Category Archives: 1830’s

Item of the Day: A Tale of St. Domingo (1834)

Excerpted from a collection of short stories found in: The Romantic Historian; A Series of Lights and Shadows, Elucidating American Annals. Philadelphia: Published by Hogan & Thompson, No. 139 Market Street, 1834.

 

A TALE OF ST. DOMINGO.

There seems to me to be a striking resemblance between slave-holding and volcanic countries. Though the inhabitants may be blessed with every enjoyment depending upon soil and climate, yet in the very bowels of the land there are constantly the elements of destruction. Even while we are most happy and secure, the volcano may be upon the point of bursting forth with overwhelming ruin, which no foresight can anticipate, and no prudence avert. Such was the state of St. Domingo, at the opening of my tale; on the eve of that fearful insurrection which consigned so many unsuspecting beings to premature death, or drove them from their homes and kindred, to struggle with want in the loneliness of a foreign land.

The hot glaring day had passed, and was succeeded by the soft splendor of a West Indian evening. Monsieur L ___, a large proprietor of land and slaves, was sitting at a table in his saloon, looking over some newspapers, which he had just received from a neighboring town. At the other end of the table his wife was engaged in preparations for the evening meal. Before an open window in the same apartment, sat their only daughter, Theresa, with her cousin and accepted lover, Eugene M ___.

Eugene was an orphan. At the very beginning of his course through life, he had encountered misfortunes and difficulties, which only his own talents and energy had enabled him to surmount. He had met with wrongs and treachery enough from the world to make him prize, at their full value, the purity and single-minded love of Theresa. Young as he was, he had seen much of mankind. With an ardent disposition and a heart formed for universal love, the fraud and ingratitude of all whom he had trusted had changed his naturally frank bearing to one of haughty coldness. But to Theresa he looked as the only being whom he might love, without danger and reserve. His eyes were now fixed upon hers, with a mixture of pride and affection which was not very far removed from idolatry. The window at which they were seated, was covered with a luxuriant vine, trained under Theresa’s direction. The checquered moonlight streamed through it, and the evening breeze rustled among its leaves. With all the congenial beauties of a tropical night around them, the lovers were enjoying that interchange of romantic feeling, which it is so much the fashion to ridicule in this matter of fact country of ours; but which I consider the single green spot, and single sparkling fountain, in the dreary waste of a sordid and selfish world. What they were talking of heaven only knows. Chance has once or twice made me an unintentional listener to the conversation of lovers. Much as I was interested at the time, I could not afterwards recollect a word that had passed. And I am inclined to think that their intercourse consists in the exchange of kind words and tones rather than ideas.

The opening of a door, and the entrance of a tall athletic negro, belonging to M. L ___, drew for a moment the attention of all parties. The circumstance in itself was of little importance. It was usual for the negroes after their daily taks was completed, to go to the dwelling house of their masters, and complain of any petty grievance, or ask for little privileges. There was, however, about this man an air of apprehansion and uncertainty, which had just fixed Eugene’s attention, when he rushed upon his master and buried in his bosom a large knife, which he had held unobserved in his hand. The unhappy L ___ fell from his chair without a groan, and the next instant Eugene was standing over his body. With his right hand he had caught a knife from the table, and in his left he held a chair, with which he parried a blow aimed at him by the slave. Afraid to contend singly against such resistance, and confounded perhaps by his own success in the attempt upon his master’s life the negro turned and retreated through the door at which he had entered. A single glance into the portico showed Eugene that it was filled with negroes, and the truth flashed at once upon his mind. To lock and barricade the door, to snatch a candle from the table, and hurry his aunt and cousin up the staircase which ascended from the saloon, was to Eugene but the work of a moment. There was a small closet at the heard [sic] of the stairs, which Mons. L ___. had devoted to his collection of arms, for which he had a singular fondness. It was not time to search for keys. With the wild energy of despair, Eugene threw himself against the door. It gave way, and he was precipitated headlong into the closet among the rattling pistols and fowling pieces, and flasks and bags of amunition. He selected two double barrel guns, and a musket, which, by its large calibre, was peculiarly fitted for his purpose. He loaded them heavily with swan shot, and took a positon from which he could command a view of the whole stairs. . . .

 

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Filed under 1830's, Fiction, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Slavery

Item of the Day: Franklin on the Slave Trade (1790/1836)

Full Title:

The Works of Benjamin Franklin; Containing Several Political and Historical Tracts Not Included in Any Former Edition, And Many Letters Official and Private Not Hitherto Published; with Notes and A Life of the Author.  By Jared Sparks.  Volume II [of 9].  Boston: Hilliard, Gray, and Company. 

