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from the pen of Cadwallader, who writes as he speaks,
like a man who thinks better of his countrymen than
we have been accustomed to believe they deserve.
I must postpone, to my next, the commentaries that
my own trifling experience has suggested on his the-
ory. — Adieu.


Sec. ice.

New- York,

Although stages, as the public coaches are, by
corruption, called in this country, run on most oii the
roads travelled in my recent journey, I decided to
make the excursion, at a little cost, in a private con-
veyance. A neat, light, and elegant pleasure-wagon
on hoitzontal springs, with a driver and a pair of fleet,


well-formed horses, were procured for five dollars
a day. A coach might have been had for the same
sum. This price, however, was the highest, and in-
cluded every charge. There was ample room for
Fritz and myself, with what baggage we needed, and
a vacant seat by the side of the coachman. Capa-
cious leather tops protected us from the weather, and
good aprons could, if necessary, cover our feet. In
short, the vehicle, which is exceedingly common
here, is not unlike what is called a double, or travel-
ling, phaeton, in England. You are to remember,
there is no travelling post in America. Relays of
horses can certainly be had, between the. principal
towns, at a reasonably short notice ; but the great
facility, rapidity, ease, and cheapness of communica-
tion by steam-boats, will probably for a long time
prevent posting from coming into fashion.

We left Manhattan island, on which New-York
stands, by a long wooden bridge that connects it with
the adjacent county of West-Chester. There is a
singular air of desertion about that portion of this
island which is not covered by the town, and which
I was inclined to ascribe to a sort of common ex-
pectation in its owners that the ground would be
soon wanted for other purposes than plantations of
trees, or pleasure-grounds. It is said, however, that
a delay in the regulation of the great avenues and
future streets of the city, has produced the apparent
neglect. Let the cause be what it may, I do no
remember ever to have seen the immediate environs
of so large a town in such a state of general aban-
donment. The island is studded with villas, cer-
tainly ; but even most of these seemed but little
cared for. I did not, however, get a view of those
which he on the two rivers.*

* Vast improvements have been made, in this part of the
island, within the last three years.


I found West-Chester a constant succession of hills
and dales, with numberless irregular little valleys,
though with nothing that, in English, is called a
mountain. The description I have given you, in my
last letter, of the general appearance of New-Eng-
land, will answer perfectly well also for this portion
of New- York. The villages were neither so beau-
tiful, nor so numerous, as those I afterwards passed ;
but in the character of the land, the situation and
number of the farm-houses, the multitude of high-
ways, the absence of forests, and the abundance of
little groves, the two districts are precisely the same.
As respects the great frequency of the public roads,
the peculiarity is subject to a very simple explanation.
You will remember the whole country is subdivided
into the small freeholds mentioned, and that each
citizen has a claim to have access to his farm. Each
township, as parishes, or cantons^ are here called,
has the entire control of all the routes within its own
Ihn'.ls, unless the road be the property of a chartered
company. These highways are periodically worked
by the inhabitants, agreeably to a rate of assessment,
which is regulated according to the personal means
of each individual. Every thing of a public nature,
that will readily admit of such an intervention, is, in
this republican government, controlled by the people
in their original character. Thus, all the officers of
each town are annually elected, by its inhabitants, in
what are called " the town-meetings." These officers
comprise the assessors of taxes, their collectors, the
overseers of the highways, &;c. &c., and, in short, the
whole of its police, with, perhaps, the exception of
the magistrates, who receive their appointments from
different sources. Now, it is evident, that when the
power to construct and to repair roads and bridges is
removed, by so short an interval, from those who are
most aflected by their position and condition, that the
public servants, as the officers are here emphatically


called, must pay the utmost deference to the public
will. The ordinary routes of the country are, there-
fore, arranged in such a manner as will most accom-
modate those who work them. But, as this arrange-
ment must often produce conveniences that are more
Ukely to satisfy individuals than the public, great
routes that unite important points of the country, are
often substituted for the local highways. These great
routes are constructed on two plans. In cases where
the convenience of the public requires it, laws are
enacted for the purpose by the legislatures, and the
route is made what is called a state-road. In others,
where it is believed capitalists may be induced to
invest their money, charters are given, a rate of toll
established, and the road becomes the property of a
company. The latter are numerous in New-England,
nor are the charges at all high.

It is evident that the labour of constructing the
vast number of roads and bridges which are neces-
sary to satisfy the pubhc and private wants of a com-
munity that does not exceed the population of Prus-
sia, throughout a country as large as half Europe,
must be exceedingly burthensome. What I have
already seen, however, has given me the most re-
spectful opinion of the native energy of this people ;
but I shall not anticipate impressions, which may be
increased, or, possibly, changed, as I " prick deeper
into the Ijowels of the land." Thus far I can say,
that nowhere, including great routes and cross-roads,
have I found better highways than in New-England,
the mother country alone excepted. If the former
are not so good as in England, the latter are, how-
ever, often better. Perhaps I travelled at a favour-
able time of the year; but the bridges, the cause-
w^ays, the diggings, and the levellings, must be there
at all seasons.

On the morning of the second day, my coachman,
while trotting leisurely along an excellent path,


through a retired part of the country, pointed a-head
with his whip, and told me we were about to enter
the State of Connecticut. One hand was mechanic-
ally thrust into my pocket, in search of a passport,
and a glance of the eye was thrown at the trunks, in
order to recall the nature of the contraband articles
they might happen to contain. A moment of thought
recalled me to a sense of my actual position, and of
the extraordinary extent of the personal freedom in
which I was indulged. One of my first questions, on
landing, had been to inquire for the Bureau of the
Police, in order to obtain the necessary permission to
remain in the country, and to visit the interior. The
individual in the hotel, to whom I addressed myself,
did not understand me! Further inquiry told me that
such things were utterly unknown in America. My
baggage was passed at the Custom-house without
charge of any sort, except a trifling official fee for a
permit to land it ; nor did any one present himself
to ask or claim compensation for what I could have
done better without him. I paid a cartman half-a-
dollar for transporting the trunks to my lodgings,
where, assisted by the servants of the house, they
were placed in the proper room, and then every body
silently disappeared, as if no more had been done
than what was naturally required by the circum-
stances. These were the whole of the ceremonials
observed at my landing in America. My entrance
into Connecticut was not distinguished by any more
remarkable incidents. " When shall we reach the
frontier?" I asked of the coachman, after a little
delay. " I believe the line is along the wall of that
field," he said, pointing carelessly behind him. " What !
is there nothing else to distinguish the boundary be-
tween two independent sovereignties ? No otficers of
the customs, no agents of the police, nor any one to
ask us where we go, or whence we come ?" The
driver looked at me, as if he distrusted my reason a


little ; but he continued mute. This silent passage
from one state to another, gave me the first true im-
pression I have obtained of the intimate nature of the
connexion which unites this vast confederation. One
may study its theory on paper for a twelvemonth,
without arriving at so just a conception of the identity
of the national character and interests of this people
as I have acquired in visiting, in the same quiet man
ner, six of their sovereignties, and in finding every
"where so great a similarity of manners, customs, and
opinions, unmolested by a single official form. There
is something like it, certainly, in your own country ;
but you are governed by one prince, one minister
and one parliament. Here, each state enacts its own
laws, levies its own taxes, and exercises all the more
minute and dehcate functions of sovereign power
The United States of America is the only civilizec
country, I believe, into which a stranger can entei
without being liable to intrusions on his privacy by
the agents of the police.* Assuredly this power is
now used, throughout all Europe, with great discre-
tion and moderation ; but that country may deem
itself happy, that never feels any necessity for its ex-
ercise. To what is this peculiar freedom owing ? To
their position, their spare population, — to the absence
or to the height of civilization ? Colombia, and Mex-
ico, and Brazil, and a dozen others, are just as remote
from Europe, and far less populous. Absence of
civilization is not denoted by absence of restraint, in
countries where life, character, and property are more
than usually respected. I fear, Waller, that we have
been too apt to confound these Americans with their
soil, and to believe that, because the one is fresh, the
other must also exist in the first stages of society. At
all events, if not far beyond the rest of the world in

* Possibly some of the British colonies can claim nearly the
same exemptions from the interference of the police.

Vol. I. H


the great desiderata of order and reason, they have
some most ingenious methods of imposing on the sense?
of a traveller, who, I can affirm, is often at an uttei
loss to discover the machinery by which the wheels
of the social engine are made to roll on so smoothly
so swiftly, and so cheap. I have not seen a bayonet
(except among the militia who received La Fayette,)
a gendarme^ a horse-patrol, a constable, (to know
him,) nor a single liveried agent of this secret power.
In short, if one should draw somewhat literally on the
ten commandments for rules to govern his intercourse
with those around him, so far as I can see, he might
pass his whole life here without necessarily arriving
at the practical knowledge that there is any govern-
ment at all.

" Now we are in New- York again," said my driver,
some ten or fifteen minutes after he had assured me
we had entered Connecticut. The apparent contra-
diction was explained by a winding in the road, which
had led us through the extreme point of an angle of
the latter state. I looked around me in every direc-
tion, in order to discover if the least trace of any
differences in origin, or customs, could be seen. I
remembered to have heard Cadwallader say, that the
effects of the policy pursued by the different States,
were sometimes visible, to an observant traveller, at
a glance, and that he could often tell when he had
passed a State line, by such testimony as his eye alone
could gather. As I could not then, nor have not
since, been able to detect any of these evidences of a
different policy, 1 am inclined to think that the Ame-
ricans themselves make some such distinctions in the
case, as those by which the connoisseurs can tell the
colouring of one painter from that of another, or those
by which they know the second manner of the divine
master of the art from his third.*

* A more intelligible distinction certainly became apparent
between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding states.


Before leaving the State of New- York the second
time, T had an opportunity of paying a short visit to
one of those distinguished men, who, by acting with
so much wisdom, moderation, dignity, and firmness,
during the dark days of this repubhc, imparted to its
revolution a reputation that is peculiarly their own.
I have ever been an enthusiastic admirer of the con-
duct of the Americans throughout those trying scenes.
They need not hesitate to place it with confidence in
comparison with any thing that history may boast.
The deeds of the eighteenth century are less equivo-
cal than the patriotism of Brutus, or the clemency of
Scipio. Men arc far more likely now to be judged
by their acts than their words, though even this direct
and literal people have uttered sentiments, which,
by their simplicity and truth, are entitled to be placed
on the same page with the finest sayings of antiquity.
The agents of the British government, who wished to
tamper with the loyalty of a distinguished patriot, re-
ceived an answer that would have done honour to
any Roman. " Tell your employer," said the stern
republican, " that I am not worth buying ; but such
as I am, the king of England is not rich enough to
make the purchase !"

The individual at whose residence I paid a passing
visit, as a species of homage due to public virtue, was
John Jay. This distinguished statesman had dis-
charged many of the pubhc trusts of his country, at a
time when life and death hung on the issue. He was
President of Congress during the war of the Revolu-
tion, before the present system was adopted, and when
the country possessed no officer of higher dignity, or
greater power.^ He was, however, early sent on

* A mistake is often made in Europe, by blending this ancient
officer with the President of the United States. Before the pres-
ent constitution was adopted, (1789,) there was a President of
Congress. At present, Congress is divided into two branches, a


foreign missions of great delicacy, and of the last im-
portance. He resided a long time in Spain, unac-
knowledged, it is true, but eminently serviceable by
the weight of his character, and the steadiness of his
deportment. He signed the treaty of peace, (in con-
junction with Franklin and the elder Adams,) having
a singularly important agency in bringing about that
event which secured an acknowledgment of his coun-
try's independence, and he negotiated the first treaty
of commerce and amity with Great Britain. An anec-
dote concerning the second of these treaties had been
related to me, which is worthy of repetition, though I
dare not give you any better authority for its correct-
ness, than to say that it is of such a nature that I be-
lieve the circumstances, as I am about to relate them,
are essentially true. Indeed, it was one of the chief
inducements I felt for intruding on the privacy of a
man, whose past life and present character impart
a dignity that should render his retirement almost

You undoubtedly know that, during the American
war, an alliance was formed between France and the

Senate and a House of Representatives, each of which has its
presiding officer. The Vice-President of the United States is,
ex officio^ the head of the Senate, though a substitute, to act on
occasion, is always appointed, who is called the President of the
Senate. The style by which the Vice-President is addressed in
the Senate, is "Mr, President." The House of Representatives
has a Speaker, like the English parliament — he is addressed as
*'Mr. Speaker." An individual who belongs to the lower house
is, in common parlance, called a member of Congress, and one of
the upper, a senator, or a member of the Senate. These distinc-
tions, with some trifling exceptions, are observed in all the state
legislatures, where the lieutenant-governors commonly perform
the duties in the upper houses, that the Vice-President discharges
in the Senate of the United States. Thus, though there is a
President of the United States, a President of the Senate (the
Vice-President of the United States), and a Speaker of theHouse
of Representatives, there is no such officer now known to iho
country as a "President of Congress."


new power. One of the customary conditions of this
treaty was a stipulation that peace should not be
made by either party without the consent of both.
When England had become sufficiently prepared by
her reverses to listen to amicable propositions, the
American government ordered their minister in Spain
(Mr. Jay), and their minister in Holland (Mr. Adams)
to proceed to Paris, and by unitnig themselves to the
minister in France (Dr. Franklin), to form a commis-
sion authorized to manage the expected negotiation
on the part of the new republic. The latter of these
gentlemen had been long accredited near the court
of Versailles, where, by a happy union of great sim-
plicity of manners, wisdom, and wit, he had become
an object of singular admiration and alTection. But
the Americans say, that Franklin was a much better
philosopher than politician. Be this as it migbt, the
story adds, that France, now the drama was about to
close, began to cast about her for the profits of the
representation. The Count de Vergennes had early
succeeded in persuading Dr. Franklin, that as England^
could not, nor would not, formally acknowledge the
independence of America, his better course would be
to accept a truce^ for twenty years, at the end of
which period his country would be sutHciently strong
to take what she needed for herself. The philosopher
is said to have acquiesced in this opinion, and began
to stir his mighty reason in maturing the terms of this
remarkable truce. In this state of mind he was found
by Mr. Jay, on his arrival from Madrid. The latter
was not slow to perceive the effects of such a course,
nor to detect the secret source whence the insidious
counsel flowed. His eyes had not been dazzled by
the splendour of a luxurious court, nor his ears sooth-
ed by the flattery of a polished nation. For a long
time he had been content to dwell in obscurity in
Spain, sacriflcing every thing but his country's inter-
ests to his manliness and directness of character. He
H 2


had steadily declined an interview with the king or
the latter country, because he could not be received
openly as an accredited minister, hi short, he had
too long patiently submitted to mortifications and re-
tirement, rather than compromise the character of his
nation, to see the substance at which he aimed so
easily converted to a shadow. Mr. Jay denounced
the policy of the Count de Vergennes, and declared
that the unqualified independence of his country must
be a sine qua non in any treaty which bore his name.
Mr. Adams soon joined the negotiation, and took the
side of independence. Franklin, who was at heart a
true patriot, sutFered the film to be drawn from his
eyes, and perfect union soon presided in their coun-
cils. But England had not been unapprized of the
disposition of America to receive a truce. Her com-
missioner, Mr. Oswald, appeared with instructions to
go no further, hi this dilemma a step is ascribed to
Mr. Jay, that I believe is as remarkable for its bold-
ness as for its good sense. He is said to have written,
with his own hand, to the English Secretary of State,
pointing out the bad consequences to England her-
self, if she adhered to her present policy. By keeping
the truce suspended over America, she forced that
country to lean on France for support ; whereas, by
admitting her, at once, into the rank of nations, Eng-
land would obtain a valuable customer, and might
also secure a natural friend. Thus instructed in a
better policy, the English minister saw his error, and
the same courier who conveyed the letter of Mr. Jay,
returned with instructions to Mr. Oswald to acknow-
ledge the independence of the United States. Find-
ing themselves embarrassed by the evasions of Count
de Vergennes, believing they were betrayed, in the
spirit of their alliance at least, and knowing that
France could not find the smallest difiiculty in settling
her own affairs without their agency, the American
commissioners proceeded to sign a treaty of peace,


in the very teeth of their instructions, without the
knowledge of the French minister. When the latter
found that his pohcj had no-t succeeded, he wrote a
sharp note of remonstrance, which Dr. Franklin laid
before his brother commissioners. It was much easier
to perform a great act, like the one in which thej had
been engaged, than to word a proper reply to this
communication. There was but one ground on
which their apparent want of faith could be justified,
and to give that to the Count de Vergennes, might
probably be much more true than polite. After a
good deal of hesitation, they discovered that the letter
bore the simple superscription of Dr. Franklin, and
the colleagues of the latter imposed on him the duty
of answering a note, which they gravely insisted was
not officially addressed to the commissioners. How
well the philosopher acquitted himself of this delicate
affair, my information does not say; but though a vote
of censure on the commissioners was proposed in
Congress, their conduct was thought, under the cir-
cumstances, so very justifiable, that it was never
passed. Now, I repeat, for all this I cannot name
my authority, since living men are parties to the
transaction, but I will again say, that it is so respect-
able, that 1 believe the anecdote to be substantially

On his return from Europe, Mr. Jay for some time
filled the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs. He
took a distinguished part in forming the present con-
stitution of the United States. In conjunction with
Hamilton and Madison, he wrote the celebrated
essays under the signature of the Federalist, which
have since come to be a text-book for the principles
of the American government. He was then made
Chief Justice of the United States, having been edu-
cated for the bar, which office he resigned, in order
to proceed to England to negotiate the treaty of
commerce. He was afterwards six years governor


of his native state (New-York,) after which he ref
tired from political hfe altogether, refusing the office
of Chief Justice again, which wns offered to him by
his old coadjutor Adams, then about also to retire
from the chair of the presidency of the United

Since the latter period, near five and twenty years,
Mr. Jay has lived on the hereditary estate where 1
saw him, enjoying the profound, and I might also say,
idolatrous respect of all who enter his private circle.
As his manner of living may serve to give you a better
idea of the usages of this country, I will endeavour to
give a short description of so much of it, as may be
done without violating that respect which is due to
the hospitality and frankness of my reception. I shall
merely premise, I have already discovered that official
rank, in this country, furnishes no certain clue to the
rank of an individual in ordinary society, nor conse-
sequently to the style in which he may choose to
regulate his establishment. In order that you may
understand me, however, it is necessary that I should
go a little into detail.

One hears a great deal in Europe of the equality
of the United States. Now, if you will make a
moderate allowance for the effects which are pro-
duced by the division of property on the death of
its possessor, or the facihty with which estates are
acquired, and to the fact that no legal orders exist in
the community, you may, with a certain quahfication.
take the general rules which govern the associations
9nd habits of all other countries, as applicable to this.
In order, however, to measure accurately the degree
of influence the circumstances just named produce,
probably requires a greater knowledge of America

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 7 of 58)