William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

. (page 16 of 59)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 16 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the rate of interest at 4 per cent., accumulated yearly ; and the
only charges for management are 2s. 6d. entry money to each
fund, and Is. a-year payable by each member of each fund. The
life-assurance fund of this society stands apart from the other


two, and may be entered independently ; if, however, you wish
to know the scale of contributions, you must study the society's
tables. I shall only here mention a single case by way of example.
In order, then, that a member's heirs shall be entitled to draw
L.IO at his death, he pays in one sum, when 25 years of age,
L.3, 4s. 7^d, or, instead of one sum, 3s. 9^3.. annually, or Is. O^d.
the fii'st month, and 3d. every other month — contributions to cease
at 65. Payments beginning at other ages are in proportion. I need
say no more of this class of societies, except that I wish they
were extended to every large town in the empire. From what I
have stated, you will observe that operatives as well as others
may now insure their lives on safe principles. And surely it
would be delightful to hear of such persons regularly spending
a poimd or two per annum, or a few pence weekly, in securing
to their widows and children what would place them above
everything like immediate want.

Thomson. — Would you prefer seeing men effecting an insm'ance
to laying aside money in a bank 1

Jones. — I do not think the two things should be brought into
comparison, because each is right in its way. I would, however,
repeat, that the first duty of every man is to provide to the best of
his ability for his wife and family in the event of his death, and
the most convenient way of doing so is to effect an insurance on
his life. At the same time, I do not imagine that this is incom-
patible with other economical practices. Let every man save as
much as he can by all means — the operative resorting to his
savings' bank, and those with larger means at disposal seeking
all proper investments for the surplus gains of their laboui*. In
point of fact, I beheve it will be found that the man who insures
his life is the first to save otherwise. The very easy way in which
insurance can be effected enables a person to economise. Instead
of strugg'ling* to lay past a large sum, small instalments at dis-
tant intervals suf&ce, thus enabling him to put aside whatever
other sums he may chance to have at his disposal.

Thomson. — Well, I believe that life-insurance does not neces-
sarily prevent other means of economising, even as regards work-
ing-men in good employment ; and I shall recommend some
artisans whom I happen to know to join either an insurance-
office, or a friendly society such as you mention.

Jones. — Do so ; but do not confine your advices to them. Tiy
to influence every person to insure, whatever be his station. In-
deed, till this practice becomes the rule amongst men of all
classes, instead of being, as now, the rare exception, I can-
not believe that we have attained such a point in civilisa-
tion as we have any title to boast of. For what is the pre-
dicament of that man who, for the gratification of his affections,
surrounds himself with a wife and children, and peaceably
lives in the enjo^nnent of these precious blessings, with the
knowledge that, ere three moments at any time shall have



passed, the cessation of his existence may throw wife and chil-
dren tog-ether into a state of destitution ? I hold it to he the
duty of every man to provide, while he yet lives, for his own ; I
-w'^ould say that it is not more his duty to provide for their
daily hread during* his life, than it is to provide, as far as he can
ag-ainst their being left penniless in the event of his death. In-
deed, between these two duties there is no essential distinction,
for life-assurance makes the one as much a matter of current
expenditure as the other. One part of his income can now be
devoted by a head of a family to the necessities of the present •
another may be stored up, by means of life-assurance, to provide
ag-ainst the future. And thus he may be said to do the whole of
his duty towards his family, instead of, as is g-enerally the case,
only doing" the half of it. Men are only comparatively indifferent
on this subject, because there has as yet been but a brief experi-
ence of a system for redeeming- widows and orphans from poverty.
When life-assurance is as universally understood and practised
as it oug'ht to be, he who has not made such a provision, or
something equivalent, for the possibility of his death, will, I
verily trust, be looked on as a not less detestable wretch than he
who will not work for his children's bread ; and his memory
after death will be held in not less contempt.

\_Jo7ies and Thomson bid each other good-hy, and separate, Thomson
resolving not to go home till he has called at an office to fill up a
proposal for an assurance upon his life.']


