Category Archives: 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

Item of the Day: Feature’s of Mr. Jay’s Treaty (1795)

Full Title: Features of Mr. Jay’s Treaty. To which is annexed, A View of the Commerce of the United States. As it stands at present, and as it is fixed by Mr. Jay’s Treaty. Philadelphia: Printed for Mathew Carey, by Lang and Ustick, Oct. 20, 1795.

FEATURES

OF

MR. JAY’S TREATY.

I. The origin and progress of the negociation [sic]for the Treaty, are not calculated to excite confidence.

1. THE administration of our government have, seemingly at least, manifested a policy favourable to Great Britain, and adverse to France.

2. But the house of representatives of Congress, impressed with the general ill conduct of Great Britain toward America, were adopting measures, of a mild, though retaliating nature, to obtain redress and indemnification. The injuries complained of were, principally, 1st. The detention of the western posts—2dly. The delay in compensating for the negroes carried off at the close of the war—and 3dly, The spoliations committed on our commerce. The remedies proposed, were, principally, 1st. The commercial regulations of Mr. Madison—2dly. The non-intercourse proposition of Mr. Clarke—3dly. The sequestration motion of Mr. Dayton—4thly. An embargo—and 5thly, Military preparations.

3. Every plan of the legislature was, however, suspended, or rather annihilated, by the interposition of the executive authority; and Mr. Jay, the chief Justice of the United States, was taken from his judicial feat, to negociate [sic] with Great Britain, under the influence of the prevailing sentiment of the people, for the redress of our wrongs. Query—Are not his commission and the execution of it, at variance? Is any one of our wrongs actually redressed? Is not an atonement to Great Britain, for the injuries which she pretends to have suffered, a preliminary stipulation?

4. The political dogma of Mr. Jay are well know; his predilection, in relation to France and Great Britain, has not been disguised; and even on the topic of American complaints, his reports, while in the office of secretary of foreign affairs, and his adjudications while in the office of chief justice, were not calculated to point him out as the single citizen of America, fitted for the service in which he was employed. Query—Do not personal feelings too often dictate and govern the public conduct of its ministers? But whatever may have been his personal disqualifications, they are absorbed in the more important consideration of the apparent violence committed by Mr. Jay’s appointment, on the essential principles of the constitution. That tipic, however, has already been discussed, and we may pass to the manner of negociating the treaty in England, which was at once obscure and illusory. We heard of Mr. Jay’s diplomatic honours; of the royal and ministerial courtesy which was shewn to him, and the convivial boards to which he was invited: but, no more! Mr. Jay, enveloped by a dangerous confidence in the intuitive faculties of his own mind, or the inexhaustible fund of his diplomatic information, neither possessed nor wished for external aid; while the British negociator, besides how own acquirements, entered on the points of negociation, fraught with all the auxiliary sagacity of his brother ministers, and with all the practical knowledge of the most enlightened merchants of a commercial nation. The result corresponds with that inauspicious state of things. Mr. Jay was driven from the ground of an injured, to the ground of an agressing, party; he made atonement for imaginary wrongs, before he was allowed justice for real ones; he converted the resentments of the American citizens (under the impressions of which he was avowedly sent to England) into amity and concord; and seems to have been so anxious to rivet a commercial chain about the neck of America, that he even forgot, or disregarded, a principal item of her own produce, (cotton) in order to make a sweeping sacrifice to the insatiable appetite of his maritime antagonist. But the idea of the treaty, given by Mr. Pitt in answer to Mr. Fox, who, before he had seen, applauded it as an act of liberality and justice towards America, was the first authoritative alarm to our interests and our feelings. “When the treaty is laid before the parliament (said the minister) you will best judge whether any improper concession has been made to America!”

5. The treaty being sent here for ratification, the President and the Senate pursue the mysterious plan in which it was negociated. it has been intimated, that till the meeting of the Senate, the instrument was not communicated even to the most confidential officers of the government: and the first resolution taken by the Senate, was to stop the lips and ears of its members against every possibility of giving or receiving information. Every man, like Mr. Jay, was presumed to be inspired. In the course of the discussion, however, some occurrences flashed from beneath the veil of secrecy; and it is conjectured that the whole treaty was, at one time, in jeopardy. But the rhetoric of a minister (not remarkable for the volubility of his tongue) who was brought post-haste from the country; the danger of exposing the odium and disgrace the distinguished American characters, who would be affected by a total rejection of the treaty; and the feeble, but operative, vote of a member transported from the languor and imbecility of a sick room to decide in the Senate a great national question, whose merits he had not heard discussed; triumphed over principle, argument and decorum!

