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Frenchman, than the sight that was here exhibited.
The multitude was assembled to do honour to an in-
dividual of their own country, for services that he had
rendered to a whole people. The homage he received
was not of a nature to be distrusted. It was as spon-
taneous as had been the benefits it was intended in
some manner to requite ; it was of a nature, both in
its cause and its elFects, to do credit to the best
feelings of man; but it was also of a nature to con-
tribute to the just and personal pride of the country-
men of him who was its object.

We had no sooner secured a proper situation for
the little Isabel, than I disposed myself to make re-
marks still more minute on the assemblage. Cadwal-
lader kept near me, and, though big with the feelings
of home and country, his ear was not deaf to my in-
quiries and demands for explanation. The first ques-
tion was to ascertain the present residence of the
" General," as I found he was universally called, as
it were par excellence. They pointed out a modest
dwelling, embowered in trees, which might claim to
be something between an unpretending villa and a
large farm-house. It was the residence of the Vice-
President of the United States. This individual was
born in a condition of mediocrity, — had received the
ordinary, imperfect, classical education of the coun-
try, and had risen, by popular favour, to the station


of Governor of this, his native, state. .Quite as much
by the importance of that state, as by the weight of
his own character, (which is very differently estimat-
ed by different peoplp,) he has been chosen to fill his
present situation ; an office which, while it certainly
makes him the legal successor of the President, in
case of death, resignation, or disability, is not con-
sidered, in itself, one of very high importance, since its
sole duties are limited to the chair of the Senate,
without a seat in the cabinet. There has been no
recent instance of a Vice-President succeeding to the
Presidency ; and I can easily see, the office is deemed,
among politicians, what the English seamen call a
"yellow flag." The present incumbent is said to be
reduced in his private resources, (the fate of most
public men, here as elsewhere, where corruption is
not exceedingly barefaced,) and is compelled to make
the dwelling named his principal, if not his only, resi-
dence. Here La Fayette had passed the day after
his arrival, the sabbath, which it would seem is never
devoted by the Americans to any public ceremonies
,except those of religion.

Cadwallader pointed out to me, among the crowd,
several individuals who had filled respectable military
rank in the war of the Revolution. Three or four
of them were men of fine presence, and of great
gravity and dignity of mien : others had less preten-
sion ; but all appeared to possess, at that moment, a
common feeling. There was one in particular, who
appeared an object of so much attention and respect,
that I was induced to inquire his history. He had
been an officer of a rank no higher than colonel-—
(few of the generals of that period are now living ;) —
but it seems he had obtained a name among his coun-
trymen for political firmness and great personal dar-
ing. He, however, appeared a good deal indebted
for his present distinction to his great age, which
.could not be much less than ninety. Cadwallader


then pointed to a still firm, upright veteran of near
eighty, who had left the army of the Revolution a
general, and who had already travelled forty miles
that morning to welcome La Fayette. Others in the
crowd were more or less worthy of attention ; but the
principal object of interest soon made his appearance,
and drew all eyes to himself.

The General approached the boat escorted by a
committee of the city authorities, and attended by the
Vice-President. The latter, a man of rather pleasing
exterior, took leave of him on the wharf. La Fayette
entered the vessel amid a deep and respectful silence.
A similar reception of a public man, in Europe, would
have been ominous of a waning popularity. Not an
exclamation, not even a greeting of any sort, was
audible. A lane was opened through a mass of bodies
that was nearly sohd, and the visiter advanced slowly
along the deck towards the stern. The expression
of his countenance, though gratified and affectionate,
seemed bewildered. His eye, remarkable for its fire,
even in the decline of life, appeared to seek in vain
the features of his ancient friends. To most of those
whom he passed, his form must have worn the air of
some image drawn from the pages of history. Half a
century had carried nearly all of his contemporary
actors of the Revolution into the great abyss of time,
and he now stood like an imposing column that had
been reared to commemorate deeds and principles
that a whole people had been taught to reverence.

