James Fenimore Cooper.

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their own interests. The long neutrality of tlie Americans
certainly added to the w^ealth of the nation, and enabled its
merchants to increase their tonnage to a comparatively enor-
mous amount. In 1810, when the population of the coun-
try but a little exceeded 7,000,000, there were more than
1,400,000 tons of* shipping under the American flag. After
allowing for errors and frauds, both of which existed at that
period to some extent, this was making one ton to every five
souls. To equal this ratio, Great Britain should possess a
tonnage of near five millions, and France one of six, and that
without computing the inhabitants of their dependencies.
But, great as w^as the effect of this neutral character on
America, it was by no means equal to that which would have
been produced by her natural advantages to profit by such a

334 NOTES.

position, had not the contest been marked by a singular dis-
reo-ard of the estabhshed usages of the world. The " orders
in council" of the English, and the " decrees" of the French,
are not unknown to you. Under the operations of those novel
principles of belligerent rights, more than sixteen hundred
sail of American vessels were captured or sequestered by the
English, French, Spaniards, Danes, and Neapolitans. Of
this number, near a thousand were condemned, and, with
their cargoes, entirely lost to the nation. These captures
occurred during the enjoyment of our neutral character ! The
restrictive laws, a measure of our own forbearing policy, fol-
lowed these heavy losses, and, for near two years, the foreign
trade of the country was entirely abandoned. To these again
succeeded a war of near three years, with a nation which
commanded the sea, which had little else- to do on that ele-
ment but to annoy our trade, and which, for much of the
time, had no other enemy. To all these checks, which, in
1814, had reduced the navigation of the country to about
one-twentieth of what it had been seven years before, sue-'
ceeded the general peace, a period when each community
returned to the enjoyment of its ovv^n peculiar advantages
If we put the short and nominal interruption to the peace,
that v/as occasioned by the return of Napoleon, as a set-off
to :^ " additional year that the American war continued, w€;
can g appose all the nations to have re-entered the lists of
commercial enterprise together. The result is known to you.
Though America has not regained her former ratio of ton-
nage, (a thing not to be expected during a general peace,)
she has become again, compared with her population, the
most maritime nation of the earth. When one coolly reflects
on the shocks she sustained in her wealth, the long continu-
ance of the restrictions she endured, and her infancy, the
impression must be irresistible that there exists, either in the
spirit of her people, or in the resources of America, or m
both, an operating cause to produce these effects, which is to
be found nowhere else. Does any man believe that there is
a single nation in Europe that could have recovered so soon
from similar shocks? The restoration of the convalescent
child to its pristine powers, is not more strongly contrasted
to the laboured and feeble efforts of age, than is the elasticity
with which America recovers from political pressure to be
compared to the cumbered efforts of the older and more arti-
ficial conmiunities of Europe."

" What effect is the continuance of peace likely to produce
on the navigation of your country ?"
'•' Peace will of course change, indeed it has alreadv, in

NOTES. 335

some measure, changed the direction of our commerce. We
are now placed, as regards mere privilege, on a level with
other nations. ^ That we are more than equal to mamtain the
competition, wherever trade is conducted on principles of
reciprocity, is manifest hy the fact that we conduct so large
a proportion of the intercourse between ourselves and the
rest of tlie world. The mam result is already to be seen in
existing fVicts ; though it is undeniably in the power of other
countries to throw embarrassments in our way, just as it is in
our power to adopt measures of retaliation. It is useless "to
carry this investigation into details, since the minute pohcy
of nations to-day may differ so much from that of to-morrow.
It appears to me that the question of the increase of our
navigation is altogether one of degree. That it must con-
tinue to increase is just as capable of demonstration as the
facts that it has increased, and does increase, are notorious.
Let us look, for instance, at a branch of the trade that is al-
most without exception within our own control.. On exam-
ination it will be seen, that while the foreign commerce of
the United States has vacillated with tlie changes of external
causes, the trade coastwise has been regularly, and, I might
add, naturally, on the increase. In America, the vessels
which are employed in the intercourse between one State and
another, or, in fact, between one port and another, are enu-
merated in a different class from those which sail for ports
without the country. The former are known as registered,
and the latter as licensed vessels. The difference in name is
owing to the difference in the document which gives to each
its respective character. In all other respects the employ-
ments are the same. When the destination of the vessel is
changed, it becomes necessary to change the evidence of
character. Now, in 1790, the licensed tonnage of the coun-
try amounted to 103,775 tons. It exceeds, at the present
hour, this amount by seven-fold. The increase has been re-
marliably regular, and is always in a ratio rather exceeding
that of the population of the country.*