6. But still the treaty remains unratified; for, unless the British government shall assent to suspend the obnoxious twelfth article, (in favour of which, however, many patriotic members declared their readiness to vote) the whole is destroyed by the terms of the ratification: and if the British government shall agree to add an article allowing the suspension, the whole must return for the reconsideration of the Senate. But the forms of mystery are still preserved by our government; and attempts to deceive the people have been made abroad upon a vain presumption, that the treaty could remain a secret, till it became obligatory as a law. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Commerce, Early Republic, Federalists, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Dissertations on the English Language (1789)

Full Title: Dissertations on the English Language: with Notes, Historical and Critical. To which is added, by way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, with Dr. Franklin’s Arguments on that Subject. By Noah Webster, Jun. Esquire. Boston: Printed for the author, by Isaiah Thomas and Company, MDCCLXXXIX.

APPENDIX.

 

 

 

An ESSAY

On the NECESSITY, ADVANTAGES and PRACTICABILITY

of REFORMING the MODE of SPELLING, and of RENDERING the ORTHOGRAPHY of WORDS

CORRESPONDENT to the PRONUNCIATION.

 

IT has been observed by all writers on the English language, that the orthography or spelling of words is very irregular; the same letters often representing different sounds, and the same sounds often expressed by different letters. For this irregularity, two principal causes may be assigned:

1. THE changes to which the pronunciation of a language is liable, from the progress of science and civilization.

2. THE mixture of different languages, occasioned by revolutions in England, or by a predilection of the learned, for words of foreign growth and ancient origin. To the first cause, may be ascribed the difference between the spelling and pronunciation of Saxon words. The northern nations of Europe originally spoke much in gutturals. This is evident from the number of aspirates and guttural letters, which still remain in the orthography of words derived from those nations; and from the modern pronunciation of the collateral branches of the Teutonic, the Dutch, Scotch and German. Thus k before n was once pronounced; as in knave, know; the gh in might, though, daughter, and other similar words; the g in reign, feign, &c.

BUT as savages proceed in forming languages, they lose the guttural sounds, in some measure, and adopt the use of labials, and the more open vowels. The ease of speaking facilitates this progress, and the pronunciation of words is softened, in proportion to a national refinement of manners. This will account for the difference between the ancient and modern languages of France, Spain and Italy; and for the difference between the soft pronunciation of the present languages of those countries, and the more harsh and guttural pronunciation of the northern inhabitants of Europe.

IN this progress, the English have lost the sounds of most of the guttural letters. The k before k in know, the g in reign, and in many other words, are become mute in practice; and the gh is softened into the sound of f, as in laugh, or is silent, as in brought. . . .

BUT such is the state of our language. The pronunciation of the words which are strictly English, has been gradually changing for ages, and since the revival of science in Europe, the langage has received a vast accession of words from other languages, many of which retain an orthography very ill suited to exhibit the true pronunciation.

THE question now occurs; ought the Americans to retain these faults which produce innumerable inconveniencies [sic] in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses, and introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the AMERICAN TONGUE?

Let us consider this subject with some attention.

SEVERAL attempts were formerly made in England to rectify the orthography of the language. But I apprehend their schemes failed of success, rather on account of their intrinsic difficulties, than on account of any necessary impracticability [sic] of a reform. It was proposed, in most of these schemes, not merely to throw out superfluous and silent letters, but to introduce a number of new characters. Any attempt on such a plan must undoubtedly prove unsuccessful. It is not to be expected that an orthography, perfectly regular and simple, such as would be formed by a “Synod of Grammarians on principles of science,” will ever be substituted for that confused mode of spelling which is now established. But is is apprehended that great improvements may be made, and an orthography almost regular, or such as shall obviate most of the present difficulties which occur in learning our language, may be introduced and established with little trouble and opposition.

The principal alterations, necessary to render our orthography sufficiently regular and easy, are these:

1. THE omission of all superfluous or silent letters; as a in bread. Thus bread, head, give, breast, built, meant, realm, friend, would be spelt, bred, hed, giv, brest, bilt, ment, relm, frend. Would this alteration produce any inconvenience, any embarrassment or expense? By no means. On the other hand, it would lessent he trouble of writing, and much more, of learning the language; it would reduce the true pronunciation to a certainty; and while it would assist foreigners and our own children in acquiring the language, it would render the pronunciation uniform, in different parts of the country, and almost prevent the possibility of change.

