Category Archives: United States

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: Imlay’s Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America (1797)

Full Title: A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America: Containing A succinct Account of its Soil, Climate, Natural History, Population, Agriculture, Manners, and Customs. With an ample Description of the several Divisions into which the Country is partitioned . . . By Gilbert Imlay, A Captain in the American Army during the War, and Commissioner for laying out Lands in the Back Settlements. Illustrated with correct Maps of the Western Territory of North America; of the State of Kentucky, as divided into Counties, from actual Surveys by Elihu Barker; a Map of the Tenasee [sic] Government; and a Plan of the Rapids of Ohio. The Third Edition, with Great Additions. London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1797.

TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION, &c. &c. &c.

LETTER I.

Kentucky.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

THE task you have given me, however difficult, I udnertake with the greatest pleasure, as it will afford me an opportunity of contrasting the simple manners and rational life of the Americans, in these back settlements, with the distorted and unnatural habits of the Europeans: which have flowed, no doubt, from the universally bad laws existing on your continent, and from that pernicious system of blending religion with politics, which has been productive of universal depravity.

While ignorance continued to darken the horizon of Europe, priestcraft seems to have forged fetters to the human mind, and, in the security of its own omnipotence, to have given a stamp to the writings and opinions of men, that rivetted the tyranny of those ingenious sophists — The consequence has been lamentable in the extreme.

There are aeras favourable to the rise of new governments; and though nature is governed by invariable laws, the fortunes of men and states appear frequently under the dominion of chances: but happily for mankind, when the american [sic] empire was forming, philosophy pervaded the genius of Europe, and the radiance of her features moulded the minds of men into a more rational order.

It was the zenith of your power, and the inflated grandeur of visinary plans for dominon, which the remains of gothic tyranny produced, that gave occasion to the rise of our independence. We claim no merit or superior wisdom in avoiding the complication of laws which disgraces the courts of Great Britain, as well as the rest of Europe. We have only approprated the advantages of new lights, as they have shone upon us; which you have an equal chance of doing; and your not doing it, must remain a monument of your folly, calculated to excite the astonishment and indiganation of a more manly progeny. However, I shall leave this subject for the present, and proceed in order in the history, &c. which you request; hoping that you will be content to receive my remarks by letter, from time to time, as I may find an opportunity of sending them.

The vestiges of civilizatin described by Carver and others on this side of the Allegany mountains, are entirely imaginary. Every mark that is human has the feature of barbarism, and in every comparison of the natives and animals, with those of the old world, tends to confirm the opinion of those sensible men (some of whom wrote more than a century agao) who thought that America was peopled from Scythia, by the streights of Kamtschatka: which opinion has been followed by your judicious natural historian Pennant, in his preface to his Arctic Zoology. They say, first, “America has always been better peopled on the side towards Asia, than on that towards Europe: Secondly, The genius of the Americans has a greater conformity to that of the Tartars, who never applied themselves to arts: Thirdly, The colour of both is pretty much alike; it is certain that the difference is not considerable, and is perhaps the effect of the climate, and of those mixtures with which the Americans rub themselves: Fourthly, The wild beasts which are seen in America, and which cannot reasonably be supposed to have been transported thither by sea, could only have come by the way of the Tartary.” An addition to these arguments is, that the bison of Scythia, and what is called the buffalo in America, are precisely the same species of animal; besides, the animals of both countries bear the strongest resemblance to each other.

Every thing tends to convince us, that the world is in an infant state. If it is subject to change only from the gradual wear which the operations of the elements necessarily produce, and which is so insensible as to require us to contemplate the immensity of time and space to comprhend a cause for the alterations we discover, still the various phaenomena, which are everywhere to be found, both on the surface and in the bowels of the earth, afford sufficient proof that there has been a recent alteration upon the face of the globe. Whether or not mankind came originally from the East, signifies little. It is however certain, that Europe was in its infancy three thousand years ago; and that America was still less advanced to maturity, I believe also will be acknowledged; though the barbarism of the one, and the comparative civiliztion of the other, is no argument: for, let our hemisphere have been peopled as it would, it had the disadvantage of having no polished country in the neighbourhood of its vast extent of dominion; and if it received emigrants from Tartary, they wer equally savage with themselves; or if from the wreck of a chinese or japanese vessel, they seem to have been too rare (if ever) to have been productive of much good to the Americans. The idea of the incas in Peru being of chinese origian merits no consideration.