" The most rational way of anticipating the future state
of our commerce by the past, is to consider the ratio of the
increasing wants of the country in connexion with the ef-
fects which repletion, if I may so term it, never fails to pro-
duce on the moral no less than on the physical system. So
long as the animal is in a state of growth, ample sustenance
tends to aid that growth, by keeping the frame equal to its

* The reports of 1S26, raise the tonnage of the United States to 1,534,000
tons, of wliich more than 800,000 are in the coasting trade and fisheries.

336 NOTES.

utmost powers of developement ; but as maturity approaches
excessive nourishment gradually begins to defeat its own ob-
ject. There are also points in the developement of tiie re-
sources of all communities, where calculation must become
subject to the re-actions of a state of rest, and of a retro-
gradation, just as in the animal system allowances were to
be made for a condition of infant vigour. Should we as-
sume, for a rule, the past ratio of the increase of our coast-
ing trade, and with the exception of the last few years, it has
hitherto been exceedingly regular, we shall have, multiplying
the present amount by seven, a total of near five millions for
the licensed tonnage of the country in the year 1860. Under
a general impression of its improbability, the mind rejects
this enormous amount as exaggerated, and, no doubt, with
some reason. If we talie the positive growth of the past
Mdthout any reference to its comparative rate of increase, it
will require another thirty years to add another 600,000 tons
to this branch of our trade. But as the United States are
still in the course of a vigorous and healthful developement
of their resources, there are those who would reject the prin-
ciple of this manner of estimation, however they might be
satisfied with its result. If we take the known rate of the
increase of our population as a guide, we shall have a licen-
sed tonnage of about 1,500,000 in the year 1850. With these
facts in view, you are nearly or quite as well qualified to judge
of this matter as myself, though all conjecture on the subject
must necessarily be made under a sense of the mutability of
human affairs. In order to form an opinion of this branch of
trade, however, and of its effects on the maritime character
of the nation, you will remember that the voyages are made
in vessels of from ten tons, to those of five hundred, and that
they are from twenty miles in extent to two thousand. Now,
this trade is all our own, and can never be materially invaded,
during peace, by the policy of any other people. It is in it-
self such a germ of nautical power as exists nowhere else,
unless it may be in England, where it exists at all times sub-
ject to the dangers of colonial discussions and conflicting in-
terests. In short, it is such a healthful, safe, and increasing '
source of commerce, as, I think, can never be long equalled
by the intercourse between principal and dependant."

" What effect will manufactures be likely to produce on
the maritime cMracter of your people? How far will tlie
cheapness of land have a tendency to divert your population
from the ocean, and what will be the probable influence of
the inland States in opposing the commercial, or navigating
Merepts of the maritime?"