2. A SUBSTITUTE of a character that has a certain definite sound, for one that is more vague and indeterminate. Thus putting ee instead of ea or ie, the words mean, near, speak, grieve, zeal, would become meen, neer, speek, greev, zeel. This alteration could not occasion a moments trouble; at the same time it would prevent a doubt respecting the pronunciation; whereas the ea and the ie having different sounds, may give a learner much difficulty. Thus greef should be substituted for grief; kee for key; beleev for believe; laf for laugh; dawter for daughter; plow for plough; tuf for tough; proov for prove; blud for blood; and draft for draught. In this manner ch in Greek derivatives, should be changed to k; for the English ch has a soft sound, as in cherish; but k always a hard sound. Therefore character, chorus, cholic, architecture, should be written karacter, kours, kolic, arkitecture; and were they thus written, no person could mistake their true pronunciation. . . .

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Filed under 1780's, Education, Grammar, Language, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains (1805)

Full Title: Travels to the Westward of the Allegany Mountains, in the States of the Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, in the Year 1802. Containing Accounts Relative to the Present State of Agriculture, and the Natural Productions of those Districts; Together with Particulars of the Commercial Relations which Subsist between these States, and those to the Eastward of the Mountains, and of Lower Louisiana. By. F. A. Michaux. Translated from the French. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, 1805.

[Excerpted from Chapter I.]

CHARLESTON, in South Carolina, being the first place of my destination, I repaired to Bourdeaux, which is the French port most nearly connected in its commercial intercourse with the southern part of the United States, and from which vessels are continually sailing for different ports of North America. I therefore embarked on the 25th of August, 1801, on board the John and Francis, commanded by the same captain with whom I had returned to Europe several years before.

. . . on the 9th of October 1801, we made the road of Charleston in company with two other vessels, one of which had quitted Bourdeaux eighteen days, and the other a month before we sailed.

The pleasure, however, which we experienced from our safe arrival was soon diminished. The pilot informed us that the yellow fever had pravailed for some time at Charleston, where a great portion of the inhabitants had been carried off by its ravages: this intelligence alarmed the passengers, who were fourteen in number, and most of whom had relations or friends in the town. We had no sooner cast anchor, than those who had not before resided in hot climates were conveyed by their friends to the isle of Sullivan. This isle is situated seven miles from Charleston: its dry and barren soil is almost deprived of vegetation, but as it is exposed to the sea breezes, its air is fresh and agreeable. For some time past, or since the bilious and inflammatory epidemic, generally called the yellow fever, has regularly appeared every year at Charleston, a great number of the inhabitants and planters who took refuge in the town in order to avoid the intermittent fevers which attacked the seven-tenths of those in the country, have built many houses in this isle, in which they reside from the first of July till the commencement of a frost, which generally happens about the 15th of November. Some persons on the island keep bourding-houses for the reception of those who may have no establishments of their own. It has been remarked, that strangers newly arrived from Europe or from the states of North America, and who immediately land on this island, are not attacked by the yellow fever.

But these considerations, however strong they might be, cold not induce me to pass an indefinite time in a place so destitute and unpleasant; I therefore resisted the advice of my frineds, and remained in the town. I had, however, nearly fallen a victim to my obstinacy; having, a few days afterwards, been attacked with the first symptoms of that dreadful disease, from which I did not recover till I had been three months a sufferer.

The yellow fever varies every year in point of intenseness; and medical practitioners have not yet been able to determine the characteristic signs by which, at its appearance, its degree of malignity in summer might be discovered. The inhabitinats of the town are not so subject to its attacks as strangers, eight tenths of whom died in the year of my arrival; and when the former are attacked, it is always in a far smaller proportion.

It has been observed, that during the months of July, August, September, and October, when this malady generally prevails, the persons who absent themselves from Charleston only for a few days, are, on their return, much more susceptible of its attacks, than those who remain in the town. The inhabitants of Upper Carolina, distant two or three hundred miles, who come hither during this season, are as liable to take the fever as strangers, and those of the environs of the town are not free from its ravages. Hence it appears, that during one third of the year all intercourse is nearly cut off between the town and the country. The place is then supplied with provisions only by the negroes, or the native inhabitants of the country, who are not attacked by this disease. When, on my return from the tour which I had been making in the western districts, I repaired to Charleston in the month of October 1802, I did not meet in the most frequented road, for the space of three hundred miles, a single traveller either on his way to, or returning from the town; while at the houses where I stopped, they could not believe that my business could be of such importances as to induce me to repair thither in such a calamatous season.

