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THINGS AS THEY ARE
vfl/



AMERICA



BY

WILLIAM CHAMBERS



WILLIAM AISD ROBERT CHAMBERS
LONDON AND EDINBURGH

1854



j\



EDINBURGH:

PRINTED BY W. AND R. CHAMPERS.



IN the autumn of 1853, I was advised to cross the Atlantic
for change of air and scene ; and as the suggestion coincided
with my own desire, formed on other grounds, to visit
AMERICA, I gladly assented. The present work is a narrative
of what chiefly fell under observation during my tour in
some of the BRITISH AMERICAN POSSESSIONS and UNITED
STATES the recollection of which excursion, and of the many
marks of undeserved kindness I received, will always be to
me a source of unqualified gratification.

W. CHAMBERS.

GLENORMISTON, August 1854.



269295



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I. PAGB

TOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX, . . 1

CHAPTER II.

NOVA SCOTIA, .24

CHAPTER III.

BOSTON TO MONTREAL, . . . . .45

CHAPTER IV.

MONTREAL, .63

CHAPTER V.

QUEBEC, 79

CHAPTER VI.

ONTARIO NIAGARA, . . . . . .96

CHAPTER VII.

TORONTO CANADA-WEST, . . . . . 113

CHAPTER VIII.

CANADA-WEST TO MICHIGAN, .... 128

CHAPTER IX.

OHIO-CINCINNATI, 142



VI CONTENTS.

CHAPTER X. PAGK

CINCINNATI TO NEW YORK, ._ . . 158

CHAPTER XI.

NEW YORK, . . . . . . . .171

CHAPTER XII.

NEW YORK CONCLUDED, . . . . .191

CHAPTER XIII.

BOSTON LOWELL, 210

CHAPTER XIV.

RHODE ISLAND, 227

CHAPTER XV.

WASHINGTON " . . .249

CHAPTER XVI.

RICHMOND, IN VIRGINIA, ... .267

CHAPTER XVII.

CONGRESS, \. . ... 287

CHAPTER XVIII.

PHILADELPHIA, . . . . . . . 304

CHAPTER XIX.

RAILWAYS, TELEGRAPHS, AND OTHER THINGS, 323

CHAPTER XX.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS, . . . 340



THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.



CHAPTER L

VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX.

A VISIT to America is usually one of the early
aspirations of the more impressionable youth of
England. The stirring stories told of Columbus,
Sebastian Cabot, Raleigh, and Captain John Smith;
the history of the Pilgrim Fathers fleeing from
persecution; the description of Perm s transactions
with the Indians ; the narratives of the gallant achieve
ments of Wolfe and Washington, and the lamentable
humiliations of Burgoyne and Cornwallis ; the exciting
autobiography of the Philadelpliian printer, who, from
toiling at the press, rose to be the companion of kings
all had their due effect on my imagination, and
stimulated the desire I felt to cross the Atlantic, and
see the country which had been the theatre of so many
interesting events, and latterly the scene of so many
social developments. The ordinary occupations of a
busy life, however, had dispelled this early dream.
Like other ardently but vaguely entertained notions,
it vanished and was forgotten, when circumstances all
at once recalled it to mind, and rendered its realisation



2 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

possible. In short, towards the close of 1853, I was
enabled to visit the more interesting portions of N<
America, where the rapid rate at which travellers
whirled from place to place, left me a reasonable tiffitf
for observation and inquiry.

When a thing has to be brought down from the
realms of fancy, to be considered in its practical details,
it is astonishing how many little difficulties require tcr. -.
be encountered and overcome. In the present instance^
I had to determine, in the first place, which route Ly
should adopt. Should I go by way of the Britishi%
American provinces, or leave them to be reached after
visiting the United States? I resolved to set out direct ;
for one of the nearest of the colonial possessions
Nova Scotia, and pass on thence to Canada, by this
means taking the more northerly parts first. Perhaps,
also, the fact of the Nova Scotian peninsula being
ordinarily, and it may be said, unjustly, neglected by
tourists, helped to fix my resolution, and accordingly
I engaged a berth in the America, one of the Cunard
line of steamers bound from Liverpool to Boston, and
touching at Halifax.

