John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

South and North; or, Impressions received during a trip to Cuba and the South online

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" For freedom's battle, once begun,
Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is ever won."

1 8 G .

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S60, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District .Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New-York.

Printer & Stereotvper,
16 and IS Jacob St.



This book scarcely needs a preface. In my trip, I
have kept my eyes and ears open, and have recorded all
I have seen, heard and thought, which, it has appeared
to me, would interest the community, or would throw
light upon that question which now agitates our country
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Saint
Lawrence to the Gulf. I am an American citizen, and
it is my prerogative to speak frankly and freely. I love
our country, our whole country, and therefore I will not
allow any earnestness of utterance to interfere with the
spirit of conciliation and kindness.

Pabmington, Maine.





Thursday, Dec. 1, 1859. — The steamer De Soto,
on her regular trip, should have sailed at three
o'clock, yesterday P.M., for New-Orleans via
Havana ; but, in consequence of some necessary
repairs in the machinery, we were delayed
a day. As the advertised hour was three
o'clock, we took a carriage at one o'clock p.m.,
that we might avoid the great crowd ever as-
sembling at the departure of one of these ocean
steam-ships. At half-past one we reached the
dock. The throng was already immense, and
it took a lon<* time before we could worm our


way through the mass of carriages, carts, horses,


men and piles of freight which, encumbered the


At length the carriage arrived at the foot of
the stairs, by which we were to ascend the side
of the ship. The deck of the steamer was about
as high above the wharf as the eaves of an or-
dinary two-story house; and an incessant crowd
was passing up and down. We threaded our
way through the multitude to seats at the stern
of the ship, and sat down to contemplate the
scene which, however familiar, is always inter-
esting. The ship was crowded to its utmost
capacity, with passengers and their friends,
while two opposing currents were flowing in-
cessantly in and out. A steam-engine was at
work, raising immense piles of freight, a dozen
boxes at a time, and lowering them into the
capacious hold. The trunks also, similarly
grouped, were rising high into the air and then
sinking to unknown depths below. At the
same time scores of men were at work upon the
paddle-wheels and the engine, hammering with
a deafening noise.


The whole aspect of the ship and of the wharf
was that of chaotic uproar and confusion ; for
there were other ships and steamers all around
in the closest possible proximity : some coming,
some going, some getting up steam, some letting
it off; while the whole harbor was alive with
sailing vessels of every rig, and steamers of
every pattern and size, in numbers which I in
vain endeavored to count. Hour after hour
thus passed away, and we seemed to be ap-
proaching no nearer the end of noise and
confusion. The sun went down ; darkness and
the stars came, and lamps were lighted. Every
ship in the harbor had lanterns in the shrouds ;
the streets of New-York were in a blaze of illu-
mination. The opposite shores of Jersey City,
Hoboken, and, far down the harbor, the hights
of Staten Island, glittered like terrestrial con-
stellations, actually out-rivaling the celestial clus-
ters which the bright moon paled.

At seven o'clock, the ship still moored to the
wharf, we were summoned to tea. Capacious
as were the accommodations of the ship, it was


soon evident that there were many more passen-
gers than conlcl be seated at the tables. It was
found necessary to spread them twice, though
there were two tables extending along the dining-
saloon, about fifty feet in length.

At ten o'clock, the steamer left the wharf.
The night was calm and brilliant, and the light
of a waxing moon illumined the harbor. The
sail down the bay and out of the narrows, the
canopy above twinkling with stars, and the
expanse below still more brilliant with the
nryriads of gas lights beaming from Long Island,
Staten Island, Manhattan and the Jersey shore,
presented a scene which wakes up the responses
of the soul. It is now twelve o'clock at night.
The land has entirely disappeared. A few
light-houses glimmer in the distance with their
intermittent or party-colored rays, and nothing
else is to be seen but the sky above and the
ocean around. Every state-room is filled, and
the floor of the cabin is covered with sleepers
upon mattresses. I have a pleasant room on
deck, which is usually the smoking-room. It is


about twelve feet square, and in consequence of
the crowd of passengers, is fitted up with tem-
porary berths. I share this room with nine
young gentlemen, most of whom are Spaniards
returning to Cuba after spending the summer at
the North.