From the beinning of November, however, till the month of May, the country makes a totally different appearance. Every thing seems to have acquired new life, commerce and the communications which were broken off are all resumed, the roads are covered with carts and wagons, bringing from all quarters the production of the interior; a concourse of coaches and cabriolets drive about with rapidity, and keep up an incessant intercourse between the town and the houses in its vicinity, where the owners pass a part of the winter season; in short, commercial activity renders Charleston at this time as animated as, during the summer, it is melancholy and deserted.

It is generally believed at Charleston, that the yellow fever, which every year prevails there, as well as at Savannah, is similar to that which appears in the Colonies, and that it is not contagious; but this opinion is not universally adopted in the northern towns. It is a fact, that when this malady appears at New York and Philadelphia, the inhabitants are as apt to take it as strangers; and therefore they remove from their habitiations as soon as they learn that their neighbours are attacked by it. But they enjoy a very valuable advantage which those at Charleston do not possess; and this is, that the country which surrounds Philadelphia and New York is agreeable and salubrious, so that, on retiring to the distance of two or three miles, they remain in perfect security, even when the disease prevails at those towns in its greatest violence.

I have made this slight digresson, in order to inform those who may have to travel to the southern parts of the United States, that they will really be in great danger if they arrive in the months of July , August, September, or October. I was, like many others, of opinion, that the adoption of proper means to prevent the effervescence of the blood, would be an infallible preservative against this disease; but every year’s experience proved to me, that those who had followed a kind of regimen proper for this purpose, though such a method is undoubtedly the best, do not always avoid the fate of such as are less abstemious. . . .

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Filed under 1800's, Charleston, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States, Yellow Fever

Item of the Day: New Travels in the United-States of America (1797)

Full Title: New Travels in the United-States of America: Containing the Latest and most Accurate Observations on the Character, Genius, and Present State of the People & Government of that Country; Their Agriculture, Commerce, Manufactures, & Finances; Quality and Price of Lands; Progress of the Settlements on the Ohio and the Mississippi; Political and Moral Character of the Quakers, and a Vindication of that Excellent Sect from the Misrepresentations of other Travellers; State of the Blacks, Progress of the Laws for their Emancipation, and for the Final Destruction of Slavery on that Continent; Accurate Accounts of the Climate; Comparative Tables of the Probabilities of Life between America and Europe, &c. &c. By the Late J. P. Brissot de Warville, Deputy to the National Convention of France. A New Edition, Corrected, with A Portrait of the Author. Vol. I. London: Printed for J. S. Jordan, No. 166 Fleet-Street, MDCCXCVII. [1797]

THE

AUTHOR’S

PREFACE

REVISED.

 

THE publication of Voyages and Travels will doubtless appear, at first view, an operation foreign to the present circumstances of France. I should even myself regret the time I have spent in reducing this Work to order, if I did not think that it might be useful and necessary in supporting our Revolution. The object of these Travels was not to study antiques, or to search for unkown plants, but to study men who had just acquired their liberty. A free people can no longer be strangers to the French.

We have now, likewise, acquired our liberty. It is no longer necessary to learn of the Americans the manner of acquiring it, but we must be taught by them the secret of preserving it. This secret consists in the morals of the people; the Americans have it; and I see with grief, not only that we not yet possess it, but that we are not even thoroughly persuaded of its absolute necessity in the preservation of liberty. This is an important point; it involves the salvation of the revolution, and therefore merits a close examination.

 What is liberty? It is that perfect state of human felicity, in which each man confidently depends upon those laws which he contributes to make; in which, to make them good, he ought to perfect the powers of his mind; in which, to execute them well, he must employ all his reason: for all coercive measures are disgraceful to freemen–they are useless in a free State; and when the magistrate calls them to his aid, liberty is on the decline. Morals are nothing more than reason applied to all the actions of life; in their force consists the execution of the laws. Reason or morals are to the execution of the laws among a free people, what fetters, scourges, and gibbets are among slaves. Destroy morals, or practical reason, and you must supply their place by fetters and scourges, or else society will cease to be any thing but a state of war, a scene of deplorable anarchy, to be terminated by its destruction.