NOTES. 337

" These are questions often asked ; but the two first of
them, at least, might be answered by the results of all expe-
rience. Men navigate ships for precisely the same object
that they manufacture goods. They do both to enrich them-
selves, or to prevent want. It is a good reason why the
islander should go to sea, that he can do nothing better ; but
it is just as good a one, that the inhabitant of a continent
should do the same thing, because he can do nothing else
half so profitable. Men can be led as well as driven. Now,
the American long ago made the discovery that, notwith-
standing the high price of labour in his country, as he can sail
a ship cheaper than others, he is likely to reap most emolu-
ment in turning his attention to the sea. In consequence of
this discovery, the nation has become maritime; and it will
undeniably continue maritime so long as there is profit to be
derived from navigation. Land was cheaper thirty years ago
than to-day, and yet our citizens left it to earn their money
on the water. The ship-master who gains three or four hun-
dred dollars a year on his farm, rents it, and goes to sea to
earn a thousand, and the labourer prefers twelve dollars a
month to eight. The very cheapness of land, by lessening
the value of its products, assists to create this state of things.
As the population increases, the relative prices of labour
will necessarily diminish, until the time shall come when men
will go to s'ja in America, as elsewhere, because they can do
nothing eko. There is, however, another cause which must
never be lost sight of, when one reasons on the inducements
which tempt men to quit the land for the water. I mean the
restlessness of moral excitement. This cause is more active
in America, where the labouring classes read more, and hear
more of adventure than any where else. It is true, that pos-
sibly one-third of the common seamen employed in the foreign
trade of America are foreigners ; this fact is not, however,
owing to any indisposition to the sea on the part of the na-
tives, but to the superabundance of the supply in Europe,
and, the higher inducements which the American ship-owner
is able to oifer for labour. Nearly, or perhaps quite, in the
proportion, however, as strangers come to us, do our own
people go abroad. The American sailor is to be found all
over the world, and wherever he is known, he is liked for his
cleverness, and generally for his comparatively quiet habits.
There is no political truth more certain in A%ierica,than that
all demands will meet with their supply. To those who are
familiar v.'ith the subject, it is often a matter of surprise to
witness how infallibly, and how soon an extraordinary de-
mand for labour produces a glut m a country whore every

Vol. I. G g

338 NOTES.

thing is more abundant than man. It is not unusual for
artisans or day-labourers to be informed of these demands,
by means of the public prints, and for adventurers to be seen
undertaking- journeys of hundreds of miles, not to provide
ag-ainst want, but in order to reap the utmost possible emolu-
ment from their personal efforts. In this ^particular, no
parallel can be drawn between America and any other coun-
try, since no other country possesses such varied and cheap
means of intelligence and communication, nor a population
sufficiently active and intelligent to profit by them. As
respects enterprise and intelligence, the mass of our labouring
people may be placed on a level with the better instructed
English mechanic: without his particular excellence, it is
true, but with infinitely more general and useful information.
Men would come from the forest to the sea to meet a de-
mand, just as men will go from the sea to the interior, when
that demand has more than met with its supply. So long as
the merchant can afford to pay for labour, he will never want
seamen in America, since it is commerce that makes mari-
ners, and not mariners commerce. There are certain familiar
facts that have a more particular connexion with the present
state of our seamen, which we may find it useful to refer to,
when we shall come to consider America as a naval power.
But the subject must be postponed, until you have seen some-
thing of the country itself.

" As respects the supposed difference between the interests
of what you call the maritime, and of the interior States,
it has no real existence, and can, therefore, never produce
any important results. It is difficult to imagine a state of
society where there is so little competition, (the source of
all discord,) between its members, as is to be found in the
United States. The unfortunate and lamentable grievance
of slavery ceases to be an evil in this respect. That momentary
collisions of opinion do arise between northern and southern,
between eastern and western policy, is undeniable ; but
they are far more the results of the right to complain, than
of any natural djisability to maintain the connexion. Fancy
for a moment, that Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the West
Indies, could make themselves, not heard, but felt in the
councils of their empire, and then figure to yourself the dis-
cord that would follow ! Nay, look at that which does at this
moment exist, wKen their voices are so feeble, and their ef-
forts so impotent. Now, in America, the southern planter
has need of the shipping and manufactures of some one.
He has only to ask himself whether he will use those of a
people in whose councils he shares, or those of strangers.