La Fayette moved slowly througlx the multitude,
walking with a little dilficulty from a personal infirm-
ity. On every side of him his anxious gaze still sought
some remembered face ; but, though all bowed, and,
w^ith a deep sentiment of respect and affection, each
seemed to watch his laboured footstep, no one ad-
vanced to greet him. The crowd opened in his front
by a soit of secret impulse, until he had gained the
extremity of the boat, where, last in the throng, stood


the greyheaded and tottering veteran I have men-
tioned. By common consent his countrymen had paid
this tribute to his services and his age. The honour
of receiving the first embrace was his. I should fail
in power were I to attempt a description equal to the
effect produced by this scene. The old man extended
his arms, and, as La Fayette heard his name, he flew
into them like one who was glad to seek any relief
from the feelings by which he was oppressed. They
were long silently folded in each other's arms. I
know not, nor do I care, whether there were any
present more stoical than myself: to me, this sight,
simple and devoid of pageantry, was touching and
grand. Its very nakedness heightened the effect.
There was no laboured address, no ready answer,
no drilling of the feelings in looks or speeches, nor
any mercenary cries to drown the senses in noise.
Nature was trusted to, and well did she perform her
part. I saw all around me paying a silent tribute to
her power. I do not envy the man who could have
witnessed such a scene unmoved.

Greetings now succeeded greetings, until not only
all the aged warriors, but most of the individuals in
the boat, had been permitted to welcome their guest.
In the meanwhile the vessel had left the land, un-
heeded, and, by tfee time recollection had returned, I
found myself in an entirely new situation. The whole
o[ the aquatic procession was in motion towards the
town, and a gayer or a more animated cortege can
Bcarcely be imagined. The deep, quiet sentiment
which attended the first reception, had found relief,
and joy was exhibiting itself under some of its more
ordinary aspects. The Castle of La Fayette (for so
is the fortress in the midst of the water called) was
Bending the thunder of its heavy artillery in our wake;
while several light vessels of war (tlie steam-ship in-
cluded) were answering it in feeble, but not less hearty,
echoes. The yards of the latter were strung with


seamen, and occasionally she swept grandly along our
side, rending the air with the welcome peculiar to
your element. There was literally a maze of steam-
boats. Our own, as containing the object of the com-
mon mterest, was permitted to keep steadily on her
way, quickening or relaxing her speed, to accommo-
date her motion to that of those in company, but
scarce a minute passed that some one of this brilliant
cortege was not sweeping along one or the other of
our sides, bearing a living burthen, which, as it was
animated by one spirit, seemed to possess but one eye,
and one subject to gaze at. It was some little time
before I could suthciently extricate my thoughts from
the pleasing confusion of such a spectacle, to examine
the appearance of the bay, and of the town, which
soon became distinctly visible. Though the distance
exceeded two leagues, our passage seemingly occu-
pied but a very few minutes. Before us the boats
began to thicken on the water, though the calmness
of the day, and the speed with which we moved,
probably prevented our being followed by an immense
train of lighter craft. Two of the steam-vessels, how-
ever, had taken the Cadmus in tow, and were bearing
her in triumph towards the city. I had almost fc^r-
e;otten to say, that in passing this ship, which had
been anchored off the Lazaretto, the son and secre-
tary of La Fayette joined us, and received the sort
of reception you can readily imagine. We then passed
1 few fortitied islands, which spoke to us in their ar-
tillery, and soon found ourselves within musket-shot
of the town.

At the confluence of the Hudson (which is here a
mile in width) and the arm of the sea already men-
tioned, the city is narrowed nearly to a point. The
natural formation of the land, however, has been
changed to a tine sweep, which is walled against the
breaches of the water, while trees have been planted,
and walks have been laid out, on tlie open space