That man possesses from nature the talents necessary to his own civilization, and that perfection of philosophy and reason which dignifies his nature, admits, I should conceive, of no dispute.

In all the countries that wear the marks of age, men seem always to have been advancing their improvements for the comfort and order of society. Adventitious circumstances have rapidly increased them in modern times in the old world, while they have retarded them in the new, among the natives. The improvements in navigation led to the overthrow of two empires in America which had attained considerable improvements; and if the natives which still remain are barbarous, we must, in justice to human nature, allow that the contempt with which the whites have always treated them, and the nefarious policy of encourageing their fury for intoxication, have proved the only cause of it. They produced such an effect, that the population of the indian nations had decreased more than a twentieth nearly a century ago, according to the account of Charlevoix. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Wansey’s Excursion to the United States (1798)

Full Title: An Excursion to the United States of North America, in the Summer of 1794. Embellished with the Profile of General Washington, and an Aqua-tinta View of the State-House, at Philadelphia. By Henry Wansey. Second edition, with additions. Salisbury: Printed and sold by J. Easton; sold also be G. Wilkie, No. 57, Paternoster-Row, London, 1798.

 

INTRODUCTION

A DESIRE of knowing something of the United States, of which we hear so much, and know so little, together with some occurrences in business, induced me to make a trip thither during the last Summer. I have been highly gratified: and as my account is chiefly founded on my own actual experience and observation, and different in many respects from any other account, I am induced by these motives, as well as by the request of many friends, to send my Journal forth into the world. It is published in the same order in which it was written in the spot, which I hope will be an excuse for the want of method, and the errors and occasional repetition to be found in some places.

 In Narratives of this kind, the world is generally better pleased with plain matter of fact, than abstract disquisitions, or the Author’s own sentiments obtruded too much on the Reader.

Most of the modern accounts of the United States have been published under the influence of prejudice. While some have rated them too highly in the class of nations, others have depreciated them too much, even to contempt. Imlay’s is the puff direct, and Cooper’s the puff oblique. On the other hand, the Author of Letters on Emigration, lately published by Kearsley, has viewed every thing with a jaundiced eye. I took Brissot’s Travels in my hand, and passed over the same ground as he did, from Boston through Connecticut to New York, and afterwards to Philadelphia, and frequently stopt at the same inns. His account is tolerably accurate: however, in a period of five years, some considerable alterations and improvements have taken place. His book gives much real information. His account of Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Wadsworth, and of the President, agrees with my own observations, as I was in company with, and at the table of each of them.

Brissot justly observes of the Northern States, (particularly Connecticut) that the ease and abundance universally reign there: for industry is sure to receive the reward of independency.

But he has exceeded the truth respecting the success of a vineyard, at Spring Mill, twenty miles from Philadelphia, which, he says, (page 252) succeeds well, and produces much good wine. The fact is, it does not succeed at all. The Frenchman who began it, does not make it answer, nor can any vineyards succeed, while there remain such immense flights of birds and insects.

His meteorological account for Pennsylvania, is far less in the extreme than the fact, (page 256).

The present appears to me, a good point of time to take a sketch of America, and to mark its progress since it began to rank among the nations of the earth. This government is raising itself in a new system, — without Kings — without Nobles — without a Hierarchy. Religion is left to its own intrinsic worth and evidence, and we now shall see whether it can support its due influence among men, without acts of parliament to inforce it; and whether it is essential to Religion, that its eminent men “should rear their mitred fronts in Courts and Parliaments.” It will be grateful to posterity to mark the beginnings of an Empire, not founded on conquest, but on the sober progress and dictates of reason, and totally disencumbered of the feudal system, which has cramped the genius of mankind for more than seven hundred years past.

In these States, you behold a certain plainness and simplicity of manners, which bespeak temperance, equality of condition, and a sober use of the faculties of the mind — the mens sana in carpore sano. It is seldom you hear of a mad man, or a blind man, in any of the States; seldom of a felo de se, or a man afflcited with the gout or palsy. There is, indeed, at Philadelphia, an hospital for lunatics. I went over it, but found there very few, if any, who were natives; they were chiefly Irish, and mostly women. The disorders in the United States, arise chiefly from external causes. A bilious remittent fever is common on the south and middle States, about the close of every hot summer, owing to the increased exhalations, at that season, of the stagnant waters, which abound. But this evil is lessening in proportion to the cultivation of their soil, which tend to render the climate itself more temperate.