On The Slave Trade.

To the Editor of the Federal Gazette. 

March 23rd, 1790.

Sir,

Reading last night in your excellent paper the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress against their meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of the slaves, it put me in mind of a similar one made about one hundred years since by Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin’s Account of his Consulship, anno 1687.  It was against granting the petition of the sect called Erika, or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery as being unjust.  Mr. Jackson does not quote it; perhaps he has not seen it.  If, therefore, some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only show that men’s interests and intellects operate and are operated on with surprising similarity in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances.  The African’s speech, as translated, is as follows.

Allah Bismallah, &c.  God is great, and Mahomet is his Prophet.

“Have these Erika considered the consequences of granting this petition?  If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their countries produce, and which are so necessary for us?  If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who in this hot climate are to cultivate our lands?  Who are to perform the common labors of our city, and in our families?  Must we not then be our own slaves?  And is there not more compassion and more favor due to us as Mussulmen, than to these Christian dogs?  We have now above fifty thousand slaves in and near Algiers.  This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated.  If we then cease taking and plundering the infidel ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one half; and the revenue of government arising from its share of prizes be totally destroyed!  And for what?  To gratify the whims of a whimsical sect, who would have us, not only forbear making more slaves, but even manumit those we have. 

“But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss?  Will the state do it?  Is our treasury sufficient?  Will the Erika do it?  Can they do it?  Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners?  And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them?  Few of them will return to their countries; they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to; they will not embrace our holy religion; they will not adopt our manners; our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them.  Must we maintain them as beggars in our streets, or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage?  For men accustomed to slavery will not work for a livelihood when not compelled.  And what is there so pitiable in their present condition?  Were they not slaves in their own countries?

“Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception?  Even England treats its sailors as slaves; for they are, whenever the government pleases, seized, and confined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight, for small wages, or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us.  Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands?  No; they have only exchanged one slavery for another, and I may say a better; for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls.  Those who remain at home have not that happiness.  Sending the slaves home then would be sending them out of the light and into darkness.

“I repeat the question, What is to be done with them?  I have heard it suggested, that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labor without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them.  While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing, and they are treated with humanity.  The laborers in their own country are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged, and clothed.  The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no further improvement.  Here their lives are in safety.  They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another’s Christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries.  If some of the religious mad bigots, who now tease us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity, that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burden of a load of sins, and a hope, from the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation.

“How grossly are they mistaken to suppose slavery to be disallowed by the Alcoran!  Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, ‘Masters, treat your slaves with kindness; Slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity,’ clear proofs to the contrary?  Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the world, and all it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they conquer it.  Let us then hear not more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of Christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government and producing general confusion.  I have therefore no doubt, but this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition.”      

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to the resolution; “The doctrine, that plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, is as best problematical; but that it is in the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear; therefore let the petition be rejected.”

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the Parliament of England for abolishing the slave-trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion?  I am, Sir, your constant reader and humble servant,

HISTORICUS.

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Filed under 1790's, 1830's, Early Republic, Eighteenth century, Foreign Relations, Government, Islam, Koran, Letters, Newspapers, Posted by Matthew Williams, Slavery

Item of the Day: Red Jacket’s Reply to a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of the Six Nations (1805)

Found In: The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: Selected Principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and Designed for the Use of the Highest Class in Publick and Private Schools. By John Pierpont. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.

LESSON XXXII.

Reply to the Address of a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of “the Six Nations,” in 1805, —by Saghym Whothah, alias Red Jacket.  —PHILANTHROPIST

“Friend and Brother!

It was the will of the Great Spirit, that we should meet together this day. He orders all things; and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his garment from the sun, and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped, that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favours we thank the Great Spirit, and him only.

Brother! Listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun: the Great Spirit had made it for the use of the Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver; their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this he had done for his red children, because he loved them. If we had disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us; your forefathers crossed the great waters, and landed on the island. Their numbers were small; they found us friends, and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country, through fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat; we took pity on them, and granted their request: and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat, and, in return, they gave us poison. The white people having now found our country, tidings were sent back and more came amongst us; yet we did not fear them. We tok them to be friends: they called us brothers; we believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers so increasd, that they wanted more land: they wanted our country. Our eyes opened, and we became uneasy. Wars took place; Indians were hired to fight against Indians; and many of our people were destroyed. They also distributed liquor amongst us, which has slain thousands.