which hes between the houses and the bay. This
promenade was once occupied by the principal forti-
fication of the colonial town, from which circumstance
it has obtained the name of the " Battery." On a small,
artificial island, at the more immediate junction of the
two tides, stands a large circular work, of one tier of
guns, which was once known as " Castle Clinton." It
has been abandoned, however, as a mihtary post, and
having become the property of the city, it is now oc-
cupied as a place of refreshment and amusement for
the inhabitants, under the mongrel appellation of ^' Cas-
tle Garden." There is no garden, unless the area of
the work can be called one ; but it seems that as the
city abounds with small public gardens, which are
appropriated to the same uses as this rejected castle,
it has been thought proper, in this instance, to supply
the space which is elsewhere found ^o agreeable, by
a name at least. This place had been chosen for the
spot at which La Fayette was to land. The ramparts
of the castle, which have been altered to a noble bel-
videre, a terrace at the base of the work, and the
whole of the fine sweep of the battery, a distance of
more than a quarter of a mile, were teeming with
human countenances. A long glittering line of the
military was visible in the midst of the multitude, and
every thing denoted an intention to give the visiter a
noble welcome. The reception I had already wit-
nessed was evidently only a prelude to a still more
imposing spectacle ; the whole population of the place
having poured out to this spot, and standing in readi-
ness to greet their guest. To my eje, there seemed,
at least, a hundred thousand souls. Our approach to
the shore was now positively impeded by the boats,
and La Fayette left us in a barge, which was sent to
receive him from the land. What passed about his
person, in the following scene, I am unable to say ;
but I saw the rocking of the multitude as he moved
among them, and heard the shouts which, from time


to time, escaped a people whose manners are habitu-
ally so self-restrained. It was easy to note his move-
ments in the distance, for, wherever he appeared,
thither the tide of human beings set ; but oppressed
with the novelty of my situation, and anxious to lib-
erate my thoughts from the whirl of so constant an
excitement, I was glad to hear Cadwallader propose
our seeking a hotel. We left the little Isabel at the
door of her father; and after being present at a meet-
ing between a nation and its guest, I had the pleasure
to see the fair girl throw herself, weeping, but happy,
into the arms of those who formed her domestic world.
Still, ingenuous and affectionate as this young creature
is, she scarcely appeared to think of home, until her
foot was on the threshold of her father's house. Then,
indeed. La Fayette was for a time forgotten, and na-
ture was awakened in all its best and sweetest sym-
pathies. Our peculiar propensities, my worthy Baron,
may have left us with lighter loads to journey through
the vale of life ; but I hope it is no treason to the
principles of the club, sometimes to entertain a mod-
erate degree of doubt on the score of their wisdom.

Our lodgings are at a house that is called the
City Hotel. It is a tavern on a grand scale, possess-
ing the double character of an European and an
American house. We have taken up our abode in
the former side, the latter, in the true meaning of the
word, being a little too gregarious, for the humour
of even my companion. In order that you may
understand this distinction, it is necessary that I
should explain. I shall do it on the authority of

Most of the travelling in America is done either in
steam-boats, wliich abound, or in the public coaches.
This custom has induced the habit of living in com-
mon, which prevails, in a greater or less degree, from
one extremity of the Republic, or, as it is called here,
" the Union," to the other. Those, however, who

Vol. I. r


choose to live separately, can do so, by incurring a
small additional charge. In this house, the numlaer
of inmates must, at this moment, greatly exceed a
hundred. By far the greater part occupy nothing
more than bed-rooms, assembling at stated hours at a
table c?' hole for their meals, of which there are four
in the day. In some few instances more than one
bed is in a room, but it is not the usual arrangement
of the house ; the whole of which I have visited,
from its garrets to its kitchens. I find the building
extensive ; quite equal to a first-rate European hotel
in size, excelling the latter in some conveniences, and
inferior to it in others. It is clean from top to bottom ;
carpeted in almost every room ; a custom the Amer-
icans have borrowed from the English, and which, in
this latitude, in the month of August, might be changed
for something more comfortable. Our own accom-
modations are excellent. They comprise our bed-
rooms, which are lofty, airy, and convenient, and a
saton^ that would be esteemed handsome even in
Paris. We also might have our four meals, and at
our own hours : dining, however, at six o'clock, we
dispense with the supper. The master of the house
is a respectable, and an exceedingly well-behaved
and obliging man, who, of course, allows each of his
guests, except those who voluntarily choose to live at
his table (T hote^ to adopt his own hours, without a
murmur, or even a discontented look. I believe we
might dine at midnight, if we would, without exciting
his surprise. Cadwallader tells me the customs, in
this respect, vary exceedingly in America ; that din-
ner is eaten between the hours of two and six, by
people in genteel hfe, though rarely later than the
latter hour, and not often so late. The table d^ hole
in this house is served at three.