Friday, Dec. 2. — Last night the wind fresh-
ened, and we have to-day what the sailors would
call a fine ten-knot breeze. The sun is bright,
and the air fresh and mild. Though far from
rough, our ship rises and falls over the ocean-
swell sufficiently to make almost every passen-
ger sick. We have one hundred and eighty
passengers on board, and the various employes
of the ship, consisting of sailors, waiters, fire-
men, engineers, etc., amount to one hundred
more. Thus our little floating mansion, per-
haps one hundred and thirty feet long by thirty
feet wide, carries two hundred and eighty souls.
At breakfast this morning, not more than twenty
gentlemen were present, and but two ladies.
One of these ladies sat for a moment, then, as

the ship bowed gracefully over one of the waves,


she turned ashy pale, and, with a tottering step,
sought her state-room. It is hardly too much
to say that the ship has this day presented but
an aspect of misery. Pale, forlorn, woe-strick-
en feces meet you every where. Happy are
the}' who can conceal themselves in state-rooms!
Some are pillowed on the floor, some are seem-
in oly c b~ m g u P on the deck, occasionally uttering
most pathetic groans, and hurrying with reelino-
footsteps to the sides of the ship. There is not
a smile to be seen. The change is marvelous
from the gayety and mirthful ness of yesterday
to the gloom of to-day. A gentleman in con-
doling tones inquired of a lady how she felt.

" Ah !" said she, looking up languidly, "is
that you ? I have sounded to-day the very-
lowest depths of human misery!"

But sea-sickness, direful as is the woe, is one
of those woes which only provoke the merri-
ment of those who are not suffering from it.
The aspect of our ship to-day would convince
any one that "traveling is one of the most pain-
ful of pleasures." There are many children on


board, screaming with discomfort, while their
mothers and nurses are so sick that they can
with difficulty hold up their heads.

About noon we plunged into a fog-bank, so
dense that we could not see the length of the
ship. Though all day long we had not seen a
sail, occasionally, while groping through this
fog-bank, the whistle was blown and the bell
rung as a safe-guard against collision. We have
been steaming along the coasts of Maryland
and Virginia about one hundred miles from
the shore. -Night at length darkened gloomily
around us. The decks were wet and slippery ;
the cabins suffocatingly close, and wailing of
children, and still more painful utterances of
sick passengers, fell every where upon the ear.
There were few on board who did not earnestly
wish that they were at home. And yet this
was at the close of a day of unusually fine

Saturday, Dec. 3. — The change is marvelous !
In the night the wind died down to almost a
perfect calm. The sun rose from the mirrored


sea tins morning with, brilliance which can not
be described. We are in the Gulf-stream, and
it is a warm, balmy summer's day. Two or
three sails are visible in the horizon. A school
of black-fish amused us for a time with their
gambols. Early in the morning an awning was
spread over the decks to protect us from the
sun. Nearly all have recovered from their sick-
ness, for the noble De Soto glides along as
smoothly as if we were in a river.

One can hardly imagine a more attractive
scene than the decks now present. Groups of
gentlemen and ladies, fall of joy, leave not a
space unoccupied. Children, attended by their
slave nurses, who are black as ebony, and rotund
in the most approved fashion of crinoline, are
playing with their dolls. These young nurses
are pretty girls " carved in ebony." They are
probably selected for their good looks, as a gen-
tleman loves to ride a handsome horse, and,
being petted with light work and kind treat-
ment and being as well fed, aud about as well
clothed as are their mistresses, they look con-


tented and happy. They evidently love the
children and the children love them. Their
lot, tints viewed, certainly does not appear a hard

These Spanish children are, many of them,
very fairy-like and beautiful, and they run
around the deck with gentleness and politeness
which seems instinctive to the race. I have
never before seen a set of passengers on ship-
board so truly refined. I have not yet heard
an oath or witnessed an ungentlemanly act.
Not even a pack of cards has been seen, and
there has not been the slightest approach to
intemperance. The spirit of rowdyism, so far as
my observation extends, is almost peculiar to
Young America. There are nine young Spanish
gentlemen who occupy the room with me. We
have to be very accommodating in dressing, as
but two can dress at a time. But there has
been, thus far, the constant exhibition of as
much refinement and delicacy in word and ac-
tion as the most scrupulous person could desire.
This morning, in speaking of the very gentle-


manly character of our companions, to one of
our fellow-passengers, a gentleman of remark-
able intelligence, and who lias spent his life a3
a traveler, lie remarked :

