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A Visit to the United States in 1841 online

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and extent of the hotels, almost all of which are on the principle of
the English boarding houses. Besides the number of casual visitors in a
population which travels from place to place, perhaps more than any
other in the world, the hotels are the permanent homes of a numerous and
important class of unmarried men, engaged in business, and often indeed
of young married persons, who choose to avoid expense and the cares of
housekeeping. At many, if not most of the hotels, cleanliness,
regularity, and order, pervade all the arrangements, and as much comfort
is to be found as is compatible with throng and publicity. Still the
domestic charm of private life is wanting, and its absence renders the
system of constant residence most uncongenial to English habits and
feelings. An unsocial reserve lies on the surface of English character,
and the love of privacy, or at least of a retirement which can be closed
and expanded at will, is an extensive and deep-seated feeling. Yet the
Anglo-American, even of the purest descent, has early lost the latter
characteristic, while he often retains the first unimpaired. What law
governs the hereditary transmission of such traits? Several first rate
hotels in New England are strictly on the temperance plan, and among
them is the Marlborough, in Boston, the second in extent of business in
this important city, and which makes up from one hundred to two hundred
beds. No intoxicating liquor of any kind can be had in the house.
Printed notices are also hung up in the bed rooms, that it is the
established rule to take in no fresh company and to receive no accounts
on the first day of the week, and the cooking and other preparations are
as much as possible performed before hand, that the servants may enjoy
the day of rest, and partake of the moral and Spiritual benefit of a
weekly pause from the whirl and turmoil of secular engagements.

I had scarcely ventured to hope that I should ever witness a large hotel
like this, conducted on such principles; but having now seen it, it adds
additional strength to my conviction, that in proportion as Christianity
is carried out in common life, in the same proportion is the lost
happiness of man recovered. Too many in the present day, who are not
behind-hand in profession, keep their principles more for show than use.
They acknowledge the purity of them, and have some faint perception of
their moral beauty, but secretly believe, and sometimes, openly avow
them to be impracticable in the present state of the world. They who
exhibit proof of the contrary, are benefactors to their fellow men; and
among these, justly deserves to be classed Nathaniel Rogers, the
proprietor of the Marlborough Hotel, in Boston.

We called upon several of our anti-slavery friends on the day of our
arrival, and in the evening, took tea with a number of those who approve
of the proceedings of the London Convention, and who concur in the
principles of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. The subjects
discussed were the time and place of a future convention of the friends
of the slave of different nations. London was unanimously approved as
the place, and the preponderance of sentiment was in favor of 1842 as
the time.

On the 22d we went on to Lynn. Here are a very considerable number of
the Society of Friends, who are desirous of taking part in active
anti-slavery exertion, when they can do so without compromise of
principle. It is greatly to be regretted that in this vicinity, a few
individuals, formerly members of our religious society, have embraced,
in connection with their abolition views, the doctrines of
non-resistance, or non-government, in church and state, and thus greatly
added to the difficulties in the way of efficient action on the part of
consistent members; but whatever may be the errors and indiscretions of
these individuals, they furnish no valid excuse for the apathy and
inaction on the part of "Friends," nor lessen, in the slightest degree,
their responsibility for the firm and faithful maintenance of our
Christian testimony against oppression. We proceeded, the same evening,
to Amesbury, where the family of my friend and companion John G.
Whittier reside, in whose hospitable and tranquil retreat we remained
till the 25th. Here I found myself in a manufacturing district, and paid
a visit to a large woollen mill, and was much pleased with the
cleanliness and order displayed, and with the evident comfort and
prosperity of the working people, who are chiefly young women, none of
whom are admitted under sixteen years of age. Any person given to
intoxication would be instantly discharged. All the manufactories in
this place are joint-stock companies, and the mills are worked by water
power, of which there is an abundant supply.