Brother! Once our seats were large, and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but, not satisfied, you want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worhsip the Great Spirit agreeably to  his mind, and that if we do not take hold of the religion which you teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of rightly understanding it? We only know what you tell us about it, and having been so often deceived by the white people, how shall we believe what they say?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things: we are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us: it teaches us to be thankful for all our favours received, to love each other, and to be united: we never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit made us all; but he has made a great difference between his white and his red children: –he has given us different compexions and different customs. To you he has given the arts; tho these he has not opened our eyes. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may he not have given us different religion? The Great Spirit does right: he knows what is best for his children.

Brother! We do not want to destroy your religion, or to take if from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We will wait a little, and see what effect your preaching has had upon them. If we find it makes those honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother! You have now heard our answer, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are about to part, we will come and take you by the hand: and we hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.”

 

(See also Item of the Day for November 10, 2006)

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Filed under 1830's, American Indians, Culture, Education, Indians, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: Botta’s History of the War of Independence (1834)

Full Title:

History of the War of Independence of the United States of America.  By Charles [Carlo Giuseppe Gugliehmo] Botta.  Sixth Edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected.  Vol. I. Translated from the Italian, by George Alexander Otis, Esq.   New Haven: Published and Printed by Nathan Whiting.  1834.

Book V.  1775.

[…] In New Jersey, at the news of the affair at Lexington, the people took possession of the provincial treasure; and a part of it was destined to pay the troops which were levied at the same time in the province.

At Baltimore, in Maryland, the inhabitants laid a strong hand upon all the military stores that were found in the public magazines; and among other arms, fifteen hundred muskets thus fell into their power.  A decree was published, inderdicting all transportation of commodities to the islands where fisheries were carried on, as also to the British army and fleet stationed at Boston.

The inhabitants of Philadelphia took the same resolution, and appeared in all respects, equally disposed to defend the common cause.  The Quakers themselves, notwithstanding their pacific institutions, could not forbear to participate in the ardor with which their fellow-citizens flew to meet a new order of things.

When Virginia, this important colony, and particularly opposed to the pretensions of England, received the intelligence of the first hostilities, it was found in a state of extreme commotion, excited by a cause, which, though trivial in itself, in the present conjuncture became of serious importance.  The provincial congress, convened in the month of March, had recommended a levy of volunteers in each county, for the better defense of the country.  The governor, lord Dunmore, at the name of volunteers, became highly indignant; and conceived suspicions of some pernicious design.  Apprehending the inhabitants intended to take possession of a public magazine, in the city of Williamsburg, he caused all the powder in it to be removed, by night, and conveyed on board an armed vessel, at anchor in the river James.  The following morning, the citizens, on being apprised of the fact, were violently exasperated; they flew to arms, assembled in great numbers, and demonstrated a full determination to obtain restitution of the powder, either by fair means or force.  A serious affair was apprehended; but the municipal council interposed, and, repressing the tumult, dispatched a written request to the governor, entreating him to comply with the public desire.  They complained, with energy, of the injury received; and represented the dangers to which they should be exposed, in case of insurrection on the part of the blacks, whose dispositions, from various reports, they had too much reason to distrust.  The governor answered, that the powder had been removed, because he had heard of an insurrection in a neighboring county; that he had removed it in the night time to prevent any alarm; that he was much surprised to hear the people were under arms; and that he should not think it prudent to put powder into their hands in such a situation.  He assured them, however, that in case of a revolt of the negroes, it should be returned immediately.  Tranquility was re-established; but in the evening, an alarm was given, that the soldiers of the ship of war were approaching the city in arms; the people again also took up theirs, and passed the whole night in expectation of an attack.

The governor, not knowing, or unwilling to yield to the temper of the times, manifested an extreme irritation at these popular movements.  He suffered certain menaces to fall from his lips, which it would have been more prudent to suppress.  He intimated, that the royal standard would be erected; the blacks emancipated, and armed against their masters; a thing no less imprudent than barbarous, and contrary to every species of civilization; finally, he threatened the destruction of the city, and to vindicate, in every mode, his own honor, and that of the crown.  These threats excited a general fermentation throughout the colony, and even produced an absolute abhorrence toward the government.  Thus, incidents of slight importance, assisted by the harsh and haughty humors of the agents of England and America, contributed to accelerate the course of things toward that crisis, to which they tended already, but too strongly, of themselves.