The assurance principle has within the last few years been applied, with
the prospect of success, to the guaranteeing of fidelity in persons holding
situations of trust. In this case the calculation is, that out of a large
range of instances where individuals of good moral character are in-
trusted with sums belonging to their employers, a nearly regular amount
of defalcation will take place annually, or within some other larger space
of time. This may give an unpleasant view of human nature, but it is
found to be a true one, and the question which arises with men of busi-
ness is, by what means may the defalcation be best guarded against. The
choice is between a guarantee from one or two persons, and from a trading
company. By the former plan, the risk is concentrated upon one or two,
who may be deeply injured in consequence : by the other plan, the risk is
not merely diflfused, it is extinguished, for the premiums paid by the insur-
ing parties stand for the losses, besides affording a profit upon the business.
Nor have we only thus a protection for private parties against the dangers
of security ; but individuals, who have the offer of situations on the condi-
tion of giving a suf&cient guarantee, may now be able to take, where
formerly they would have had to decline them, seeing that they might have
failed to induce any friend to venture so far in their behalf. Practically,
it has also been found that, so far from parties being more ready to give
way to temptation when they know that the loss will fall upon a company,
they are less so, seeing that the company exercises a more rigid supei-vi-
sion, and presents a sterner front to delinquents, than is the case with
private securities in general. Guarantee companies are now established
in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other large cities ; and as they
serve a useful purpose, and rather support than deteriorate individual
morality, we cordially trust that they will go on and prosper. — Ed.


HE continent of North America is about three thou-
^^ sand miles across, from the Atlantic on the east to the
KjC Pacific on the west ; and, after an interval of three
^^^J^O centuries since the discovery and settlement of the
^^ country, the civilised races, who are chiefly of English
^0^ origin, have not generally penetrated with their possessions
^^^ above a third of the entire breadth. The progress of en-
O^ croachment in the western wilderness, however, is now ex-
ceedingly rapid. Since the deliverance of the New England and
other states from British control, the Anglo-Americans have
evinced a singularly energetic spirit of migration towards what
was, seventy years ago, an almost unknown land. Crossing the
Alleghany range of mountains, from the Atlantic or old settled
states, they have taken possession of the valley of the Mississippi,
a tract as large as all Europe ; and approaching' the head waters
of the Missouri and other tributaries of the Mississippi, appear
prepared to cross the Rocky Mountains — " the Great Backbone
of America," as they have not unaptly been called — and take pos-
session of the Oregon country, lying* on the shores of the Pacific.
This extension of the boundaries of civilisation over a country
hitherto abandoned to roaming tribes of Indians, and herds of
wild animals, is at present one of the most remarkable facts in
social history. Since the beginning of the present century, the
population of the United States has increased from four millions
to twenty millions ; and following- the same rate of increase, in
less than a century hence the population will have increased to
upwards of a hundred and fifty millions — all speaking the Eng-
No. 45. 1


hsh Unguage, and possessing- institutions resemblino- our own
Yet, although the extension of the Anglo-American settlements
be comparatively rapid, it is not effected without numerous diffi-
culties. Those who first penetrate into the wilderness are usu
ally parties of fur traders ; and by these hardy pioneers, and the
volunteer travellers who accompany them, the way may be said
to be m some measure paved for the more formal visits of sur-
veyors, and the new occupants of the country. The journeys of
these pioneering- parties are attended with many dang-ers. The
setting out of an expedition resembles a caravan of piio-rims
sallying forth across the African deserts; civilisation fs for
months, perhaps for years, left behind ; no vestige of house or
road is seen on the apparently interminable wastes ; iourneying-
IS performed only on horseback during the day, while repose is
enjoyed m tents pitched for the night; a constant outlook must
? x^^^i. prowling wild beasts, or the not less stealthy steps
of the Pawnee Loup Indian : in short, all is wild nature, roman-
tic enough perhaps to imtamed minds, but as we can ima^-ine
altogether unendurable by persons accustomed to the quiet
and orderly life of cities. Strange as it seems, however, there
are highly cultivated individuals who, inspii-ed by a love of
science, or for the mere sake of sport, voluntarily make part of
the fur-tradmg bands, and consent to remain for years fi-om
home, friends, and the world of refinemsnt.
_ Believing that the account of one of these romantic expedi-
tions cannot but be acceptable to our readers, we offer in the
present sheet the history of an excursion performed a few years
ago by Mr Townsend, an enthusiastic ornithologist, and his
Iriend Professor Nuttall, of Howard university, an equally zealous
botanist.* Being desirous of increasing the existing stock of
knowledge m the , departments of science to which they were
respectively attached, these gentlemen agreed to accompany a
body of traders, commanded by a Captain Wyeth, to the Colum-
bia river and adjacent parts. The traders belonged to an asso-
ciation called the Columbia River Fishing and Tra'ding Company
and on this occasion they designed to fix a permanent branch-
establishment in the west.