The Author of Letters on Emigration, amongst other objections, observes, “That there does not exist a more sordid, penurious race, than the Captains of passage and merchant vessels.” I returned from America with one of them, and found it quite otherwise — plenty of all kinds of provisions, fresh as well as salted; a cow on board, which afforded us milk every day for our coffee and tea; we had good Port, sherry, porter, and beer, daily with our dinner; as well as oranges, nuts, almonds, and raisins, very frequently, by way of desert. Many of the native American Captains being used to live with extreme frugality themselves, do not think much about the provisions necessary for the passengers; in such cases, they must look into it themselves, and see that every thing proper is provided, before they go on board. The Author also remarks on the uncomplying temper of the landlords of the country inns, in America; they will not, indeed, bear the treatment we, too often, give ours at home. They feel themselves, in some degree, independent of travellers, as all of them have other occupations to follow; nor will they put themselves into a bustle on your account, but, with good language, they are very civil, and will accommodate you as well as they can. The general custom of having two or three beds in a room, to be sure, is very disagreeable: it arises from the great increase of travelling within the last six years, and the smallness of their houses, which were not built for houses of entertainment. The last mentioned book appears to be written purposely to check emigration, as much as Cooper’s and Imlay’s are to encourage it; and perhaps both in the extreme.

With regard to emigration thither, and how far it is eligible to Englishmen; I answer, that it is a question every person must resolve for himself, as it depends on how he can bear changes of any kind in society, modes of life, customs, and manners. I have stated matters of fact, as far as I could collect, so that every prson, by reading these occurrences, may form a judgment for himself. The sacrifice of pleasant and well-established connections, is undoubtedly great; such a sacrifce must be peculiarly distressing to a mind whose habits of attachment have been long formed, and feels not that uneasiness which results from stritened circumstances. If, however, troubles should arise in this country on political accounts, or persecutions for mere matters of opinion, I know of no country that would afford the sufferer a more happy asylum than America, if he is not a man of luxury.

The arts and imrovements proceed very slow in America, from the want of that patronage so prevalent in England. The Americans being, many of them descendants of the English, are partial to their manners and customs; yet, it must be acknowledged, that in the interior of the country, things appear, at least, half a century behind them in point of comfort.

Salisbury, 1795.

 

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Filed under 1790's, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: Letter from Mr. Adet to Mr. Pickering (15 November 1796)

Found In: State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States from the Accession of George Washington to the Presidency, Exhibiting a Complete View of our Foreign Relations since that Time. [Vol. II.] 1797. Boston: Printed and published by T.B. Waite & Sons; David Hale, agent for the States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, 1815.

[Excerpted from pages 76-92]

Note from Mr. Adet, Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republick, to Mr. Pickering, Secretary of State of the United States. Legation at Philadelphia.

The undersigned Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republick, now fulfils to the Secretary of State of the United States, a painful but sacred duty. He claims, in the name of American honour, in the name of the faith of treaties, the execution of that contract which assured to the United States their existence, and which France regarded as the pledge of the most sacred union between two people, the freest upon earth: In a word, he announces to the Secretary of State the resolution of a government terrible to its enemies, but generous to its allies.

It would have been pleasing to the undersigned Minister Plenipotentiary to have only to express, on the present occasion, the attachment which his government bears to the American people, the vows which it forms for their prosperity, for their happiness. His heart therefore, is grieved at the circumstances, which impose upon him a different task. With regret he finds himself compelled to substitute the tone of reproach for the language of friendship. With regret also his government has ordered him to take that tone; but that very friendship has rendered it indispensable. Its obligations sacred to men, are as sacred to governments; and if a friend offended by a friend, can justly complain, the government of the United States, after the undersigned Minister Plenipotentiary shall have traced the catalogue of the grievances of the French Republick, will not be surprised to see the Executive Directory, manifesting their too just discontents.

When Europe rose up against the Republick at its birth, menaced it with all the horrours of war and famine; when on every side the French could not calculate upon any but enemies, their thoughts turned towards America: A sweet sentiment then mingled itself with those proud sentiments which the presence of danger, and the desire of repelling it, produced in their hearts. In America they saw friends. Those who went to brave tempests and death upon the ocean, forgot all dangers, in order to indulge the hope of visiting that American continent, where, for the first time, the French colours had been displayed in favour of liberty. Under the guarantee of the law of nations, under the protecting shade of a solemn treaty, they expected to find in the ports of the United States, an asylum as sure as at home; they thought, if I may use the expression, there to find a second country. The French government thought as they did. Oh hope, worthy of a faithful people, how has thou been deceived! So far from offering the French the succours which friendship might have given without compromitting it, the American government, in this respect, violated the letter of treaties.