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Filed under 1770's, 1830's, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, History, Military, New Jersey, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution, Slavery, United States

Item of the Day: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada (1833)

Full Title: Observations on Professions, Literature, Manners, and Emigration, in the United States and Canada, Made During a Residence There in 1832. By the Rev. Isaac Fidler . . . New-York: Published by J. & J. Harper, no. 82, Cliff-Street; and sold by the principal booksellers throughout the United States, MDCCCXXXIII.

CHAPTER III.

Reasons for abandoning the idea of teaching the Eastern languages in the United States — Day-schools — Insubordination of Pupils — Anecdote of the blind teacher — Of an Irish classical teacher — Sad tale of a village schoolmaster — American insensibility — Farther opinions concerning American schools.

 

WHEN I had held two or three conversations with a gentleman, to whom I had a letter of introduction from London, with reference to my plan of teaching, particularly the languages of the East; he told me that, in his opinion, my best measure would be to go back to England. “The Americans do not yet want any thing with the East Indies. They are not colonizing other countries, but peopling their own; and have more need of being taught how to handle the axe or spade, than how to read the Hindoostanee. Had you been a strong active hardy ploughman, you might have been worth encouragement, but as it is, I can give you none.” What this gentleman and his family told me, I found to be perfectly correct. The attempt would be useless and absurd to persuade a people, in love with money, and with themselves; doating upon their own perfections, and their superiority love all nations of the earth, in learning, arts, and arms; and despising, or pretending to despise, the English most heartily, that an individual from Great Britain had arrived in their country to teach them languages they do not know. It would be equally useless, to attempt inducing them to pay for information, which they could not at once convert to purposes of gain. A little further inquiry among those, with whom my letters and introductions brought me in contact, soon induced me to abandon the intention of opening a school for instruction in Eastern languages. Dr. Milnor himself thought the attempt could be only futile and followed by disappointment. He imagined, however, that another kind of school might be opened, which would be more likely to succeed. A day-school, with liberal terms, he said, might answer my expectations.

As the same thing had been suggested by other gentlemen of some consideration, it became worthy the attention of one, circumstanced like myself, to investigate more closely the character of day-schools in general, and the mode of conducting them. I soon found, that a common schoolmaster, in that country, is not regarded with much respect; and that education, in such schools, is on a contracted scale. It is true, that high claims to skill are advanced by teachers, and parents are flattered with reports that their sons are in such and such classes, and have studied such and such books.

The hours of attendance in day-schools are about five and a half each day, for four days, and four for the remaining two days of the week. In some seminaries there are sixty or eighty pupils, taught by one, or at the most, by two masters. Such schools, generally close at three in the afternoon. Here insubordination prevails to a degree subversive of all improvement. The pupils are entirely independent of their teacher. No correction, no coercion, no manner of restraint is permitted to be used. It must be seen, from this picture, that general education is at a low ebbe, even in New-York. Indeed, all who know any thing of teaching, will see at once the impossibility of conveying extensive knowledge, in so few hours per day, and upon such a system. Parents also have as little control over their offspring at home, as the master has at school; and the leisure hours of idle boys are, in all countries perhaps alike unproductive of improvement.

Two or three anecdotes were related, to convey to me an idea of American schools. The best teacher whom the United States could ever boast of was a blind athletic old man, who was so well acquainted with the books he taught, as to detect immediately the the slightest incorrectness of his scholars. He was also a great disciplinarian; and, though blind, could from constant practice, inflict the most painful and effective chastisements. From the energetic mental and bodily powers of this teacher, his pupils became distinguished in the colleges and universities of America. They were generally, at their admission into public seminaries, so far in advance of other students, that, from the absence of inducements to steady application, they there, for the first time, contracted habits of idleness. They also became less obedient and subordinate to collegiate regulations than the other scholars, when the hand of correction, of which they formerly had tasted, was no longer extended over them. Thus, a two-fold evil was produced by the discipline and skill of this blind teacher. Since that time, corporal punishment has almost disappeared from American day-schools; and a teacher, who should now have recourse to such means of enforcing instruction, would meet with reprehension from the parents, and perhaps from his scholars. . . .

 

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Filed under 1830's, Education, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Democracy in America (1836)

Full Title: Democracy in America. By Alexis De Tocqueville, Avocat A La Cour Royale De Paris, Etc., Etc.  Translated by Henry Reeve, Esq. Second Edition. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Saunders and Otley, Conduit Street. 1836.

