
to their sensual desires - this frequently as a matter of speculation, for
if the offspring, a mulatto, be a handsome female, from 800 to 1000
dollars may be obtained for her in the Orleans market.[11] It is an
occurrence of no uncommon nature to see the Christian father sell his own
daughter, and the brother his own sister, by the same father. Slaves do
not marry, but pair at discretion; and the more children they produce, the
better for their masters.

On the Levée at New Orleans, are constantly exhibited specimens of the
white man's humanity, in the persons of runaway slaves. When such an
unfortunate negro is retaken, a log is chained to one of his legs, and
round his neck is placed an iron collar, from which project three sharp
prongs more than a foot in length each.

The evils of this infernal system are beginning to re-act upon the
Christians, who are latterly kept in a constant state of alarm, fearing
the number and disposition of the blacks, which threaten at no far distant
period to overwhelm the south with some dreadful calamity.[12] Three
incendiary fires took place at Orleans, during the month I remained in
that city, by which several thousand bales of cotton were consumed. The
condition of the slaves on the sugar or rice plantations, is truly
wretched. They are ill-fed, ill-clad, and worked in gangs under the
superintendence of a driver, who is armed with a long whip, which he uses
at discretion; and it is a fact, well known to persons who have visited
slave countries, that punishments are more frequently inflicted to gratify
the private pique or caprice of the driver, than for crime or neglect of

In the agricultural states, slave labour is found to be altogether
unproductive, which causes this market to be inundated: - within the last
two months, 5000 negros have been sold here. The state legislature has
just passed a law, regulating the introduction of slaves, and commanding
all free people of colour, who were not residents previous to 1825, to
quit Louisiana in the space of six months. Georgia has enacted a law to
the same effect, with the addition of making penal, _the teaching of
people of colour to read or write_. The liberty of the press is by no
means tolerated in the slave states, as both judges and juries will always
decide according to the local laws, although totally at variance with the
constitution. W.L. Garrison, of Baltimore, one of the editors of a
publication entitled, "The Genius of Universal Emancipation," is now
suffering fine and imprisonment for an alleged libel, at the suit of a
slavite; and a law has been passed by the legislature of Louisiana,
suppressing the Orleans journal called "The Liberal." This latter act is
not only contrary to the constitution of the United States, but also in
direct opposition to the constitution of Louisiana.[13]

The free states in their own defence have been obliged to prohibit people
of colour settling within their boundaries. Where then can the unfortunate
African find a retreat? He must not stay in this country, and he cannot
go to Africa; and although the British government are encouraging the
settlement of negros in the Canadas, yet latterly, neither the Canadians
nor the Americans like that project. The most probable finale to this
drama will be, that the Christians must at their own expense ship them to
Liberia (for Hayti is inundated), and there throw them on barren shores to
die of starvation, or to be massacred by the savages!

Miss Wright lately passed through New Orleans with thirty negros which she
had manumitted, and was then going to establish them at Hayti. These
slaves had been purchased at reduced prices, from persons friendly to
their emancipation, and were kept by Miss Wright until their labour,
allowing them a fair remuneration, amounted to the prime outlay.

Were it not for the danger that might be apprehended from the congregation
of large bodies of negros in particular states or districts, their
liberation would be attended with little inconvenience _to the public_,
for their labour might be as effectually secured, and made quite as
profitable, under a system of well-regulated emancipation. We need only
refer to England for a case in point: - after the conquest and total
subjugation of the people of that country by the ancestors of the
nobility, the gallant Normans, the feudal system was introduced, and
remained in full vigour for some centuries. But, as the country became
more populous, and the attendance of the knights and barons in parliament
became more frequent and necessary, we find villanage gradually fall into
disrepute. The last laws regulating this species of slavery were passed in
the reign of Henry VII; and towards the end of Elizabeth's reign, although
the statutes remained unrepealed, as they do still, yet there were no
persons in the state to whom the laws applied. It cannot be denied that
the labour of the poor English is as effectually secured under the present
arrangements, as it could possibly be under the system of villanage.

I look upon slaves as public securities; and I am of opinion, that a
legislature's enacting laws for their emancipation, is as flagrant a piece
of injustice as would be the cancelling of the public debt. Slave-holders
are only share-holders; and philanthropists should never talk of
liberating slaves, more than cancelling public securities, without being
prepared to indemnify those persons who unfortunately have their capital
invested in this species of property.

As many varieties of countenance are to be found among blacks as among
whites. There are Africans in this city who have really handsome features,
and whose proportions are just, with strong and finely rounded limbs. On
becoming more intimate with the general character of the Africans, I like
it better: I find they steal, cheat, and hate their masters; and if they
were to do otherwise I should think them unworthy of liberty - they justly
consider whatever they take to be but a portion of their own. The policy
is to keep them as much as possible in utter ignorance - that their
indignation should therefore develope itself in the most degrading manner,
is not surprising.

There are two public schools established at New Orleans, which are
supported out of the fund arising from five gaming-houses, they paying a
tax of 25,000 dollars per annum. These schools are conducted on the
Lancastrian system, each having a Principal and a Professor, and the
studies are divided into daily sessions. The morning session is devoted to
reading, spelling, arithmetic, and English grammar; commences at nine
A.M., and closes at one P.M. The evening session commences at three, and
ends at five o'clock; and is devoted to penmanship, geography, and the
French language. This is the arrangement of the English primary school,
which is kept in the Old Poydras House, Poydras-street, in the upper part
of the city; and is called the Upper Primary School, to distinguish it
from the French establishment, which is kept in the lower part of the
city. The English school has an English principal, and a French professor;
and the French school, a French principal and an English professor. Dr.
Kinnicutt, the principal of the Upper Primary School, is a gentleman of
considerable ability, and to his friendly politeness I am indebted for the
above information.

The ravages of the yellow fever in New Orleans are immense; but I am
credibly informed that many deaths occur here from neglect after the fever
has subsided, when the patient is in a totally debilitated condition,
incapable of affording himself the slightest assistance. Orleans is
generally crowded with strangers, who are most susceptible to the
epidemic; and it is decidedly the interest of persons keeping hotels and
boarding-houses that such guests should give up the ghost, for in that
case their loose cash falls into the hands of the proprietor. I do not
mean to insinuate that a knife is passed across the throat of the
patient; but merely that it is the opinion of physicians, and some of the
most respectable people of the city, that every _facility_ is afforded
strangers to die, and that in many cases they actually die of gross

The wealthy merchants live well, keep handsome establishments, and good
wines. The Sardanapalian motto, "Laugh, sing, dance, and be merry," seems
to be universally adopted in this "City of the Plague." The planters' and
merchants' villas immediately in the vicinity are extremely tasteful, and
are surrounded by large parterres filled with plantain, banana, palm,
orange, and rose trees. On the whole, were it not for its unhealthiness,
Orleans would be a most desirable residence, and the largest city in the
United States, as it is most decidedly the best circumstanced in a
commercial point of view.

The question of the purchase of Texas from the Mexican government has been
widely mooted throughout the country, and in the slave districts it has

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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 8 of 15)