The 17th article of the treaty of amity and commerce of 1778, states, that French vessels of war, and those of the United States, as well as those which shall have been armed for war by individuals of the two states, may freely conduct where they please, the prizes they shall have made upon their enemies, without being subject to any admiralty or other duty; without the said vessels, on entering into the harbours or ports of France, or of the United States, being liable to be arrested or seized, or the officers of those places taking cognizance of the validity of the said prizes; which may depart and may be conducted freely and in full liberty to the places expressed in their commissions, which the captains of said vessels shall be obliged to show: And that on the contrary, no shelter or refuge shall be given to those who shall have made prizes upon the French or Americans; and that if they should be forced by stress of weather or the danger of the sea, to enter, they shall be made to depart as soon as possible.

In contempt of these stipulations, the French privateers have been arrested in the United States, as well as their prizes; the tribunals have taken cognizance of the validity or invalidity of these prizes. It were vain to seek to justify these proceedings, under the pretext of the right of vindicating the compromitted neutrality of the United States. The facts about to be stated, will prove that this pretext has been the source of shocking persecutions against the French privateers, and that the conduct of the Federal Government, has been but a series of violations of the 17th article of the treaty of 1778. . . .

Alas! time has not yet demolished the fortifications with which the English roughened this country–nor those the Americans raised for their defence; their half rounded summits still appear in every quarter, amidst plains, on the tops of mountains. The traveller need not search for the ditch which served to encompass them; it is still open under his feet. Scattered ruins of houses laid waste, which the fire had partly respected, in order to leave monuments of British fury, are still to be found. –Men still exist, who can say, here a ferocious Englishman slaughtered my father; there my wife tore her bleeding daughter from the hands of an unbridled Englishman. Alas! the soldiers who fell under the sword of the Britons are not yet reduced to dust: the labourer, in turning up his field, still draws from the bosom of the earth their whitened bones; while the ploughman, with tears of tenderness and gratitude, still recollects that his fields, now covered with rich harvests, have been moistened with French blood; while every thing around the inhabitants of this country, animates them to speak of the tyranny of Great Britain and of the generosity of Frenchmen; when England has declared a war of death to that nation, to avenge herself for its having cemented with its blood the independence of the United States. –It was at this moment their government made a treaty of amity with their ancient tyrant, the implacable enemy of their ancient ally. O! Americans covered with noble scars! O! you who have so often flown to death and to victory with French soldiers! You who know those generous sentiments which distinguish the true warriour! Whose hearts have always vibrated with those of your companions in arms! Consult them to-day to know what they experience; recollect at the same time, that if magnanimous souls with liveliness resent an affront, they also know how to forget one. Let your government return to itself, and you will still find in Frenchmen faithful friends and generous allies.

Done at Philadelphia, the 25th Brumaire, 5th year of the French Republick, one and indivisible (15th November 1796, O.S.)

P.A. Adet

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Filed under 1790's, Early Republic, Foreign Relations, France, Neutral Rights, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Privateers, United States

Item of the Day: A Grammatial Institute of the English Language (1796)

Full Title: A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, Comprising an Easy, Concise and Systematic Method of Education. Designed for the Use of English Schools in America. In Three Parts. Part Second: Containing a Plain and Comprehensive Grammar, Grounded on the true Principles and Idioms of the Language. By Noah Webster, Jun. Esquire . . . Albany: Printed by Charles R. & George Webster, and sold at their Bookstore, in the Whites House, corner of State and Pearl-Streets, 1796.

APPENDIX.

VERB.

We say, what ails him? but seldom he ails a fever, or other disease.

Owing and wanting are used in a passive sense. What is wanting? A debt is owing to me, are established phrases.

We say a man is well read in law, he was offered so much for a thing, where the subject and object seem to have changed places; for the meaning is, law is well read, so much was offered, &c. This inversion may be allowed, where it is not attended with obscurity.