Without morals there can be no liberty. If you have not the former, you cannot love the latter, and you will soon take it away from others; for if you abandon yourself to luxury, to ostentation, to excessive gaming, to enormous expences, you necessarily open your heart to corruption; you make a traffic of your popularity, and of your talents; you sell the people to that despotism which is always endeavouring to absorb them withing its chains.

Some men endeavour to make a distinction between public and private morals. This is a false and chimerical distinction; invented by vice, in order to diguise its danger. Undoubtedly a man may possess the private virtues, without the public: as for instance, he may be a good father, without being an ardent friend of liberty. But he who has not the private virtues, can never possess the public. In this respect they are inseparable; their basis is the same, it is practical reason. What! within the walls of your house, you trample reason under foot; and do you respect it abroad, in your intercourse with your fellow-citizens? The man who respects not reason in the lonely presence of his household gods, can have no sincere attachment to it at all; and his apparent veneration to the law is but the effect of fear, or the grimace of hypocrisy. Place him out of danger from the public force, his fears vanish, and his vice appears. Besides, the hypocrisy of public virtue entrains another evil; it spreads a dangerous snare to liberty over the abyss of despotism.

What confidence can be placed in those men who, regarding the revolution but as their road to fortune, assume the appearance of virute only to deceive the people; who deceive the people but to pillage and enslave them; and who, in their artful discourses, which are paid for with gold, preach to others the sacrifice of private interest, while they themselves sacrifice all that is sacred to their own? men whose private conduct is the assassin of virtue, an opprobrium to liberty, and gives the lie to the doctrines which they preach:

Qui curios simulant, et Baccanalia vivunt.

Happy the people who despise this hypocrisy, who have the courage to degrade, to chastise, to excommunicate these double men; possessing the tongue of Cato, and the sould of Tiberius. Happy the people who, well convinced that liberty is not supported by eloquence, but by the exercise of virtue, esteem not, but rather despise, the former, when it is separated from the latter. Such a people, by their severe opinions, eompel men of talents to acquire morals; but exclue corruption from their body, and lay the foundation for liberty and long prosperity.

But if such a people should become so improvident and irresolute, as to be dazzled by the eloquence of an orator who flatters their passions, to pardon his vices in favour of his talents–if they feel not an indignation at seeing an Alcibiades training a mantle of purple, lavishing his sumptuous repasts, lolling on the bosom of his mistress, or ravishing a wife from her tender husband–if the view of his enormous wealth, his exterior graces, the soft sound of his speech, and his traits of courage, could reconcile them to his crimes–if they should render him the homage which is due only to talents united with virtue–if they should lavish upon him praises, places, and honours–then it is that this people discover the full measure of their weakness, their irresolution, and their own proper corruption; they become their own executioners; and the time is not distant, when they will be ready to be sold, by their own Alcibiades, to the great king, and to his satraps.

Is it an ideal picture which I here trace, or, is it not ours? I tremble at the resemblance! Great God! shall we have achieved a revolution the most inconceivable, the most unexpected, but for the sake of drawing from nihility a few intriguing, low, ambitious men, to whom nothing is sacred, who have not even the mouth of gold to accompany their soul of clay? Infamous wretches! they endeavour to excuse their weakness, their venality. their eternal capitulations with despotism, by saying, These people are too much corrupted to be trusted with complete liberty. They themselves give them the example of corruption; they give them new shackles, as if shackles could enlighten and ameliorate men.

O Providence! to what destiny reservest thou the people of France? They are good, but they are flexible; they are credulous, they are enthusiastic, they are easily deceived. How often, in their infatuation, have they applauded secret traitors, who have advised them to the most perfidious measures! Infatuation announces either a people whose aged weakness indicates approaching dissolution, or an infant people, or a mechanical people, a people not yet ripe for liberty: for the man of liberty is by nature a man of reason; he is rational in his applauses, he is sparing in his admiration, if, indeed, he ever indulges this passion; he never profanes these effusions, by lavishing them on men who dishonour themselves. a people degraded to this degree, are ready to caress the gilded chains that may be offered them. Behold the people of England dragging in the dirt that parliament to whom they owed their liberty, and crowning with laurels the infamous head of Monk, who sold them to a new tyrant. . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, France, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution, Travel Literature, United States