Introduction.

Amongst the novel aspects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of conditions.   I readily discovered the prodigious influence which this primary fact exercises on the whole course of society, by giving a certain direction to public opinion, and a certain tenour to the laws; by imparting new maxims to the governing powers, and peculiar habits to the governed.

I speedily perceived that the influence of this fact extends far beyond the poilitical character and the laws of the country, and that it has no less empire over civil society than over the Government; it creates opinions, engenders sentiments, suggests the ordinary practices of life, and modifies whatever it does not produce.

The more I advanced in the study of American society, the more I perceived that the equality of conditions is the fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived, and the central point at which all my observations constantly terminated.

I then turned my thoughts to our own hemisphere, where I imagined that I discerned something analogous to the spectacel which the New World presented to me.  I observed that the equality of conditions is daily progressing towards those extreme limits which it seems to have reached in the United States; and that the democracy which governs the American communities apppears to be rapidly rising into power in Europe. 

I hence conceived the idea of the book which is now before the reader.

It is evident to all alike that a great democratic revolution is going on amongst us; but there are two opinions as to its nature and consequences.  To some it appears to be a novel accident, which as such may still be checked; to others it seems irresistible, because it is the most uniform, the most ancient, and the most permanent tendency which is to be found in history. 

Let us recollect the situation of France seven hundred years ago, when the territory was divided amongst a small number of families, who were the owners of the soil and the rulers of the inhabitants; the right of governing descended with the family inheritance from generation to generation; force was the only means by which man could act on man; and landed property was the sole source of power. 

Soon, however, the political power of the clergy was founded, and began to exert itself: the clergy opened its ranks to all classes, to the poor and the rich, the villain and the lord; equality penetrated into the Government through the Church, and the being who as a serf must have vegetated in perpetual bondage, took his place as a priest in the midst od nobles and not unfrequently above the geads of kings.

The different relations of men became more complicated and more numerous as society gradually became more stable and more civilized.  Thence the want of civil laws was felt; and the oder of legal functionaries soon rose from the obscurity of tribunals and their dusty chambers, to appear at the court of the monarch, by the side of the feudal barons in their ermine and their mail […] 

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Filed under 1830's, Political Commentary, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: The Poetry of Travelling in the United States (1838)

Full Title: The Poetry of Travelling in the United States. By Caroline Gilman. With Additional Sketches, by a Few Friends; and a Week among Autographs, by Rev. S. Gilman. New-York: S. Colman, 141 Nassau Street, 1838.

Baltimore. [1836]

Washington is behind us–its beautiful Capitol, on which the eye lingers in unsated admiration, has faded away; as we leave it the heart is full–the mind is full. Great and elevating scenes, farewell; new and tender friends, farewell; a stranger has fed on your thousand flowers, and has borne away the hive of memory, oveflowing the honied stores!

As we entered the rail-road car, an old man took his seat in front of us, dressed in homespun, with a miserable hat, sun-burnt face, a chaw of tobacco in his mouth, and two soiled bundles in his hand. I shrank instinctivley from the contact, and dreaded two hours’ intercourse with such a low-looking crature; it even occurred to me that there ought to be a separate car of well and ill-dressed people. After a while he took out an old leather pocket-book, and among a few other loose papers, unfolded one which had the seal and signature of Lewis Cass; and as my eye ran over the plain printing, I perceived that it was the pension certificate of Edward Dennis of Maryland, a revolutionary soldier. What a change came over him! There was the difference to me in his countenance of Moses when he ascended and descended the mount–a glory was around him!

The old man turned the paper over and over, read it and re-read it. He wanted sympathy.

“This is worth a long journey,” said he at length, showing it to a passenger near him; “four hundred dollars down, and eighty dollars a-year, for a man seventy-eight years old;” and he took out the bills from the pocket-book, and a large handful of General Jackson’s shiners from his waistcoat.

I longed to give him my purse to put his money in, but was ashamed; my hand was on it, but I drew it back; it will look too sentimental, I thought.

“Why have you not applied for a pension before?” said the passenger to whom he had showed the bond.

The old man smiled. “Because I didn’t want it. You wouldn’t have had me ask for it ’till I wanted it, would ye?”

A gentleman, whose name, if I dared to give it, would lend a new interest to this little narrative, a New England man, but one who takes a deep interest in the south, was reading. I whispered to him the character of our fellow-traveller, and he laid down his book.