The charges are far from dear, where we are es-
tablished, though it is one of the most expensive
taverns in the country. The price for the rooms


sounded a little high at first; but when we took into
view the style of the accommotlation, the excessive
abundance, as well as the quality of our food, and the
liberality with which lights, &c. (fcc, were furnished,
we found them much lower than what the same
articles could be got for in Paris, and vastly lower
than in London, or even in Liverpool. But of all
these things I intend to give some one of you (I think
it must be the colonel, who unites, to so remarkable
a degree, the love of his art w^th the love of good
cheer) a more detailed account at some future day.

I had almost forgot'^en to say, that La Fayette is
lodged in the same house with ourselves. He is liter-
ally overwhelmed with kindness and honours. Pleas-
ing as we find the circumstance in itself, I fear it will
oblige us to seek a different abode, since there is a
throng incessantly at the door ; well dressed and or-
derly, it is true, but still a throng. The very boys
are eager to shake his hand, and thousands of bright
eyes are turned towards the windows of our hotel to
catch fleeting glimpses of his person. His stay here
is, however, limited to a short period, an old engage-
ment calling him to Boston, which, during the war of
the Revolution, w^as a place of more importance than
even this great commercial town. Adieu.

( 52 )

&c. Sec.


^'Tn consequence of this temporary separation from
Cadwallader, 1 was left for a few days the master of
my own movements. I determined to employ them
in a rapid excursion through a part of the eastern
states of this great confederation, in order to obtain a
coup d'xil of a portion of the interior. It would have
been the most obvious, and perhaps the most pleasing
route, to have followed the coast as far as Boston ;
but this would have brought me in the train of La
Fayette, where the natural aspect of society was dis-
turbed by the universal joy and excitement produced
by his reception. I chose, therefore, a direction far-
ther from the water, through the centre of Connecti-
cut, entering Massachusetts by its southern border,
and traversing that state to Vermont. After looking
a little at the latter, and New-Hampshire, I returned
through the heart of Massachusetts to Rhode Island,
re-entering and quitting Connecticut at new points,
and regaining this city through the adjacent county
of Westchester. The whole excursion has exceeded
a thousand miles, though the distance from New- York
has at no time been equal to three hundred. By
naming some of the principal towns through which I
passed, you will be able to trace the route on a map,
and may better understand the little I have to com-
municate. I entered Connecticut near Danbury, and
left it at Suffield, having passed a night in Hartford,

* The commencement of this, and of many of the succeeding
letters, are omitted, since they contain matter already known to
the reader.


one of its two capital towns. The river was follow-
ed in crossing Massachusetts, and my journey in Ver-
mont terminated at Windsor. I then crossed the
Connecticut (river) into New- Hampshire, to Concord,
and turning south, re-entered Massachusetts, proceed-
ing to Worcester. The journey from this point hack
to New-York was a little circuitous, embracing Provi-
dence and Newport, in Rhode Island, and New-Lon-
don, New-Haven and Fairfield, in Connecticut.

As experience had long since shown me that the
people on all great, and much frequented, roads, ac-
quire a species of conventional and artificial charac-
ter, I determined, if possible, to penetrate at once into
that part of the country within my reach, which might
be supposed to be the least sophisticated, and which,
of course, would afford the truest specimen of the
national character. Cadwallader has examined my
track, and he tells me I have visited the very portion
of New-England, which is the best adapted to such an
object. I saw no great town during my absence, and
if I travelled much of the time amid secluded and
peaceful husbandmen, I occasionally touched at points
where all was alive with the bustle and activity of
commerce and manufactures.

