Item of the Day: Letters from America (1792)

Full Title: Letters from America, Historical and Descriptive; Comprising Occurrences from 1769, to 1777, Inclusive. By William Eddis, Late Surveyor of the Customs, &c. at Annapolis, in Maryland. London: Printed for the author, and sold by C. Dilly, in the Poultry, MDCCXCII. [1792]


LETTER V.

Annapolis, June 8th, 1770.

Though we are yet far behind the mother country, with respect of cultivation and improvements, yet, in a comparative view, Maryland may boast considerable advantages. The inhabitants are enterprising and industrious; commerce and agriculture are encouraged; and every circumstance clearly evinces, that this colony is making a rapid progress to wealth, power, and population.

Provisions of every kind, are excellent and plentiful; and the Chesapeak [sic], with our numerous rivers, affords a surprising variety of excellent fish. Poultry, and wild-fowl, abound amongst the humble cottagers; and beef, mutton, pork, and other provisions, are at least equal to the production of the best British markets.

Deer, a few years since, were very numerous in the interior settlements; but, from the unfair methods adopted by the hunters, their numbers are exceedingly diminished. These people, whose only motive was to procure the hide of the animal, were dextrous [sic], during the winter season, in tracing their path through the snow; and from the animal’s incapacity to exert speed, under such circumstance, great multitudes of them were annually slaughtered, and their carcases [sic] left in the woods. This practice, however, has been though worthy the attention of the legislature, and an act of assembly has taken place, laying severe penalties on “persons detected in pursuing or destroying deer, within a limited term;” and it is probable, the apprehension of punishment may very greatly restrain, if not totally eradicate an evil founded on cruelty and rapacity.

In England, almost every country is distinguished by a peculiar dialect; even different habits, and different modes of thinking, evidently discriminate inhabitants, whose local situation is not far remote: but in Maryland, and throughout the adjacent provinces, it is worthy of observation, that a striking similarity of speech universally prevails; and it is strictly true, that the pronunciation of the generality of the people has an accuracy and elegance, that cannot fail of gratifying the most judicious ear.

The colonists are composed of adventurers, not only from every district of Great Britain and Ireland, but from almost every other European government, where the principles of liberty and commerce have operated with spirit and efficacy. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to suppose, that the English language must be greatly corrupted by such a strange intermixture of various nations? The reverse is, however, true. The language of the immediate descendants of such a promiscuous ancestry is perfectly uniform, and unadulterated; nor has it borrowed any provincial, or national accent, from its British or foreign parentage.

For my part, I confess myself totally at a loss to account for the apparent difference, between the colonists and the persons under equal circumstances of education and fortune, resident in the mother country. This uniformity of language prevails not only on the coast, where Europeans form a considerable mass of the people, but likewise in the interior parts, where population has made but slow advances; and where opportunities seldom occur to derive any great advantages form an intercourse with intelligent strangers.

You, my friend, are seated at the fountain head of literary and political intelligence, and from you I shall expect frequent, and circumstantial communications. Most sincerely do I wish you may be enabled to acquaint me, that the first transaction in the ensuing session of parliament, is a total repeal of acts, which are never likely to be productive of any considerable revenue; and which are esteemed in this country, to have no other tendency but to enforce claims, which the colonists universally consider as impolitic and unconstitutional. How far their sentiments are justly founded, I am by no means competent to determine; but it is a certain fact, that the statute imposing duties on glass, paper, and tea, has undermined the foundation of that cordiality, which the repeal of the stamp act had happily re-established; and it is with the utmost concern, I am necessitated to acquaint you, that a spirit of discontent and opposition is universally predominate in the colonies.

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Filed under 1790's, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

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