After a while the old man took it up and read, without glasses, two or three pages with apparent interest.

“How much might you have given for this book?” said he to the owner.

“I shall think it a cheap purchase, was the reply, “if an old soldier of the Revolution will accept it;” and taking out his pencil, he wrote—

“Presented to Edward Dennis, a soldier of the Revolution, by one who is now reaping the fruits of his bravery.”

The old man smiled as he received the book, turned it, looked at its cover, then within; and taking the pencil from the hand of the giver, wrote in fair characters the name which he saw on the first leaf. But after all he could not realise that it was a gift, and, as his pockets were oveflowing, he took out a dollar.

“No, no, my good friend,” said the giver, “put it up;” and in a lower voice added, “don’t you show your money to any body again but your wife.”

“No more I wont,” said the old man understandingly.

Repeatedly, during the excursion, he gave the book, inside and outside, the same long, pleased look with which he had received it.

We reached Baltimore on its noble rail-road, when one, whose elegant and varied conversation had made two hours seem as moments, and the old soldier, with his treasure, went on their opposite ways.

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Filed under 1830's, American Revolution, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1834)

Full Title: The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, by Washington Irving. Abridged and arranged by the author, expressly for the use of schools. New York: Published by N. and J. White, 108 Pearl-Street, 1834.

CHAPTER I.

Birth, parentage, education, and early life of Columbus.

1. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, or Columbo, as the name is written in Italian, was a native of Genoa, and born about the year 1435. He was the oldest of four children, having two brothers, one named Bartholomew, the other Giacomo, or Diego as it is translated into Spanish, and one sister.

2. His father, Domenico Columbo, was a wool comber, as several of his ancestors had been before him. Attempts have been made, by those who attach value to hereditary rank, to prove Columbus of illustrious descent, and several noble families have laid claim to him since his name has become so renowned as to confer, rather than to receive, distinction. His son Fernando thought justly on the subject. “I am of opinion,” said he, ” that I shoud derive less dignity from any nobility of ancestry, than from being the son of such a father.”

3. Columbus evinced at a very early age, a decided inclination for the sea. His father, therefore, endeavoured, as far as his means afforded, to give him such an educaiton as would make him a skillful navigator. He even sent him to the university of Pavia, where he studied geometry, geography, astronomy and navigation, and the Latin tongue.

4. His father was too poor, however, to keep him longer at the university than was sufficient to acquire the rudiments of the necessary sciences. The deep insight into them, which he afterwards displayed, was the result of experience and self instruction. Men of strong genius derive an advantage from thus having, at their very outset, to contend with poverty and privations. They learn to depend upon themselves, to improve every casual advantage, and to effect great ends by small means. Such a man was Columbus. His own energy and invention supplied every deficiency, and in all his undertakings, the scantiness of his means enhanced the grandeur of his achievements.

5. His first voyage was made shortly after leaving the university, when he was about fourteen years of age. The seafaring life in those days was full of peril and adventure. The feuds between thte Italian states, and the holy wars with the Mahometan powers filled the seas with cruisers; some fitted out by sovereign states; some by powerful nobles; and some by desperate adventurers. Piracy was almost legalized; even a merchant had often to fight his way from port to port.

6. Such was the rugged school in which Columbus was first broken into naval discipline; and he had a teacher as rugged as the school. This was a relative named Colombo, a hardy old captain of the seas, bold and adventurous, ready to fight in any cause, and to take up a quarrel wherever it might lawfully be found.

7. With this veteran cruiser Columbus sailed several years, and served in a squadron, of which he was admiral, fitted out in Genoa in 1459, by John of Anjou, Duke of Calabria, to made a descent upon Naples, in the hope of recovering that kingdom for his father, Renato, Count of Provence. In the course of this expediton, Columbus was detached by the old admiral on a daring enterprise, to cut a galley from the port of Tunis, in which he acquitted himself with great resolution and address.

8. For several years afterwards, he continued to voyage to the Mediterranean, and up the Levant. Sometimes he was engaged in commercial employ; sometimes in perilous cruises with his old fighting relative, or with a no less fighting nephew of the same, named Colombo the younger; who, we are told, was so terrible for his deeds against the infidels, that the Moorish mothers used to frighten their unruly children with his name. The last anecdote we have of this obscure part of the life of Columbus is given by his son Fernando, and relates to a daring cruise with this bold rover.