It was on a dull September morning, with a thick
fog overhanging the Mersey, that I found myself
amidst a crowd of persons standing on the deck of a
small steamer at the landing-quay of Liverpool. In
the forepart of the vessel was a huge pile of boxes,
bags, and portmanteaus, the luggage of the passengers ;
while the middle and after parts were so thickly
covered with human beings, as to leave barely standing-
room. The duty of this little craft, called the tender,*
is to carry passengers from the shore to the steam-ship
that lies moored in the middle of the river, and which,
having previously, while in dock, taken on board all its
cargo, is now ready to start out to sea. As nine o clock
struck, the tender moved away from the shore, and in



VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. 3

two minutes was enveloped in the fog a most
lllilgerous situation, for the Mersey was studded over
. wii,h vessels in various attitudes, and at any instant we
might rush violently against them. Such a catastrophe
actually occurred. By what I must consider to have
been incautious steering, the small steamer was brought
suddenly into collision with the bows of a large vessel,
and our, instantaneous destruction seemed to be inevit
able. "With indescribable alarm I expected that the
vessel would pass over us, and that we should all be
immediately struggling beneath the flood. There was
a rush to the roof of the small engine-room, as being
likely to remain longest above water. I climbed to the
highest point near me, and looked ahead for the coming
shock. A moment of extreme excitement ensued.
Crash went in the bulwarks of the tender, and down
went its mast across the pile of luggage ! I thought
all was over. Fortunately, the bowsprit of the large
vessel, in coming in contact with and breaking our
mast, slightly turned off the collision, and we imme
diately lost sight of her great hull in the mist. We
felt, as it were, a reprieve from death, and looked each
other in the face with a feeling of congratulation. Then
broke forth on the unlucky steersman a shower of those
warm epithets which the English, in moments of
indignation, scatter about with characteristic liberality.
Idiot ass fool ! were pelted at him all the rest of the
way ; nor did we feel safe from a fresh calamity till we
were alongside of the America., which towered like a
castle above us, and till we had our feet securely
planted on her capacious poop. The tender, it is
needless to say, had a very damaged appearance. Her
mast and cordage lay athwart the confused mass of
baggage, some of which was broken in pieces, and some
had gone overboard. Whether such incidents are
common at Liverpool, I do not know. It is, at all



4 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

events, clear that the method of putting passengers on
board American vessels, in a foggy river, by means of
small and overcrowded tenders, is a very bad one ; and
I have no hesitation in saying, that there is more
danger to life from this practice, than in a whole
voyage across the Atlantic.

The America did not immediately depart. The mails
were still to be put on board, and these did not arrive
in a subsequent trip of the tender till nearly noon.
When they made their appearance, they consisted of at
least two cart-loads of well-stuffed leather bags, with
some boxes containing special dispatches for Canada.
The whole having been transferred to the hold in the
large steamer, the captain and pilot took their places
on the paddle-box, the other officers went to their
appropriate posts, the bell was rung, the wheels moved,
and we were off. Slowly at first did the great floating
mass proceed through the water. The mists which lay
to seaward were not yet -quite dispelled by the sun, and
to go down the Mersey required careful guidance. For
half an hour, the passengers leant over the brass
railings of the elevated poop, catching glimpses of the
parting quays some waving hats or handkerchiefs to
friends far in the receding distance some, myself for
one, thinking of those dear to them at home, and half
doubtful of our own safe return to Old England.
Gradually, the ship got into greater speed; for an
instant it paused in its career, to allow the pilot to
descend to his boat; again it moved along, and we
were fairly on our course. The direction it took was
straight up the Channel between Ireland and the Isle
of Man. It was going what is called north about/
which is preferred to the southern passage in certain
states of wind and tide.

As the vessel gained the open sea, and left nothing
to look at but the wide-spread waters, one by one the



VOYAGE FllOM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. 5

passengers descended to view the nature of their own
particular accommodations, or to inspect the general
mechanism of the ship. To me, at least, everything
was new and curious; and, for the sake of the unini
tiated, I will try to give an idea of what came under
my notice.