A review of the impressions left by this short ex-
cursion has convinced me of the ditficulty of convey-
ing to an European, by the pen, any accurate, general
impression, of even the external appearance of this
country. What is so true of one part, is so false of
tlike others, and descriptions of sensible things which
w^ere exact a short time since, become so very soon
erroneous through changes, that one should hesitate
to assume the responsibility of making them. Still,
such as they are, mine are at your service. In order,
however, to estimate their value, some little prelimi-
nary explanation may be necessary.

The six eastern states of this union comprise what
is called New-England. Their inhabitants are known
F 2


here by the familiar name of 'Yankees.' This word
is most commonly supposed to be a corruption of
'Yengeese,' the manner in which the native tribes,
first known to the colonists, pronounced ' English.'
Some, however, deny this derivation, at the same time
that they confess their inability to produce a plausible
substitute. It is a little singular that the origin of a
soubriquet, which is in such general use, and which
cannot be of any very long existence, should already
be a matter of doubt. It is said to have been used by
the English as a term of contempt, when the American
was a colonist, and it is also said, that the latter often
adopts it as an indirect and playful means of retalia-
tion. It is necessary to remember one material distinc-
tion in its use, which is infallibly made by every Ame-
rican. At home, the native of even New- York, though
of English origin, will tell you he is not a Yankee. The
term here, is supposed to be perfectly provincial in
its application ; being, as I have said, confined to the
inhabitants, or rather the natives, of New-England.
But, out of the United States, even the Georgian does
not hesitate to call himself a ' Yankee.' The Ameri-
cans are particularly fond of distinguishing any thing
connected with their general enterprise, skill, or repu-
tation, by this term. Thus, the southern planter, who is
probably more averse than any other to admit a com-
munity of those personal qualities, which are thought
to mark the differences in provincial or rather state
character, will talk of what a ' Yankee merchant,' a
' Yankee negotiator,' or a 'Yankee soldier,' can and
has done ; meaning always the people of the United
States. I have heard a naval olHcer of rank, who was
born south of the Potomac, and whose vessel has just
been constructed in this port, speak of the latter with
a sort of suppressed pride, as a ' Yankee man-of-war.'
Now, I had overheard the same individual allude to
another m a manner that appeared reproachful, and
in which he used the word ' Yankee,' with peculiar


emphasis. Thus it is apparent, that the term has two
significations among the Americans themselves, one
of which may be called its national, and the other its
local meaning. The New-Englandman evidently
exults in the appellation at all times. Those of the
other states with whom I have come in contact, are
manifestly quite as well pleased to lay no claim to the
title, though all use it freely, in its foreign, or na-
tional sense. I think it would result from these facts,
that the people of New-England are thought, by the
rest of their countrymen, to possess some minor points
of character, in which the latter do not care to parti-
cipate, and of which the New-Englandman is uncon-
scious, or in which, perhaps, he deems himself fortu-
nate, while, on the other hand, they possess certain
other and more important qualities, which are admit-
ted to be creditable to the whole nation. Cadwalla-
der, who is a native of New- York, smiled when I
proposed this theory, but desired me to have a little
patience until I had been able to judge for myself.
After all, there is little or no feeling excited on the
subject. The inhabitants of states, living a thousand
miles asunder, speak of each other with more kind-
ness, in common, than the inhabitants of adjoining
counties in England, or provinces in France. Indeed,
the candour and manliness with which the northern
man generally admits the acknowledged superiority
of his southern countrymen, on certain points, and
vice versa^ is matter of surprise to me, who, as you
know, have witnessed so much illiberality on similar
subjects, among the natives of half the countries of

New-England embraces an area of between sixty
and seventy thousand square miles. Thus, you see,
it is larger in extent than England and Wales united.
It has about seven hundred miles of sea-coast, and
contains a population of something less than 1,800,000.
Tliis would give about twenty-seven to the square


mile. But in order to arrive at an accurate idea of
the populousness of the inhabited parts of the coun-
try, it is necessary to exclude from the calculation,

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 5 of 58)