On the evening of the 24th of March 1834, the two friends
arrived m a steamboat at St Louis, on the Missouri, from Pitts-
burg. At St Louis, which is the last great town within the
settlements, they furnished themselves with several pairs of
leathern pantaloons, enormous overcoats, and white wool hats
with round crowns, fitting tightly to the head, and almost hard
enough to resist a musket ball. Leaving their baggage to come
on with the steamer, about three hundred miles farther up the

* We draw the materials for our account from "An Excursion to the
£ m9 ^^^ ^^°^' '^' ^' ^^"^^^"^ 5" ^ ^'°^k published at Philadelphia


Missouri, Mr Townsend and his friend set off to amuse them-
selves by walking- and hunting- leisurely through that distance,
which is composed chiefly of wide flat prairies, with few and
remotely situated habitations of the frontier settlers.

One of the first indications of their approach to a wild country
was the spectacle of a band of Indians of the Saque tribe, who
were removing to new settlements. The men were fantastically
painted, and the chief was distinguished by a profuse display of
trinkets, and a huge necklace made of the claws of the grizzly
bear. The decorations of one of the women amused the two
travellers. She was an old squaw, to whom was presented a
broken umbrella. The only use she made of this prize was to
wrench the plated ends from the whalebones, string them on a
piece of wire, take her knife from her belt, with which she deli-
berately cut a slit of an inch in length along- the upper rim of
her ear, and insert them in it. The sight was as shocking- to the
feelings as it was grotesque ; for the cheeks of the vain being
were covered with blood as she stood with fancied dignity in the
midst of twenty others, who evidently envied her the possession
of the worthless baubles.

While pushing* forward on the borders of the wilderness, the
travellers one day arrived at the house of a kind of gentleman-
settler, who, with his three daughters, vied in showing kind-
ness to their visitors. " The girls," says Mr Townsend, " were
very superior to most that I had seen in Missouri, although
somewhat touched with the awkward bashfulness and prudery
which generally characterise the prairie maidens. They had
lost their mother when young, and having no companions out
of the domestic circle, and consequently no opportunity of
aping the manners of the world, were perfect children of na-
ture. Their father, however, had given them a good plain
education, and they had made some proficiency in needlework,
as was evinced by numerous neatly-worked samplers hanging- in
wooden frames round the room." Some little curiosity and
astonishment was excited in the minds of the unsophisticated
girls when they were informed that their two guests were under-
taking a long and difficult journey across the prairies — one of
them for the purpose of shooting and stuffing birds, the other for
the purpose of obtaining plants to preserve between leaves of
paper; but at last they began to perceive that probably there
was some hidden utility in these seemingly idle pursuits; and

the last words of the eldest Miss P to our ornithologist at

parting were, " Do come again, and come in May or June, for
then there are plenty of prairie-hens, and you can shoot as many
as you want, and you must stay a long* while with us, and we'll
have nice times. Good-by ; I'm so sorry you're going." Miss

P , in promising an abundance of prairie-hens, evidently did

not perceive in what respect an ornithologist difiered from a
sportsman; but her invitation was kindly meant; and Mi*


Townsend promised, that if ever he visited Missouri ao-ain he
would g'o a g-ood many miles out of his way to see her and her
sisters. The next resting'-place which our traveller describes was

very different from Mr P 's comfortable and cheerful house.

It was a hotel, for which a pig-sty would have been a more appro-
priate name. Everything- and everybody were dirty, disobligino-,
and disag-reeable ; and after staying- one nig-ht, the travellers
refusing- the landlord's invitation to liquorise with him, departed
without waiting for breakfast.

^ In the case of our travellers, however, one of the last impres-
sions left upon them before fairly entering- the wilderness was of
a more ag-reeable and suitable description. " In about an hour
and a half," says Mr Townsend, " we arrived at Fulton, a pretty
little town, and saw the villag-ers in their holiday clothes parad-
ing- along- to church. The bell at that moment sounded, and the
peal g-ave rise to many reflections. It might be long ere I should
hear the sound of the ' church-going bell' again. I was on my
way to a far, far country, and I did not know that I should ever
be permitted to revisit my own. I felt that I was leaving the
scenes of my childhood— the spot which had witnessed all the
happiness I ever knew, the home where all my affections were
centered. I was entering a land of strangers, and would be
compelled hereafter to mingle with those who might look upon
me with indifference, or treat me with neglect."

The travellers, tired of their long journey on foot, waited at a
small village on the Missouri till their companions and baggage
should come up. The steamer arrived on the 9th of April," and
the two pedestrians having gone on board, it was soon puffing
up the river at the rate of seven miles an hour. In four day^
they reached the small town of Independence, the outermost
Anglo-American post, and disembarking, they began to prepare
for their long and venturesome journey. Mr Townsend here
introduces a description of the company, about fifty in all.

There were amongst the men, to compose the caravan, a great
variety of dispositions. Some, who had not been accustomed to
the kind of life they were to lead, looked forward to it with
eager delight, and talked of stirring incidents and hairbreadth
escapes. Others, who were more experienced, seemed to be as
easy and unconcerned about it as a citizen would be in contem-
plating a drive of a few miles into the country. Some were
evidently reared in the shade, and not accustomed to hardships ;
many were almost as rough as the grizzly bear, and not a little
proud of their feats, of which they were fond of boasting ; but
the majority were strong able-bodied men. During the day, the
captain kept all his men employed in arranging and packing a vast
variety of goods for carriage. In addition to the necessary clothing
lor the company, arms, ammunition, &c. there were thousands of
trinkets of various kinds, beads, paint, bells, rings, and such Uke
trumpery, intended as presents for the Indians, as well as objects


of trade with them. The hales were usually made to weig-h
about eighty pounds, of which a horse was to carry two. Cap-
tain "Wyeth insured the good-will and obedience of the men by
his affable but firm manner, and showed himself every way suit-
able for his very important mission. In the company there
were also five missionaries, the principal of whom, Mr Jason
Lee, was " a tall and powerful man, who looked as though he
were well calculated to buffet difficulties in a wild country."
Before setting out, they were joined also by Mr Milton Sublette,
a trader and trapper of several years' standing, who intended to
travel a part of the way with them. Mr Sublette brought with
him about twenty trained hunters, "true as the steel of their
tried blades," who had more than once gone over the very track
which the caravan intended to pursue — a reinforcement which
was very welcome to Captain Wyeth and his party.


On the 28th of April, at ten o'clock in the morning', all things
being prepared, the caravan, consisting of seventy men and two
hundred and fifty horses, began its march towards the west.
All were in high spirits, and full of hope of adventure ; up-
roarious bursts of merriment, and gay and lively songs, con-
stantly echoed along the line of the cavalcade. The road lay
over a vast rolling prairie, with occasional small spots of timber
at the distance of several miles apart, and this was expected to
be the complexion of the track for some weeks. For the first
day and night the journey was agreeable, but on the second day
a heavy rain fell, which made the ground wet and muddy, soaked
the blanket bedding-, and rendered camping at night anything*
but pleasant. The description given of a nightly camp is in-
teresting* : — " The party is divided into messes of eight men, and
each mess is allowed a separate tent. The captain of a mess
(who is generally an ' old hand') receives each morning* rations
of pork, flour, &c. for his people, and they choose one of their
body as cook for the whole. Our camjD now consists of nine
messes, of which Captain Wyeth's forms one, although it con-
tains only four persons besides the cook. '\Yhen we arrive in the
evening at a suitable spot for encampment. Captain Wyeth rides
round a space which he considers large enough to accommodate
it, and directs where each mess shall pitch its tent. The men
immediately unload their horses, and place their bales of goods
in the direction indicated, and in such manner as, in case of
need, to form a sort of fortification and defence. When all the
messes are arranged in this way, the camp forms a hollow square,
in the centre of which the horses are placed and staked firmly
to the groimd. The guard consists of from six to eight men,
is relieved three times each night, and so arranged that each.
g*ang may serve alternate nights. The captain of a guard (who
is generally also the captain of a mess) collects his people at the