As is pretty well known, there are two chief and
distinct lines of steamers. One, the Cunard, so called
after Mr Cunard of Halifax, who was its projector, is
exclusively British property, and has a large money-
grant from our government for carrying the mails.
Some of its vessels sail direct to and from New York,
the remainder to and from Boston, calling at Halifax.
The other line, called the Collins, is American property,
and sails only to and from New York ; it is subsidised
by the United States government also for mail pur
poses. These two lines are in many respects rivals,
but, by a judicious arrangement, the vessels depart
from each port on different days of the week, so that
no actual inconvenience is experienced from their
competition. Latterly, there has sprung up a separate
line of steamers to and from Philadelphia, and another
to and from Portland ; but of these I do not need here
to speak. It is by the Cunard and Collins steamers
that the intercourse with North America is mainly
carried on, and on both sides of the Atlantic there is
much keenness of feeling as to their respective merits.
The Canards are strong and compact vessels, built
wholly in the Clyde, and possess engines of the most
trustworthy workmanship. They are likewise in the
charge of first-rate seamen. But, from the rounded form
of their bows, or some other architectural peculiarity,
they do not sail so fast as the Collins steamers, and
they ship water on the decks to an unpleasant extent.
They also fall considerably short of the Collinses in point
of spaciousness and elegance of accommodation ; and I



6 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

am sorry to say that, in the ticket- dispensing depart
ment at Liverpool, there is great room for increased
attention and politeness. On calling to get my ticket
on the night previous to departure, I experienced such
treatment as might be expected by a pauper emigrant
who went to seek an eleemosynary passage. Nor was
this the worst of it; for although paying the highest
fare, 25, which I had remitted ten days previously,
and although informed that one of the best berths
in the ship had been assigned to me, I found that
this said excellent berth was among the fore-cabin
passengers a circumstance that led to much discomfort
during the voyage, as I shall afterwards have occasion to
notice. I allude to these circumstances with reluctance,
and only under a sense of public duty.

On board the America, which bears a close resem
blance to the other vessels in the line, there was
nothing to find fault with, but, on the contrary, much
to commend. Everything in the Cunards goes on, as
the saying is, ( like clock-work/ In the striking of
bells, changing of watches, posting of officers, throwing
the log, taking solar observations, and other transac
tions, there is all the regularity and precision of a
man-of-war ; and this imparts a feeling of security even
in the worst states of the weather, by night or day.
The burden of the America is 1832 tons, and its length
about 249 feet; it has two large engines, which act
separately or together on both paddle-wheels, and in
ordinary circumstances give a speed of from ten to
twelve miles an hour. The quantity of fuel consumed
is from fifty to sixty tons a day ; necessitating a stock
on board of about 900 tons of coal for the trip, and so
leaving space for 900 tons for freight and miscellaneous
articles.

It is wonderful to see how much is made of the
internal accommodation. A great deal is done on



VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. 7

deck. There is really little deck visible. Along each
side, adjoining the paddle-box, there is a row of
small apartments, covered with wood, and over these
are empty boats turned upside down, ready for launch
ing in case of accident. In the open space beneath
these boats, the cook keeps his fresh vegetables, and
you occasionally see one of his assistants climbing
up to clutch at a cabbage or bunch of carrots, and
bring them from their repository. The apartments on
the starboard side (the right side looking towards the
head of the vessel) have brass-plates on the doors, with
inscriptions denoting what they are. The first in the
row is the cabin of the second officer ; next is the cabin
of the third officer ; next is the workshop of the baker ;
next is that of the butcher or flesher ; next is the house
for the cow ; and further on are sundry smaller offices.
The apartments on the left side of the deck (larboard)
are first, the cabin of the surgeon; next, that of the
purser; and further on are various places for culinary
operations, stores, and so forth. Along the centre of
the deck, beginning at the stern, are, first, the wheel-
house, in which a helmsman is seen constantly at his
post, and who has an outlook in. front over the top of
the saloon. At each side of the wheel-house are apart
ments for the captain and first officer. The saloon
comes next. It is a large sitting and dining apartment
for the first-class passengers, and is lighted by a row of
windows on each side. Separated from it by a narrow
cross-passage, and on the same line with it, is the
steward s apartment, surrounded by shelves of china and
glass articles, and having in its centre a little bureau
whence liquors are dispensed. Over the door of this
bureau is a clock, visible from the saloon, which is
altered daily in correspondence with the changing
longitude. Beyond the steward s room, towards the
middle of the vessel, is a kind of apartment open at the



8 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

sides, and in which stands the capstan. At its
extremity is the chimney of the furnaces, by which
means the enclosure is kept tolerably warm even in
cold weather. Provided with seats, it forms the outdoor
lounge of cigar-smokers, and those who do not know
what to do with themselves. Besides being dry over
head, the capstan-gallery is kept dry to the feet by
means of open wooden work laid on the deck ; so that
when the sea washes over the vessel, passengers can
remain here without being wetted.

Beyond the capstan-gallery is the kitchen ; adjoining
is the open deck, with the ventilators for the engine-
room. Clearing this spot towards the head of the vessel,
we have, first, the mess-room of the officers, a small
apartment erected on the deck; and in continuation,
the sitting and eating saloon for the fore-cabin
passengers. This saloon is smaller than that for the
first-class passengers; but it is neatly fitted up with
hair-cloth sofa seats, and has stewards for its own
special attendance. Beneath it are the sleeping-berths
for this department; and from all I could see, they
equal in comfort those of the higher class, with the
disadvantage, however, of being exposed to the noises
incidental to the working of the paddles and the con
cussions of the waves on the forepart of the vessel.
All that part of the deck, beyond the second-class
saloon, is the proper field for the sailors.

So much for what stands on the level of the deck;
and with so many incumbrances, the space left for
walking amounts only to a stripe at each side of the
saloon, unless we choose to mount to the poop, which is
the entire roof of the saloon, steward s apartment, and
capstan-gallery, united in one long sweep. The poop,
enclosed with railings, and furnished with seats, affords
a fine airing-ground, and from the binnacle, or stand
for the compass, to the great red tube forming the



VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. 9

engine chimney at the farther extremity of the poop,
there is an unimpeded view over the surrounding ocean.
The indoor space is necessarily circumscribed. Below
the saloon are the sleeping-berths, two beds in each, in
long rows ; a certain number with a small parlour being
set aside for ladies. The descent to this sleeping region
is by two good stairs. The fore-cabin passengers, in
like manner, occupy berths below their saloon, and in
this respect, at least, enjoy accommodations no way
inferior to those of first- class passengers.

The conducting of this magnificent vessel from port
to port across the ocean, exhibits a remarkable triumph
of human skill. A body of officers, dressed in a uniform
like that of the royal navy, is charged with the manage
ment of the ship, The chief command in the America,
for the time being, was in the hands of Captain
N. Shannon,* a Scotsman of experienced seamanship,
and most agreeable and obliging in his intercourse with
the passengers. Under him are three officers. The
laborious duties of the ship are performed by a boat
swain and an efficient corps of mariners ; there is like
wise a head-engineer with his assistants, having the
special charge of the machinery. In the ordinary
working of the ship, it seems to be a rule, that two
officers shall always be on the alert one stationed on
the gangway at the side of the paddle-boxes, to look
sharply ahead; the other stationed at the binnacle, to
communicate orders to the man at the wheel. When
an order is issued by the captain, or first officer on
duty, it is repeated aloud by the second officer; and
you thus hear it rapidly echoed from point to point till
acted upon by the helmsman. Orders to the engineer
to slacken speed, to stop, or go on, are communicated
by pulling the wire of a bell at the paddle-box; by

* Now in the Europa, to and from New York.



10 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

which simple contrivance, the movements of the ship
are under the most perfect control. The watches, as
must be known to many, are four hours each, and are
regulated by striking a bell placed near the wheel, the
sounds being answered by a bell at the forecastle. These
are struck every half-hour. Half-past twelve o clock
is indicated by one blow; one o clock by two blows;
half-past one o clock by three blows ; and so on to four
o clock, which is marked by eight blows. At half-past
four they begin again ; and in this way the twenty-four
hours of the day are divided.

Although ably assisted by his officers, the commander
of a vessel of this class holds a situation requiring
sleepless vigilance. I observed that in his room at night
a light was kept constantly burning, to illuminate the
charts, compasses, and barometers, with which the
apartment is furnished ; and at various times a mariner
came to report the progress of the ship, and the state
of the winds. It is also noticeable, that any order
despatched by the captain to the officer on duty, is
given in writing, so as to avoid the mistakes incidental
to verbal messages. Latterly, a tell-tale compass has
been invented, for the purpose of checking irregularities
in sailing. By means of an ingenious kind of mechan
ism attached to a compass, its dial-plate is punctured
in the line of direction of the ship. Should the vessel
be kept unsteadily on its assigned course, the deviations
will be marked on the dial like a cloud of zigzag
punctures ; but should the vessel be kept steadily to its
proper path, the punctures, accordingly, will be in a
straight line. Fresh dials of paper are supplied daily.
With one of these tell-tale compasses, the captain, on
awaking in his berth, can discover whether his orders
have been carefully attended to or otherwise.

Captains of ocean steamers differ considerably in
their attention to exactness in compasses. Goo r l



VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. H

compasses are doubtless furnished to all vessels of this
important class; but the very best compass may be
rendered worse than useless, by a disregard of the petty
circumstances on board that derange its action. Captain
Shannon related to us a curious instance of a derange
ment in the compass, which had since rendered him
punctiliously cautious. He had left Halifax with his
vessel on the homeward-bound voyage ; it was during
one of the cold winter months, when fogs prevail on the
American coast. His directions at night to the officers
of the watch were to run for a point thirty miles east
ward of Newfoundland, so as to make sure of keeping
clear of its rock-bound shores; and the point of the
compass that would lead in this required direction was
fixed upon. On coming on deck in the gray of the
morning, what was his horror on seeing that the ship
had just entered a small bay, and seemed about to be
dashed in pieces on the lofty precipices that revealed
themselves through the mist ! By instantaneously
shquting orders to the man at the wheel, and by
reversing the engines, he barely saved the vessel from
destruction. After some trouble, it was paddled out to
deep water. His first impression of course was, that
the compass had been neglected. But to his surprise, he
found that his orders in this respect had been exactly
followed. The head of the vessel had been kept in
the direction which, by compass, should have led to
the open sea, thirty miles from land, and yet here was
it running full inshore. To all concerned, the deviation
seemed perfectly magical not on any ordinary principle
to be accounted for. The truth at length dawned on
the captain. The error must have arisen from some
local derangement of the compass. He caused all the
compasses in the ship to be ranged on the deck; and
soon it was perceived that no two agreed. The seat of
the disorder was ascertained to be at a certain spot close



12 THINGS AS THEY ARE IN AMERICA.

to the funnel of the stove of the saloon. Could this
funnel be the cause ? It was of brass, and had never
before shewn any power of distracting the needle. On
looking into it, however, the captain discovered that,
when at Halifax, a new iron tube had been put inside
the brass one, without his knowledge, and the circum
stance had never been mentioned to him! There,
in that paltry iron tube, was the whole cause of
the derangement, which I speedily/ added Captain
Shannon, made to shift its quarters/ How near was
thus a fine vessel being wrecked, from a petty circum
stance which no one could have previously dreamt of;
and it may be said, how many first-class steamers,
assumed to be diverted towards rocks by currents,
may have been led to destruction from causes equally
trivial.

By a strict regard to compasses and to lights, and by
careful pilotage on approaching the coast, the danger
to well-built sea-going steamers is exceedingly small.
Rocks, collisions, and conflagrations, are the things that
need alone raise a feeling of apprehension. On board
the America, as in similar vessels, lights are hung up at
sunset on the fore-mast and on each paddle-box, so as
to warn ships that a steamer is approaching, whereby
collisions may be avoided ; and as regards fire, extreme
care seems to be taken. All the lamps below, excepting
that in the captain s apartment, are put out at mid
night; nor is any one allowed to burn lights on his
own account. There is, also, in connection with the
steam-engine, a set of force-pumps, by which a deluge
of water could be immediately propelled to any part of
the vessel. To avert the danger and delay incidental
to breakages of machinery, duplicates of various parts
are kept on board, and could be substituted if necessary,
without materially interrupting the progress of the
voyage. Such precautionary arrangements cannot but



VOYAGE FROM LIVERPOOL TO HALIFAX. 13

give a certain degree of confidence to the most timid
class of passengers.

The America, as I said, quitted her moorings in the
Mersey on Saturday at noon ; and passing north about,
it was not until about seven o clock on Sunday evening
that we lost sight of Ireland, and were fairly afloat on
the Atlantic. Without any land in view, the ship now
seemed to be moving in the centre of a circular piece of
water terminating in the sky. And on and on, day
after day, did the noble vessel go ploughing her way



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