9. Colombo the younger, hearing that four Venetian galleys, richly laden, were returning from Flanders, waylaid and attacked them with his squadron on the Portuguese coast, between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent. A bloody battle ensued that lasted from morning until evening. The vessels grappled each other, the crews fought hand to hand, and from ship to ship. The vessel commanded by Columbus engaged with a large Venetian galley.

10. In the fury of the contest they threw hand grenades and other fiery missiles. The galley took fire, and as the vessels were grappled together and could not be separated, they soon became on flaming mass. The crews threw themselves into the sea. Columbus seized an oar that was floating near him, and swam to shore, which was full two leagues distant. Having recovered from his exhaustion, he repaired to Lisbon, where he found many of his Genoese countrymen, and was induced to take up his residence.

11. Such is the account given by Fernando Columbus of the first arrival of his father in Portugal. There are grounds for believing, however, that he had resided there some years previous to this battle, and that he was led thither, not by desperate adventure, but by a spirit of liberal curiosity, and in pursuit of honourable fortune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1400's, 1830's, Columbus, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Mrs. Trollope’s Manners of the Americans (1832)

Domestic Manners of the Americans.  By Mrs. Trollope. 
Vol I.
London:  Printed for Whittaker, Treacher, & Co. Ave Maria Lane, 1832. Chapter II. 
New Orleans – Society – Creoles and Quandroons – Voyage up the Mississipppi. On first touching the soil of a new land, of a new continent, of a new world, it is impossible not to feel considerable excitement and deep interest in almost every object that meets us.  New
Orleans presents very little that can gratify the eye of taste, but nevertheless there is much of novelty and interest for newly-arrived European.  The large proportion of blacks seen in the streets, all labour being performed by them; the grace and beauty of the elegant Quadroons, the occasional groups of wild and savage looking Indians, the unwonted aspect of the vegetation, the huge and turbid river, with its low and slimy shore,  all help to afford that aspecies of amusement which proceeds from looking at what we never saw before. 

The town has much the appearance of a French Ville de Province, and is, in fact, an old French colony taken from
Spain by
France.  The names of the streets are French, and the language about equally French and English.  The market is handsome and well supplied, all produce being conveyed by the river.  We were much pleased by the chant with which the Negro boatmen regulate and beguile their labour on the river; it consists but of a very few notes, but they are sweetly harmonious, and the Negro voice is almost always rich and powerful. By far the most agreeable hours I passed at
New Orleans were those in which I explored with my children the forest near the town.  It was our first walk in “the eternal forests of the western world,” and we felt rather sublime and poetical.  The trees, generally speaking, are much too close to be either large or well grown; and moreover, their growth is often stunted by a parasitical plant, for which I could learn no other name than “Spanish moss;” it hangs gracefully from the boughs, converting the outline of all the trees it hangs upon into that of weeping willows.  The chief beauty of the forest in this region is from the luxuriant under-growth of palmettos, which is decidedly the loveliest coloured and most graceful plant I know.  The pawpaw, too, is a splendid shrub, and in great abundance.  We here, for the first time, saw the wild vine, which we afterwards fround growing so profusely in every part of America, as naturally to suggest the idea that the natives ought to add wine to the numerous productions of their plenty-teeming soil.  The strong pendant festoons made safe and commodious swings, which some of our party enjoyed, despite the sublime temperament above-mentioned. 
Notwithstanding it was mid-winter when we were at New Orleans, the heat was much more than agreeable, and the attacks of the mosquitos incessant, and most tormenting; yet I suspect that for a short time, we would rather have endured it, than not have seen oranges, green peas, and red pepper, growing in the open air at Christmas.  In one of our rambles we ventured to enter a garden, whose bright orange hedge attracted our attention; here we saw green peas fit for the table, and a fine crop of red pepper ripening in the sun.  A young Negress was employed on the steps of the house; that she was a slave made her an object of interest to us.  She was the first slave we had ever spoken to, and I believe we all felt that we cold hardly address her with sufficient gentleness. She little dreamed, poor girl, what deep sympathy she excited; she answered us civilly and gaily, and seemed amused at our fancying there was something unusual in red pepper pods; she gave us several of them, and I felt fearful lest a hard mistress might blame her for it.  How very childish does ignorance make us! and how very ignorant we are upon almost every subject, where hear-say evidence is all we can get! I left
England with feelings so strongly opposed to slavery, that it was not without pain I witnessed its effects around me.  At the sight of every Negro man, woman, and child that passed, my fancy wove some little romance of misery, as belonging to each of them; since I have known more on the subject, and become better acquainted with their real situation in America, I have often smiled at recalling what I then felt.