" Ah ! if you wish to see the difference, you
must go on board a ship of returning Califor-
nians. I have had my cheeks tingle with
shame, when traveling with foreign gentlemen
in my own countiy. There is no vulgar row-
dyism in the world to be compared with that
of young Americans."

It is a lamentable fact that there is a portion
of our population, and a portion which esteems
itself as belonging to the class of gentlemen,
which seems to think that happiness can only
be found in noise, coarseness and destruction.
To them having a good time is to get half in-
toxicated, and to make night hideous with

All the day long we have glided over a
smooth summer sea. One of the greatest pleas-
ures of traveling consists in the number of very
agreeable companions one makes. We have


found on board this ship gentlemen and ladies
of the most attractive character, with minds
highly cultivated and manners polished by ex-
tended intercourse with the world. As we were
sitting beneath the awning upon the deck to-
day, fanned by a balmy breeze, with the decks
crowded with peaceful and happy groups of
gentlemen, ladies, and pleasant children, I
turned to J. and said : u This is truly delicious."
Conscious that the epithet was not exactly ap-
propriate, I could not be contented with one less
expressive. But she promptly replied : "Yes,
indeed, it is perfectly delicious."

By observation to-day at noon we were in
latitude 85°, 13', that is, a little south of Cape
Hatteras. For some unknown cause, storms
seem to cluster around these perilous shoals
which shoot far out from the Cape to the very
edge of the Gulf-stream. Thousands of seamen
have here found a watery grave. The current
of the Gulf and the prevailing north-east winds
drive the fog-enveloped ship upon the shoals,
and there is no longer hope. We have had


wonderfully pleasant weather in doubling the
Cape. The Gulf-stream here is about one hun-
dred miles broad, the temperature of the water
being at 76°, and we have been nearly all day
crossing this " river in the sea."

As the sun went down to-night, the moon
came out from the clouds, and shone with great
but intermittent brilliance. We sat upon the
silent deck until a late hour enjoying the novel
scene. There was not the slightest chill in the
air, and it was a luxury to breathe. The whole
day has been one of rare enjoyment. If travel-
ing is sometimes the most painful of pleasures,
it is also at other times the most delightful.



Sabbath, Bee. 4.— Another delightful day. The
sun rose brilliantly. A few fleecy clouds add
to the beauty of the shy. A gentle southern
breeze ripples the ocean without causing any
breaking of the waves. Our ship's company,
in quietude and external decorum, are as obser-
vant of the Sabbath as if all were devout Christ-
ians. We have one aged Cuban planter on
board, eighty-eight years of age, a man of vast
wealth, his property being estimated at over
two millions of dollars. His brother, a Missis-
sippi planter, recently died, leaving a still greater
property. His cotton crop was often six thou-
sand bales, which at fifty dollars a bale, the
average price, brings in an income of three


hundred thousand dollars. The whole expense
of working this property was $60,000 a year.
Thus he received a net income of §2-10,000 per
annum. Such is the argument which sustains

I am now writing in the cabin, which is
about ten feet high above the water. The win-
dows are all open, and the wind breathes most
gratefully through. Groups are all around me
talking in Spanish ; some walking up and down
the floor, some reclining on lounges and read-
ing. The deck presents a still more animated
spectacle. On the fore-deck, where the awning
has not yet been spread, it is almost insupport-
ably hot ; on the spacious after-deck, beneath
the awning, it is cool and delightful. Perhaps
one hundred persons are assembled there, in
such groups as elective affinities associate. The
sun is bright, the ocean smooth, and we are in
the rich enjoyment of a Sabbath which is the
" bridal of the earth and sky."

Twelve o'clock at night. — This evening has been
one such as is seldom enjoyed in a life-time.