NOTES. 339

The converse of the proposition exhibits the principle which
binds the northern to the southern man. On all the great
and leading questions of policy, their interests are identified,
and the harmony which has suffered so little interruption for
half a century, shows how sensible they are of its truth. Any
departures from tliis accordance of opinion, are merely trifling
exceptions, which are only the more prominent from their
infrequency. If the States of Ohio, Tennessee, and Ken-
tucky, had the exclusive power to legislate on the commerce
of the Union, they might encumber it from ignorance of its
practices, though they would not be slow to perceive how
useful it is, even to themselves. But commerce is regulated
in the grand council of the nation, where men are assembled
who know how to compare their respective wants, and where
small sectional interests are completely silenced by the voices
of the majority. But after all, in considering this question, a
great deal too much stress is laid on the inland States of
America. The territorial limits of the States are ideal, so far
as commerce is concerned. As bodies pohtic, the States are
totally mute in the matter. Neitlier is extent of coast any
evidence of the maritime habits of a State. New- York, with
more shipping, has less coast (if an island without ports be
excepted,) than the two smallest States of the Union. Out
of twenty-four States, seventeen touch the sea, five he on the
great lakes, and the remaining three have direct navigable
water communication with the port of New-Orleans, and will
shortly have an internal water communication with that of
New- York.

" As to manufactures, th,ey are clearly a means of aiding
conunerce, when they exist in communities that can profit by
both. It will be addmg one more to the other numerous
nautical resources of the country, let them thrive with us to-
day, or fifty years hence, since, putting exportation out of the
question, they will clearly increase the objects of intercom-

" I know of but one other manner of considering the mat
ter that is embraced by your query. It does not, in truth,
properly belong to the subject, though, as it is always forced
into view in Europe, I presume you may expect me to say
something concerning it, here. I mean the extent to which
emigration will aftect navigation, by depriving the maritime
States of their seamen. I have already said, that should
there be a demand for seamen, it would produce, when neces-
sary, a counter-current. But it never can be necessary.
Of this truth you will be convinced by a sunple statement
of facts Though, perhaps, one-third, and sometimes one-

340 NOTES.

half of the seamen employed in our foreign trade may be
foreio-ners, the country has always possessed enough of its
own to conduct its commerce, thousands live on shore for
years at a time, and thousands are induced to go abroad in
quest of adventure. In the trade, coastwise, fisheries, &c.
&c. nine-tenths, or, perhaps, more are natives. Now these
men have been chiefly supplied by five of the New-England,
and the five middle States. In 1790, the population of these
ten States amounted to 2,264,536. In 1820, it had reached
4,603,974 ; that is to say, it had doubled in thirty years, not-
withstanding the vast emigration they had sent to the west.
This increase is certainly liable to some explanation. During
this time. New- York, Pennsylvania, Maine, and New-Hamp-
shire, have been, comparatively speaking, new States. But
the two latter have never been favourites, and all have, for
the last fifteen years, sent forth more emigrants than they
have received, and they have received few settlers that did
not come from some one of the other six. The increase of
these ten States between the years 1810 and 1820, a period
during which they must have been losers by the emigration,
was little short of 900,000 souls. Thus, you see, the question
has become exceedingly narrow. If the fact, that we have
now a sufficient number of native seamen, to conduct our
trade, be admitted, the tonnage of the country must double
in thirty years, or the increase of the population of these ten
States alone can furnish the necessary supply for the future.
In making these remarks, I have excluded foreign emigration
from the estimates, since it is well known that it produces no
visible effect on the population of the country. It has been
judiciously calculated that, all births allowed, the population
of the United States was scarcely augmented 200,000 souls,
by foreign emigration, in five-and-thirty years. It is said to
be increasing a little just now, a fact that will, of course,
only facilitate our ability to meet any extraordinary demand
for men."