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Filed under 1830's, Culture, New Orleans, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Slavery, Women

Item of the Day: Pierpont’s The American First Class Book

Full Title: The American first class book; or, exercises in reading and recitation: selected principally from modern authors of Great Britain and America: and designed for the use of the highest class in publick and private schools. By John Pierpont, Minister of Hollis-street Church, Boston: Author of Airs of Palestine, &c. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.


Preface.

This book has been compiled with a special reference to the publick Reading and Grammar Schools of this city. It is the result of an attempt to supply the want—which has long been a subject of complaint among those whom the citizens of Boston have charged with the general superintendence of their publick schools, as well as with those who are appointed to the immediate instruction of them—of a book of Exercises in Reading and Speaking better adapted, than any English compilation that has yet appeared, to the state of society as it is in this country; and less obnoxious to complaint, on the ground of its national or political character, than it is reasonable to expect that any English compilation would be, among a people whose manners, opinions, literary institutions, and civil governments, are so strictly republican as our own.But, though the immediate design of this compilation was a limited and local one, it has been borne in mind, throughout the work, that the want, which has been a subject of complaint in this city, must have been still more widely felt; especially by those, in every part of our country, who are attentive to the national, moral, and religious sentiments, contained in the books that are used by their children while learning to read, and while their literary taste is beginning to assume something of the character which it ever afterwards retains.

How far the objections, which have been made to other works of this sort, have been obviated in the present selection, it is for others to determine. I willingly leave the decision of this question to the ultimate and only proper tribunal—the publick; to whose kindness, as shown towards one of my efforts, in another department of literature, I am no stranger, and for which I should prove myself ungrateful should I not acknowledge my obligation. –I only hope that the kindness of the publick towards the past, many not have led into presumption and carelessness in regard to the present.

In as much, however, as this book departs, in some particulars, from most others of the same general character, it may be expected that the author should assign his reasons for such deviations. These relate principally to the omission of some things that are usually deemed essential to a school-reader; and to the arrangement of the materials of which this is made up.

First, then, it may be urged as an objection to this, as a compilation that is to be used by those who are learning to read, that it consists entirely of exercises in reading and speaking, to the exclusion of those rules, the knowledge of which is indispensable to any considerable proficiency in either.

I have observed, however, that that part of school-books which consists of Brief Treatises upon Rhetorick, Rules for Reading, and Essays on Elocution is, almost uniformly, little worn; –an evidence that it is little used; in other words, that it is of little use. I have construed this fact into an oracular monition not to devote to such Rules, Treatises, or Essays, any part of the present work.

The truth probably is, that reading, like conversation, is learned from example rather than by rule. –No one becomes distinguished, as a singer, by the most familiar knowledge of the gamut; so, no one is ever made an accomplished reader or speaker by studying rules for elocution, even though aided by a diagram. There is even less aid derived from rules in reading than singing: for musick is, in a great degree, a matter of strict science; while reading, after the alphabet is learned, is altogether an art: –an art, indeed, which requires a quick perception, a delicate taste, a good understanding, and, especially, a faculty of nicely discriminating and accurately expressing the various shades of an author’s meaning: –but, still, an art that is less capable than musick of being reduced to definitive rules, or of being taught by them.

To become a good reader or a good speaker, the best examples of elocution, in these respective departments, must be see, and heard, and studied. The tones that express particular emotions and passions must be caught by the ear. The same organ must inform us what is mean: by the very terms in which all rules must be expressed, –what is meant by a rapid or deliberate enunciation; what by speaking loudly or softly, on a high or low key, with emphasis or in a monotony, distinctly or indistinctly. We may amuse ourselves, if we please, with laying down rules upon these matters, but, till our rules are illustrated by the voice and manner of a good reader, they are totally inoperative; and, when thus illustrated, totally unnecessary. The learner imitates the example of reading which is given in explaining a rule, and the rule itself is forsaken and soon forgotten.

It seems to me that the readiest, indeed, the only good way, to teach children to read well, is, to give them the charge of instructers who are themselves good readers, –instructers, who, like teachers of musick, will not content themselves with laying certain rules for regulating the tones, inflexions, and cadences of the voice before your child’s eye, which can neither receive a sound nor give one, but who will address his ear with living instruction, –with the rich and informing melody of the human voice. . . .

Boston, June, 1823.

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Filed under 1830's, Education, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs