Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

extent as will enfeeble its powers. Seek rather to inure the body to climate, than to defend it entirely from the influence of cold or heat.

Let the person be kept sacredly clean, lest the body become infected from the want of ablution, or the mind become defiled by the consciousness of an impure temple : for

“Even from the body's purity, the mind

Receives a secret, sympathetic aid.”

Let a holy chastity mark the conduct and the conversation in every relation of life-lest the frame should become enervated, from undue bodily or mental excitement.

ARTICLE V.

ENGLISH TRAVELLERS.

Travels in North America, in the years 1827 and 1828, by Captain Basil Hall

. Edinburgh, 1829. 3 vols. 8vo. Domestic Manners of the Americans, by Mrs. Trollope.

New York, 1832. 1 vol. 8vo. Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emi

gration in the United States and Canada, made during a residence there in 1832, by the Rev. Isaac Fidler.

New York, 1833. 1 vol. 8vo. Three Years in North America, by James Stuart, Esq.

New York, 1833. 2 vols. 8vo.

The English press has lately given birth to numerous books of travels in the United States. The general peace, which leaves many active spirits without employ, and the state of England and the continent, convulsed by a fearful struggle between new opinions and old institutions, which have become more and more odious with the spread of knowledge, wealth, and the consciousness of power among the people, have naturally drawn many visitors from Europe, and particularly from England, to our shores, curious to study the phenomenon of a popular government on a large scale. We propose now to say a few words on some of the accounts of us, which have been published by our English visitors. These accounts have naturally varied with the character and circumstances of the writers. Captain Hall, the high tory, has given full swing to his abhorrence of free institutions, and all their consequences. Mrs. Trollope and Mr. Fidler, disappointed in their hopes of reaping a golden harvest in this country, have described it with the spleen of unsuccessful adventurers. Mr. Stuart, a gentleman of liberal principles and good feelings, finds much to praise and little to condemn. The works of captain Hall and Mrs. Trollope, have excited a good deal of irritation among us.

Mr. Fidler is of too small a calibre, to call forth much of any feeling but contempt.

Our sensitiveness to the remarks of English travellers, has given occasion to much ridicule in England, but it is not surprising that we should be peculiarly alive to what is said of us in the country whence we drew our birth, and in a very considerable measure our political and social institutions and habits of thought, and whose press furnishes by far the greatest part of the books read in this country. A book printed in England, which contains matter interesting to us, is instantly reprinted here, so that our whole population receives the accounts given of us by British travellers, piping hot. No country of Europe is similarly situated. The English people, for instance, have neither the same inducements nor the same facilities to read what is said of them in France, Italy, or Germany. When, however, the censures of an intelligent foreigner are brought fairly before the eyes of the English, they wince as much as the Americans do under similar circumstances. Witness the excitement of the English journals against prince Puckler Muscau's work, and at an earlier period, against that of general Pillet, respecting which the Edinburgh Review observes, in an article on Stuart's Three Years in North America, “ It is singular that those who put their faith in Mrs. Trollope's accounts of American manners, should be so much disposed to censure general Pillet's equally veracious descriptions of English ladies and English dinner parties.” The American

35

VOL. I.

sensitiveness to English strictures, is a strong proof of the falsity of the statements industriously propagated by our defamers in England of the hostile feeling entertained towards England by the people of this country. Censure wounds deeply in proportion to the esteem felt for the source whence it proceeds. The Americans do feel, and cannot but feel, a strong attachment to England. English history, is the history of our forefathers. The soil of England is classic ground to us, hallowed by a thousand historical events, and a thousand creations of poetry and romance. The great men of English history are our heroes. Our minds have been fed, our imaginations kindled, our best feelings awakened by the literature of England. The greatest part of our knowledge of ancient and modern times, is derived from English books. Before we were old enough to form opinions for ourselves, we were imbued with English prejudices by English writers, were taught to laugh at German heaviness and French frivolity, to shudder at Spanish bigotry and Italian profligacy, and to believe that England was facile princeps among the nations of Europe.

The most intelligent of our English visitors, such men as Mr. Stuart and colonel Hamilton, directly contradict the absurd stories of our hostility towards England and Englishmen, which are circulated by such writers as captain Hall, Mrs. Trollope, and Mr. Fidler.

The first of these three, as our countrymen well know, is a captain in the English navy. His profession would hardly lead us to expect from him a very fair judgment of a nation whom England may justly look upon with jealousy as a formidable naval and commercial rival, and the captain being withal a tory, we need not be surprised that the tone of his book corresponds to his manners while in this country, which were such as to render him very generally disagreeable. His misrepresentations have been sufficiently exposed. We do not intend, therefore, formally to review his book, but to give a few illustrations of its spirit, and to compare his statements with those of his successors.

If he goes into a school, he finds that the master or mistress takes fire at the slightest criticism.—He goes to a cattleshow on a rainy day, and finding few women present, concludes that women are not allowed their due place in American society, although he admits that the most respectful attention is paid to them, and in another place observes, that

[ocr errors]

“it is a rule we saw universally observed in America, never
to think how the men shall fare till every female has been
fully accommodated.”—Because he hears two lads at a pub-
lic school declaim pieces breathing hostility to England, he
concludes that boys are nurtured in systematic hostility to
England.-He complains of being continually called on to
admire.—The electioneering spirit, he observes, never dies
in America; and then after alluding to the commotions which
take place at an English election in Westminster, he goes on
to say, “ if we could imagine what would be the state of
things in England, were the Westminster form of election to
becomne general over the island, and instead of lasting a
fortnight, were made perpetual, we should then have some
idea of what is going on in America, at all times and sea-
sons.” From this it might reasonably be inferred, that the
people of the United States are employed, throughout the
year, in giving and taking bribes for their votes, breaking
each other's heads, and throwing dead cats at candidates for
the legislature.-In regard to the facility of obtaining justice
in this country, he observes that, “ The radical principles of
bringing justice home to every man's door, and of making
the administration of it cheap, have had a full experiment in
America, and greater practical curses, I venture to say, were
never inflicted upon any country.” He illustrates this posi-
tion by the case of Pennsylvania, in which, he says,
person, be his situation or conduct in life what it may, is free
from the never-ending pest of lawsuits. Servants, laborers,
every one in short, on the first occasion, hies off to the neigh-
boring lawyer, or justice of the peace, to commence an
action. No compromise or accommodation is ever dreamt
of. The law must decide every thing.”—The debasing in-
fluence of democracy is continually dwelt on.-In regard to
the scenery of America, he observes that, “take it all in all,
a more unpicturesque country is hardly to be found any
where."

The general tone of the book corresponds with that of the remarks cited. It however contains considerable truth, from which we might profit, for captain Hall, though a captious, is not an unintelligent observer, but the irritation excited by the constant manifestation of a fault-finding spirit, unfits the reader from acceding even to such of his criticisms as happen to be just.

i No

We come now to Mrs. Trollope's book, which may be considered as occupying the comparative degree in the scale of detraction ; captain Hall's book being in the positive, and Mr. Fidler's in the superlative. The captain was biassed by his toryism, and Mrs. Trollope jaundiced by the failure of a scheme to establish a bazaar in Cincinnati. She writes with spirit and even elegance, and is evidently a woman of talent. When she gets away from the scene of her disappointment, the unfortunate Cincinnati, her tone is quite mollified, and she is even liberal in her praise of New York, but the

poor West is treated without mercy. She is continually on the watch for subjects of blame, puts the worst construction on what she sees, and leaves out of sight the redeeming features, so that without saying much that is positively untrue, she contrives to give a very partial and distorted sketch of American society. Her prejudices have in some cases made her credulous, and she gravely states some great absurdities, She tells a story, for instance, of a wood-cutter's family, on the banks of the Mississippi, being eaten up one night in their sleep by alligators, in consequence of having built a hut directly over a hole inhabited by these reptiles. She informs us that it is common for the wives of eminent men to receive the title of lady, as lady Washington, lady Jackson, &c. She must have been led into this mistake by the foolish fashion of giving such names to steam-boats; but Mrs. Trollope may be assured that we have no noble ladies but such as “walk the water.”—The injurious effects of democracy are a constant theme with her, as well as with the worthy captain. She tells us that “all the freedom enjoyed in America, beyond what is enjoyed in England, is enjoyed by the disorderly at the expense of the orderly," and that 5 slavery is less injurious to the manners and morals, than the fallacious ideas of equality.”—“ Nearly four years of attentive observation,” she says, have impressed on her the opinion, that among the Americans, "the moral sense is on every point blunter than with us,” (the English.) She ascribes to the people of the West " a total absence of probity, where interest is concerned," and a total and universal want of manners, both in males and females.” Her views on the state of religion in the United States may be understood from the following extracts.

The whole people appear to be divided into an almost endless

« ZurückWeiter »