Eastern Dislrict of Pennsylvania, to vnt:

***»*! BE IT REMEMBEEED, That on the nineteenth day of

*L. S.* July, in the fifty-third year of the independence of the United

****** States of America, A. D. 1828, Cakey, Lea & Carey, of the

said district, have deposited in this office the title of a Book, the right

whereof they claim as Proprietors, in the words following, to wit :

" Notions of the Americans. Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor."

In Conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States,
entitled, "An Act for the encouragement of Learning, by securing the
copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of
such copies during the times therein mentioned." And also to the Act
entitled, " An Act supplementary to an Act, entitled ' An Act for the
Encouragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts,
and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of such copies, during the
times therein mentioned,' and extending the benefits thereof to the arts
of designing, engraving, and etching, historical and other Prints."
D. CALDWELL, Clerk of the

Eastern District of Pennsylvania






I WRITE you from the little capital of this great
republic. After lingering at Baltimore until reasons
for all further delay were exhausted, we reluctantly
turned our faces westward. Cadwallader had pointed
out to me sundry busy-looking travellers, who were
strolling through the streets of the town, with more
gravity of mien (assumed or natural) than is common
to meet in a city, and whispered in my ears that they
were members of Congress, on their way to the seat
of government. This was a hint not to be disregarded.
Tearing ourselves from the attraction of bright eyes
and soft voices, we gallantly entered a coach, and
broke the chain of attraction which, like the fabled
magnet of Mahomet's coffin, had so long kept me
suspended between heaven and earth. Heigho ! dear
Jules, I confess to twenty-four hours, when a treach-
erous intention of resigning, to some less inexorable
successor, the stall which I so unworthily fdl in our
self-denying chapter, was insidiously floating before
my imagination. But a resolution which has borne
me through so many similar dangers in triumph,


(aided by the members of Congress), was victorious.
By-thc-bye, I am grieved to the heart to hear of the
sad accident that has befallen the professor, and most
sincerely do I pray that the time may be long averted
when it shall become necessary to supply a vacancy
in our numbers, from a cause so fatal as a marriage.
The grave might be wept over, and time would
soften grief for the death of even a bosom friend, but
what could time do towards mitigating a penance
performed at the confessional of Hymen ? The more
sincere, and the more frequent the acknowledgments,
the more keen and helpless would the bitterness of
a spirit so thoroughly bruised become. If you pass
through the queen of cities this winter, order a new
cushion to my chair; I intend that the sittings of
1827 shall wear well into the mornings !

The road between Baltimore and Washington is
neither particularly bad nor particularly good.* It
passes through a comparatively barren, and a little
inhabited country. It was here that I first observed
the great difference between the aspect of the slave-
holding and the non-slave-holding States. In Penn-
sylvania, at the distance of sixty miles north of our
present route, we should have seen a landscape, over

* It may be well to state, once for all, the following facts
concerning the American roads. In all the northern and eastern
States, for nine months in the year, they are, as a rule, toler-
ably good in those parts of the country where the establishments
are old enough to admit of it. In the spring, and in the autumn,
there are periods when most of the roads are bad. There are
many roads, however, as good as the ordinary turnpike roads
of England, and which vary very little in quality throughout
the year, A traveller in an American stage-coach cannot well
compare the roads of the United States with those of England,
for the coaches of the former are not suspended on springs,
though the seats are sometimes supplied with them. As one
quits the older parts of the country, the roads gradually grow
worse, until, in the very newest settlements, they are often no
more than trees that are marked, or blazed^ to indicate the
courses of the route.


which farm-houses, hams, and all the ordinary ohjects
of a prosperous husbandry, were profusely sprinkled,
while here the houses began to be distant from each
other, or were grouped in little clusters apart from
the highways. This portion of America bears a
greater resemblance to continental Europe, than the
States we have quitted. The dwelling of the planter
is the chateau ; and the huts of the slaves form the
contiguous village. A difference in the moral con-

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 29 of 58)