appointed hour, and posts them around outside the camp in such
situations that they may command a view of the environs, and
be ready to give the alarm in case of danger. The captain cries
the hour regularly by a watch, and alVs ivell, every fifteen
minutes, and each man of the guard is required to repeat this
call in rotation, which if any one should fail to do, it is fair to
conclude that he is asleep, and he is then immediately visited
and stirred up. In case of defection of this kind, our laws ad-
judge to the delinquent the hard sentence of walking three days.
As yet, none of our poor fellows have incurred this penalty, and
the probability is, that it would not at this time be enforced, as
we are yet in a country where little molestation is to be appre-
hended ; but in the course of another week's travel, when thiev-
ing and ill-designing Indians will be out, lying on our trail, it
will be necessary that the strictest watch be kept ; and for the
preservation of our persons and property, that our laws shall be
rigidly enforced."

For about a fortnight the caravan proceeded without any very
remarkable incident occurring. The cook of the mess to which
Mr Townsend belonged decamped one night, having no doubt
become tired of the expedition, and determined to go back to the
settlements. The man himself was little missed; but he had
taken a rifle, powder-horn, and shot-pouch along with him,
and these articles were precious. In a few days after, three other
men deserted, likewise carrying rifles with them. In the course
of the fortnight the caravan passed through several villages of
the Kaw Indians, with whom they traded a little, giving bacon
and tobacco in exchange for hides. These Indians do not appear,
on the whole, to have been very favourable specimens of the
American aborigines. The men had many of them fine counte-
nances, but the women were very homely. The following is a
description of one of their chiefs : — " In the evening the principal
Kanzas chief paid us a visit in our tent. He is a young man about
twenty-five years of age, straight as a poplar, and with a noble
countenance and bearing, but he appeared to me to be maiwel-
lously deficient in most of the requisites which go to make the
character of a real Indian chief, at least of such Indian chiefs as
we read of in our popular books. I begin to suspect, in truth,
that these lofty and dignified attributes are more apt to exist in
the fertile brain of the novelist than in reality. Be this as it may,
our chief is a very lively, laughing, and rather playful personage ;
perhaps he may put on his dignity, like a glove, when it suits
his convenience."

On the 8th of May the party had a misfortune in the loss of
Mr Milton Sublette, who, owing to a fungus in one of his legs,
was obliged to return to the settlements. On the afternoon
of next day, the party crossed a broad Indian trail, bearing
northerly, supposed to be about five days old, and to have been
made by a war-party of Pawnees. Hoping to escape these for-


midable enemies of the white man, the party pushed on, but not

without occasional mishaps ; at one time the horses ran away, and
had to be chased for a whole night, and even when the labour of
the chase was over, three were irrecoverably lost ; at another time
half of the party were drenched crossing" a wide creek full of
black mud, which the men had to flounder through on horse-
back. The weather, too, was becoming intolerably warm. They
had frequently been favoured with fresh breezes, which made it
very agreeable ; but the moment these failed, they were almost
suffocated with intense heat. Their rate of travelling was about
twenty miles per day, which in this warm weather, and with.
heavily burdened horses, was as much as could be accomplished
with comfort to the travellers and their animals.

The general aspect, however, of the country through which

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 16 of 59)