I had agreed, on my return to Boston, to meet my abolition friends at a
tea party, and found an entertainment provided from the Marlborough
Hotel, in a large room adjoining one of the chapels, on a scale of great
profusion, a little to my disappointment, as I had anticipated one of a
social rather than of a public character, though I could not but feel
the kindness which it was intended to manifest. Charles Stewart Renshaw,
from Jamaica, was opportunely present, and his information on the state
of that Island added much interest to the evening, the proceedings of
which, I hope, gave pretty general satisfaction. In condescension to my
wish, my valued friend, Nathaniel Colver, suggested to the company to
dispense with the usual form of public prayer, and substitute an
interval of silence, after the reading of a portion of scripture, which
was kindly complied with.

Before leaving Boston, I had a long interview with William Lloyd
Garrison. His view of "women's rights" is so far a matter of conscience
with him, as to be made an indispensable term of union; yet though
widely differing on this, and other important points, we parted, I
trust, as we met, on personally friendly terms; and certainly on my part
with a desire to promote a spirit of forbearance, and with a deeper and
stronger conviction that the friends of the bleeding and oppressed
slave, should not spend their strength in unprofitable contention upon
points in regard to which both parties claim to act conscientiously,
while the common cause requires their undivided energies.

On the 28th I left Boston for the beautiful town of Worcester, about
forty miles distant, on the principal line of railway to New York, where
I had the pleasure of visiting, at his own residence, my friend, Cyrus
P. Grosvenor, one of the delegates to the Anti-Slavery Convention last
year. There are here a considerable number of sincere abolitionists, of
whom we met a small company in the evening, in a room used as the
Friends' meeting house. I gave them a brief account of the state of the
anti-slavery cause in other parts of the world. In company with John M.
Earle, editor of one of the Worcester papers, with whom I had formed a
previous acquaintance at the Yearly Meeting, I also called on the
Governor of the State of Massachusetts, who resides in this place. We
had some friendly conversation, but he seemed cautious on the subject of
abolition. The temperance cause in Worcester has made so much progress
that at the three largest and best hotels, which make up nearly one
hundred beds each, no intoxicating liquor of any kind is sold. A people
thus willing to carry out their convictions, to the sacrifice of
prejudice, appetite, and apparent self-interest, cannot long remain a
nation of slave-holders. In common with the rest of New England, this
town is remarkable for the number, size, and beauty of its places of
worship. I calculated, with the aid of a well-informed inhabitant, that
if the entire population were to go to a place of worship, at the same
hour, in the same day, there would be ample accommodation, and room to
spare. Yet here there is no compulsory tax to build churches, and
maintain ministers. By the efficacy of the voluntary principle alone is
this state of things produced.

My dear friend, John G. Whittier returned home from Worcester on account
of increased indisposition, while I proceeded alone to New York. The
journey from Boston to the latter city is a remarkably pleasant one.
Leaving Boston at four in the afternoon, we proceed on one of the best
railways in the States, at the rate of upwards of twenty miles an hour,
through a very beautiful and generally well cultivated country, to the
city of Norwich, in the State of Connecticut, where the train arrives
about eight in the evening, and the passengers immediately embark on a
handsome steamer, for New York, enjoying, as long as daylight lasts, the
fine scenery on the banks of the Thames. The night I went was moonlight;
and, after long enjoying the coolness of the evening on deck, the
company retired to their berths, and arrived at New York at the
seasonable hour of six the following morning.

I remained in New York until the 7th of the Seventh Month (July). My
friends, William Shotwell and wife, had left the city during the hot
months, but very kindly placed their town house at my service, and I
found the retirement thus at my command both refreshing and very
serviceable, in enabling me to bring up arrears of writing. During this
interval, I spent one very pleasant day with Theodore and Angelina
Grimke Weld, and their sister, Sarah Grimke, who reside on a small farm,
a few miles from Newark. To the great majority of my readers these names
need no introduction; yet, for the benefit of the few, I will briefly
allude to their past history. When the American Anti-Slavery Society was
formed, in 1833, Theodore D. Weld was at the Lane Seminary, near
Cincinnati, Ohio. He was unable to attend on that occasion, but wrote a
letter, declaring his entire sympathy with its object. Soon after,
through the influence and exertions of himself and Henry B. Stanton, a
large majority of the students at Lane Seminary, comprising several
slave-holders and sons of slave-holders, became members of an
Anti-Slavery Society. The Faculty opposed the formation of this society,
and finally expelled its members from the seminary. For two or three
years after, Theodore Weld was engaged in anti-slavery effort,
principally in the States of Ohio and New York. His voice failed at
last, and for several years he was unable to address a public assembly.
Angelina Grimke Weld, and her sister, Sarah Grimke, were natives of
South Carolina, the daughters of a distinguished Judge of that State;
for several years they resided in Philadelphia. Having long felt a deep
interest in the condition of the slaves, in the year 1837 they, in
accordance with what they believed to be a sense of religious duty,
visited New York and New England, to plead the cause of those, with
whose sorrows, degradation, and cruel sufferings, they had been familiar
in their native State. They are evidently women of superior endowments,
kind-hearted and energetic, and still retain something of the warmth and
fervor of character peculiar to the South.

Few, even of the well informed abolitionists of England, have an
adequate idea of the extent, variety, and excellence of the anti-slavery
literature of the United States, or of the amount of intellectual power
which has been willingly consecrated to this service. Of the cause
itself, with all its exigencies, we may adopt, in a yet more limited
sense, the sentiment of the Christian poet, on the transient nature of
all sublunary things,

"These, therefore, are occasional, and pass."

The time approaches when the shackles of the slave will fall off - when
his suffering and despairing cry will be no more heard. Slavery itself
is a temporary exigency; but its removal has called, and will yet call
forth, works bearing the impress of intellectual supremacy, which will
be embodied in the permanent literature of the age, and will contribute
to raise the character, and to extend the reputation, of that
literature. The names of Channing, Jay, Child, Green, and Pierpont, are
already their own passport to fame. Other names might be mentioned; but,
one instance excepted, selection might be invidious. That exception is
Theodore D. Weld, whose palm of superiority few would be disposed to
contest. His principal works are, "The Bible against Slavery;" "Power of
Congress over Slavery in the District of Columbia;" and "Slavery as it

All his writings are marked by varied excellence; yet their chief
characteristic is an irresistible and overwhelming power of argument.
Although brief and compressed in style, he exhausts his subject; and his
two principal works, though on warmly controverted topics, have never
been replied to. He would be a bold antagonist who should enter the
lists against him: he would be a yet bolder ally who should attempt to
go over the same ground, or to do better what has been done so well.

One of the most voluminous and popular writers that ever lived, observed
to a friend, "that he was more proud of his compositions for manure,
than of any other compositions with which he had any concern." My
friend, has the same love of rural occupations, and has found severe
manual labor essential for the recovery of health, broken by labor of
another kind. I found him at work on his farm, driving his own wagon and
oxen, with a load of rails. When he had disposed of his freight, we
mounted the wagon, and drove to his home. Two or three of his
fellow-students at the Lane Seminary arrived about the same time, and we
spent the day in agreeable, and, I trust, profitable intercourse. In the
household arrangements of this distinguished family, Dr. Graham's
dietetic system is rigidly adopted, which excludes meat, butter, coffee,
tea, and all intoxicating beverages. I can assure all who may be
interested to know, that this Roman simplicity of living does not forbid
enjoyment, when the guest can share with it the affluence of such minds
as daily meet at their table. The "Graham system," as it is called,
numbers many adherents in America, who are decided in its praise.

My friends, Theodore D. and Angelina Weld, and Sarah Grimke, sympathize,
to a considerable extent, with the views on "women's rights," held by
one section of abolitionists; yet they deeply regret that this, or any
other extraneous doctrine, should have been made an apple of discord;
and, since the rise of these unhappy divisions, they have held aloof
from both the anti-slavery organizations, though, as among the most able
and successful laborers in the field, they may justly be accounted
allies by each party. Difference of opinion on these points did not, for
a moment, interrupt the pleasure of our intercourse; and I could not but
wish, that those, of whatever party, who are accustomed to judge harshly
of all who cannot pronounce their "shibboleth," might be instructed by
the candid, charitable, and peace-loving deportment of Theodore D. Weld.

During my visit to New York, I became acquainted with many who were
deeply interested in the abolition cause, not a few of whom were members
of my own religious society. Among these, I may particularly mention my
venerable friends, Richard Mott and Samuel Parsons. I paid a second
visit to the residence of the latter at Flushing, but regret to say, I
found him too unwell to enjoy company.[A] His sons are anxiously
desirous of furthering the abolition cause on every suitable occasion.
One evening I spent with a respectable minister, who is a man of color,
and who assured me that most of the intelligent persons of his class in
New York approve of the course pursued by the late Convention in London,
and the Committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. I saw
at his house a man who had purchased his freedom for twelve hundred
dollars, intending to remain in the same State, but, as in a precisely
similar case already noticed, he afterwards found he had no alternative
but to emigrate, leaving his still enslaved family behind him, or to be
again sold into slavery himself, under the laws enacted to drive out
free people of color. He was trying to raise the large sum of fourteen
hundred dollars, to purchase his wife and four children.

[Footnote A: This illness terminated fatally. One of his intimate
friends in this country, has favored me with the following communication
respecting him. "Samuel Parsons had been from early life, a warm friend
to the African race; his love of peace rendered him at the first
accessible to prejudice against the American Anti-Slavery Society,
through the misrepresentations respecting its violent and rash measures;
which misrepresentations it was much more easy to believe than to
investigate. Yet his interest for the negro and colored population of
the United States continued, and he extended acts of protection and
kindness towards them, whenever opportunity for it was afforded. In the
Eleventh Month, last year, I find the following paragraph in one of his
letters to us, viz. 'Though sensible that I am drawing towards the close
of time, I cannot avoid taking a deep interest in the moral reformation,
relative to slavery and intemperance, which is progressing in the earth;
my son Robert and I look at these publications as they appear, with deep
solicitude. The proceedings of the Anti-Slavery Convention of the world,
and its movements, are of great moment to the whole civilized world. The
anti-slavery cause, has not, I fear, advanced much the last year; the
separation in the National Society, and the truckling to the South of
the politicians of both sides, during the late Presidential election,
has for a time marred the work; but the anti-slavery banner of a third
party is still displayed, and it will probably continue to nominate till
it seriously influences the elections. In the mean time, the individual
States, one after another, are freeing the colored people from part of
their civil disabilities. A hard battle is to be fought, but mighty is
truth, and must prevail.'"]

"The fourth of July," the anniversary of the independence of the United
States, fell this year on the first day of the week, and was therefore
celebrated the day following. It is still marked by extravagant
demonstrations of joy, and often disgraced by scenes of intemperance and
demoralization. The better part of the community wisely counteract the
evil, to a great extent, by holding, on the same day, temperance
meetings, school examinations, opening their places of worship, et cet.
I accompanied my friend Lewis Tappan to attend an anti-slavery meeting
at Newark, in which Theodore Weld was expected to take a part for the
first time after an interval of five years' discontinuance of public
speaking. Several years before, he had been carried away by the stream
in crossing a river, and had very narrowly escaped drowning. This
accident caused an affection of the throat, and eventually disqualified
him for public labor except with the pen, to which, though deemed a
great loss at the time by his fellow-laborers in the anti-slavery cause,
we probably owe the invaluable works before referred to. It was on the
same anniversary, five years ago, that he had spoken last, a
circumstance to which he made a touching allusion: he spoke very
impressively for more than half an hour without serious inconvenience,
and I hope it may please Providence to restore his ability to plead, as
he was wont to do with great power, for the cause of the oppressed.

In the afternoon there was a public examination of the scholars
belonging to the place of worship in which the preceding meeting was
held, and in connection with this a little incident occurred, which may
serve to illustrate the state of public feeling. Newark, from its
extensive trade with the south, is much under pro-slavery influence. But
the congregation of this chapel are generally anti-slavery, and have
several colored children in their school. One of these, a little black
girl, was qualified to take part in the public examination; but this, in
the estimation of some of the parents of white scholars, and several
even of the trustees, could not be borne. Others, on the contrary,
resolved to battle with the prejudice of caste, and to call for her, if
she were not brought forward; and, finally, I suppose, by way of
compromise, she was brought on the platform to recite alone, after the
little scholars who could rejoice in the aristocratic complexion had
performed their parts, without suffering the indignity of a public
association with a colored child. Even this was, however, considered a
victory by the anti-prejudice party.

I left on the seventh for Niagara, being desirous to see the celebrated
Falls, and to visit some friends living in the western part of this
State, as well as to find relief from the oppressive and tropical heat.
I hoped also to fall in with my friends and fellow laborers, J. and M.
Candler, who had gone with a party in the same direction. I need not
describe a route so often traversed by Europeans. One of its agreeable
incidents was an accidental meeting with John Curtis, of Ohio, on his
way, on a free trade mission, to Great Britain, from motives which I
believe to be disinterested and philanthropic. His labors, which are
principally intended to show the evils of our taxes upon food, will not
be in vain; though he will find many in England, as I found in America,
who have no ear for truth when it opposes their prejudices or imaginary
self-interest. He gave me a most cheering account of the march of
abolition in Ohio, and said he had lately attended a meeting held at the
invitation of the abolitionists, on the 5th of July, at which there were
three thousand persons, who had come to the place of meeting in nine
hundred vehicles of different kinds. He said he had never witnessed a
more enthusiastic meeting. Another gentleman and his wife made
themselves known to me, in the railway carriage, as warm abolitionists,
and spoke favorably of the prospects of the cause in this part of the
State of New York. The gentleman said he had lately had a discussion
with a deacon of a church he attended, who defended the admission of
slave-holders to the communion. On being asked, however, whether he
would admit sheep-stealers, he acknowledged this was not so great a
crime as man-stealing, and pleaded no further in favor of
church-fellowship with slave-holders.

The journey from New York to the Falls of Niagara, a distance of 480
miles, is performed in about forty-eight hours, and when the railway
communication is further completed, and the speed raised to the standard
of the best English lines, it will probably be accomplished in less than
thirty hours. The railway passed for many miles through the original
forest, in which I observed very lofty trees, but none of an
extraordinary girth. In many places the ground was crowded with fallen
trees, in every stage of decay. I found my friends at the Eagle Hotel,
at Niagara, where I remained till the twelfth, enjoying with them the
views and scenery of "the Falls," a spectacle of nature in her grandest
aspect, which mocks the limited capacity of man to conceive or to

On the eleventh, being the first day of the week, we held a meeting for
worship, at our hotel, and were joined by an Irish lady and her three
daughters, who had been living here some months. This lady told me she
was present when M'Leod was arrested in this hotel. From all I have been
able to learn, there are a number of reckless men on both sides the
border line, who are anxious to foment war for the sake of plunder; but
the great bulk of the American people, I am persuaded, are for peace,
and especially for peace with England, a feeling which time is

On the twelfth, our whole party left for Buffalo, by railway, getting a
transient view of Lake Ontario before entering the city. Here we parted
company, they proceeding to Toronto, by steam packet, and I to Syracuse
by coach. The American vehicle of this name, carries nine inside
passengers on three cross seats. It is hung on leather springs, so as to
be fitted to maintain the shocks of a _corduroy_ road. Wishing to see
the country, I mounted the box, by the side of the coachman, but at
times had some difficulty in retaining my seat. The value of land in
this part of the country, when cleared and in cultivation, I understood
to be from thirty to fifty dollars per acre. A large breadth of wheat is
grown, of which the yield is generally good; but this year there will
be, in many cases, a short crop, from the extreme drought in the two
preceding months. I went forward from Syracuse to Rochester by railway,

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Online LibraryJoseph SturgeA Visit to the United States in 1841 → online text (page 10 of 26)