On the use of auxiliary verbs, Dr. Priestly, has this criticism. “By studying conciseness, we are apt to drop the auxiliary, to have, though the sense relate to past time. I found him better than I expected to find him. In this case analogy seems to require that we say, I expected to have found him: that is, to have found him there.” This is a great error, and for the reason which he immediately assigns, that is, “the time past is sufficiently indicated by the former part of the sentence.” The truth is, the time is ascertained by the first verb, I expected, which carries the mind back to the time; then to use another verb in the past, is to carry the mind back to a time preceding the existence of my expectations. He gives an example from Hume, which he says is certainly faulty. “These prosecutions of William seem to be the most iniquitous,” &c. It is faulty, not because both verbs are not in time past, but because neither of them is past time; seem to have been, or seemed to be, would not have been correct; but seemed to have been, would not have been grammatical. His remarks on this point seem to have been made with less accuracy of judgment, than we observe in most of his writing. . . .

The use of mistaken is equally singular. When applied to persons it is synonimous [sic] with wrong or erroneous. This is almost, or quite universally understood to be its meaning; and this common understanding constitutes its true signification, which no man has a right to dispute or attempt to change. But when applied to things, it is always used in a passive sense, equivalent to misunderstood. I am mistaken, you are mistaken, mean, I am wrong, you are wrong; but the nature of a thing is mistaken, means its nature is misunderstood. . . .

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, Grammar, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States, Vocabulary

Item of the Day: History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America [1834]

Full Title: History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America. By Charles Botto. Translated from the Italian by George Alexander Otis, Esq. Sixth edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected. Vol. I. New-Haven: Published and printed by Nathan Whiting, [1834].

BOOK FIRST.

AMERICA, and especially some parts of it, having been discovered by the genius and intrepidity of Italians, received, at various times, as into a place of asylum, the men whom political or religious disturbances had driven from their own countries in Europe. The security which these distant and desert regions presented to their minds, appeared to them preferable even to the endearments of country and of their natal air.

Here they exerted themselves with admirable industry and fortitude, according to the custom of those whom the fervor of opinion agitates and stimulates, in subduing the wild beasts, dispersing or destroying pernicious or importunate animals, repressing or subjecting the barbarous and savage nations that inhabited this New World, draining the marshes, controlling the course of rivers, clearing the forests, furrowing a virgin soil, and committing to its bosom new and unaccustomed seeds; and thus prepared themselves a climate less rude and hostile to human nature, more secure and more commodious habitations, more salubrious food, and a part of the conveniences and enjoyments proper to civilized life.

The multitude of emigrants, departing principally from England, in the time of the last Stuarts, landed in that part of North America which extends from the thirty-second to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; and there founded the colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, which took the general name of New England. To these colonies were afterwards joined those of Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, the two Carolinas, and Georgia. Nor must it be understood, that in departing from the land in which they were born, to seek in foreign regions a better condition of life, they abandoned their country on terms of enmity, dissolving every tie of early attachment.

Far from this, besides the customs, the habits, the usages and manners of their common country, they took with them privileges, granted by the royal authority, whereby their laws were constituted upon the model of those of England, and more or less conformed to a free government, or to a more absolute system according to the character or authority of the prince from whom they emanated. They were also modified by the influence which the people, by means of their organ, the parliament, were found to possess. For, it then being the epoch of those civil and religious dissensions which caused English blood to flow in torrents, the changes were extreme and rapid. Each province, each colony, had an elective assembly, which, under certain limitations, was invested with the authority of parliament; and a governor, who, representing the king to the eyes of the colonists, exercised also a certain portion of his power. To this was added the trial, which is called by jury, not only in criminal matters, but also in civil causes; an institution highly important, and corresponding entirely with the judicial system of England.

But, in point of religion, the colonists enjoyed even greater latitude than in their parent country itself; they had not preserved that ecclesiastical hierarchy, against which they had combated so strenuously and which they did not cease to abhor, as the primary cause of the long and perilous expatiation to which they had been constrained to resort.

It can, therefore, excite not surprise, if this generation of men not only had their minds imbued with the principles that form the basis of the English constitution, but even if they aspired to a mode of government less rigid, and a liberty more entire; in a word, if they were inflamed with the fervor which is naturally kindled in the hearts of men by obstacles which oppose their religious and political opinions, and still increased by the privations and persecutions they have suffered on their account. And how should this ardor, this excitement of exasperated minds, have been appeased in the vast solitudes of America, where the amusements of Europe were unknown, where assiduity in manual toils must have hardened their bodies, and increased the asperity of their characters? If in England they had shown themselves averse to the prerogative of the crown, how, as to this, should their opinions have been changed in America, where scarcely a vestige was seen of the royal authority and splendor? where the same occupation being common to all, that of cultivating the earth, must have created in all the opinion and the love of a general equality? . . .

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States