Some one has said : "I would go farther to see
a man than a mountain." Yle have had this
evening both the man and the mountain ; that is,
the beauties of nature, and the jo} T s of intellec-
tual converse. As the sun sank beneath the
waves, almost immediately, without any appar-
ent transition of twilight, we were enveloped in
the glories of one of the most brilliant of nights.
The moon was in the zenith. Jupiter was
beaming with its peculiarly mild lustre in the
north-east ; and those familiar constellations,
which all have learned to love, the Pleiades, the
Ilyades and Orion, emerged one after another,
seemingly from the bosom of the deep ; while
Sirius and Aldebaran, in rivalry strove to out-
shine each other. There was not the slightest
chill in the air, and the deck was filled with
groups of gentlemen and ladies, in quiet social
converse, luxuriating in the scene.

The chief joy of traveling is, with me, the
excitement of emotions which can be felt, but
not described. The enjoyments of this evening
were of that character. Our captain is an ex-


ceedingly agreeable man of high intellectual
culture. We have also made the acquaintance
of another gentleman on board who, in extent
of information , is not surpassed by any man I
have ever known. lie is alike at home in
science, in the classics and in all polite literature.
He is familiar with all parts of the world, and is
also a polished genntleman, and, that which is
above all the rest, a genial Christian. Speak-
ing half a dozen languages with as much fluency
as if they were his mother tongue, and possess-
ing a memoiy marvelously retentive of all he
has seen and heard, he is one of the most agree-
able companions that can be imagined.

We formed a little social group this evening,
five of us, consisting of the captain, our friend
Mr. C, a highly accomplished and welhinform-
ed lady, J. and myself; and hour after hour
glided away in the most delightful social com-
munion. No book that was ever penned has
contained so charming a variety. There was
mirth and pensiveness, sublimity and comicality,
profound philosophy and the play of fancy, his-


tory, biography, anecdote, tears and smiles, and
all this while gliding along over a tropical sea,
and beneath a serene sky, illumined by moon
and stars. One does not enjoy many such
evenings in a life-time. The midnight chime of
eisht bells was struck before I left the deck.


Monday morning, Dec. 5. — We have had a sul-
try night, but the sea was smooth, the wind
fair, and we have been gliding on our way at
the rate of eleven miles an hour. This morning
I arose with the sun. The sky was cloudless,
and though the fresh trade wind scarcely broke
a wave upon the ocean, our ship rose and fell
majestically over those strange billows which
sailors call a ground swell, and which poets
have spoken of as the heaving of ocean's bosom
while she sleeps.

The arrangement for meals on ship-board, is
breakfast, informally from a quarter of eight
to nine ; lunch at twelve ; dinner, two tables,
in consequence of the great number of passen-
gers, first table from one to two, second from two
to three ; supper at seven.


At an early hour this bright morning, the
awnings were spread, and the passengers crowd-
ed upon deck. All the windows of the cabins
were thrown open, and what are called wind-
sails were arranged to carry a current of fresh
air through the heated rooms. It is now eleven
o'clock, and quite oppressively warm. I have
left the crowd sitting beneath the awnings on
the deck, and with no little self-denial have
comedown into the cabin to add to my journal.
Seated in a chair, which is a fixture, I am writ-
ing at one of the marble tables, which also
can not be moved. Several little children are
playing around upon the floor, talking Spanish,
and many gentlemen and ladies are seated
around the spacious saloon, some reading, and
others conversing. Through the state-room

o o

windows, when the doors are left open, I can
see the sky, so bright and clear, and occasionally
catch a glimpse of a sparkling wave, as our ship
plunges through it.

This morning as I was sitting upon the deck,
a very benignant looking gentleman, apparently


about sixty years of age, came and took a seat
by my side. I found him to be a Cuban plant-
er, gentlemanly, frank, and peculiarly kind in
his feelings. We talked for an hour, and I can
only regret that I can not record every word
which he said, just as it was uttered ; for in
such a record there could not be the slightest
violation of propriety. I can only give the sub-

He said, that for a respectable plantation in
Cuba, one needed two thousand acres of land,
and two hundred negroes. That the laborers
would average about ten hogsheads of sugar
each, bringing a net profit of four hundred dol-
lars, and that thus the net profits of the planta-
tion would be $80,000. This he considered
pretty fair business. An able-bodied slave
would readily bring 1500 dollars, and the plant-
ers generally preferred those freshly imported
from Africa to those who were natives of Cuba,
because the newly arrived Africans have less vices.
He did not seem to think slavery efficient as a
missionary institution. As a general rule, all the


inhabitants of the Island, with, the exception of
the authorities, were in favor of the slave-trade,
as they were anxious to get as many negroes as
j:>ossible, but that he did not think it right to
tear the r>oor creatures from their homes in Af-
rica, and that he had just been arguing the
point with a brother planter on board.

There were, he said, many of what are called
" poor whites" upon the Island, but that there
was no suffering from poverty ; that the climate
was so luxurious that but little clothing was
needed, and that a small sweet-potato patch, and
a few plantain trees would give one of these
families all they wanted. " We have," said he,
'• no winter with us, as you have, to pinch up
those people and make them work. It is often
said," he continued, " that if the Island were to
fall into the hands of the French, or the Eng-
lish, or the Americans, they would soon make
things look differently. But I have observed
that whoever comes to our tropical climate, feels
its enervating effects, and soon becomes as indo-
lent as any of us."


This man's nature seemed to overflow with
kindness. I am sure that neither horse, nor
cow, nor slave would intentionally be treated
with any cruelty by him. But there is another
planter on board, whose property is estimated
by millions, who looks to me like a hard man.
The domestic slaves on board, who are the
waiting maids of the matrons and young ladies,
appear petted and happy ; but there is one
poor girl here, black as jet, who looks forlorn

A gentleman told an anecdote yesterday, of
Andrew Jackson, which was new to me, and
quite illustrative of that frank, blunt man. The
General once invited a clergyman, for whom he
had a high, regard, to dine with him. One of
the officers, an infidel, rudely assailed the clergy-
man with the question : " Do you really believe,
sir, that there is such a place as hell?" Gen-
eral Jackson instantly interposed in a strong
voice, which arrested the attention of the whole

" I, sir, believe there is such a place as hell I"


" Indeed, sir," said the officer, " and may I
inquire on -what ground you found your be-

"Because," the General replied, "if there
were no hell, there would be no appropriate
place in the future world for such persons as
you are."

And this led to an equally characteristic
anecdote respecting George Washington. He
one day invited several of his staff to dine with
him. In the course of the dinner, one of the
officers uttered an oath. Washington struck
the table with his knife, producing instant
silence, and then said in a low, sad voice : "I
thought I had invited none but gentlemen to
dine with me to-day."

There are sad scenes on board ; invalids pale
and weak, seeking a southern clime, hoping for
health, but doubtless to die. In the pleasant
afternoons they come upon deck, look pensively
upon the gay throng, try to smile, but oh ! what
sadness in a smile which can not veil a sorrow-
stricken heart. As it breezes up a little, they



draw their shawls around them ; the hectic flush,
the hollow couofh, reveals their doom to all but
to themselves. At an early hour they go down ,
to the solitude, the silence of their state-rooms.
God is there with them. He sees their tears
and hears their prayers. " May you die at
home," is an eastern benediction.

There is one young mother here. She has
left two babes at home with her husband, and .
has with her two lovely children, a son and a
daughter of six and four. She is going to Cuba
to pass the winter ; poor mother ! summers and
winters will come and go, but she may never
see her New- York home again. She says that
nothing could have induced her to leave her
babes but love for them ; that she must do
every thing in her power, for xneir sakes, to pro-
long her life. Thus joy and sadness meet us.
In contrast there is on board a beautiful Spanish
bride, who can not have numbered more than
seventeen summers. She is returning from her
bridal-tour to the United States, and is full of
health and joy. Her young husband is devoted


to lier ; they have evidently wealth, and her
buoyancy of spirits, fluency of speech, and live-
ly repartees, surround her with an atmosphere

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottSouth and North; or, Impressions received during a trip to Cuba and the South → online text (page 1 of 15)