Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

505

Art. VII.-A Run through the United States, during the Autumn of 1840.

By Lieut.-Colonel A. M. MAXWELL, K. H. 2 vols. Colburn.

The discovery, colonization, growth, condition, and prospects of, the United States of America, must ever be subjects of vast historical importance; furnishing themes for most interesting investigation and illustration within the immense range of social and political development. But at no past period, except it may have been during the struggle for independence, have these states offered points and questions of such an arresting character, as they do at the present moment.

The discovery of North America, whether as the claim is maintained by the Northmen or others, has long and often engaged inquirers into historical epochs. But as this subject has much divided writers, we need not more particularly allude to it in the rapid glance which we are taking. Suffice it to say, that whatever has befallen the great American continent, or any portion of it, since its aboriginal inhabitants were first disturbed by white men, bears not singly upon the history of that continent, but has been more or less connected with, or the result of, movements and phases in European States.

The colonization of North America is a theme that directs us to the adventures and efforts of the Spaniards in that part of the world; to a consideration of the introduction of slavery into Virginia by a Dutch vessel ; to the history of Gallic geographical discovery ; and, what is by far the most interesting topic to the people of Great Britain, to the progress of English discovery and settlement. Confining our few observations with regard to colonization to particular States, and, in order to indicate how European events bore upon American history, let the earliest successful settlement of Maryland be taken into view. Here Lord Baltimore, an opulent Roman Catholic, who was driven from Virginia on account of Protestant tests, and where slavery appears to have greatly aided to force upon the colony and to perpetuate feelings and institutions in some measure consonant with those which prevailed in England, obtained from the British crown a charter, conveying almost the entire powers of a feudal prince, which powers he exercised with such liberality that he granted perfect religious freedom to all. Still, the colony that set forth to people that province consisted of the various grades of society as they existed in Europe ; and therefore to this day it presents its own peculiar and primitive features, some of them clearly aristocratic.

But most marked and distinct of all the earlier settlements, perhaps, is that of New England, which the Puritans, people who were as strong Republicans in politics, as they were Independents in

religion ; establishing and furnishing the great model of the democracy of the United States. Pennsylvania, again, had its peculiar complexion, and was still more free in certain parts of its constitution ; receiving the characteristic stamp of the sect called Quakers. And not to enumerate all the States, and such as were the offspring of the rest, with an endless variety and amalgamation of European infusion, we only further allude pointedly to Georgia, a comparatively recent plantation, and at first an asylum for the persecuted and the destitute; where the philanthropic pioneer was the excellent Oglethorpe, and where the dawnings of that enlarged charity and benevolence which has since been so eminently displayed by the British nation, seem to have begun to beam with a fixed and intelligible light. In all of these different colonies there were characteristic principles recognized, peculiar struggles encountered, and remarkable triumphs achieved, which have bequeathed to this day their proper fruits, affecting the growth and modifying the progress of the several communities.

Having last of all alluded to Georgia, it may be satisfactory to append to our very general observations the eloquent and affecting description which is to be found of the departure of the Morarians for this settlement, as given in that standard work, " The History of the United States," not yet finished, by Bancroft. The narrative is so beautiful, concise, and full; and the particulars which it details are so uncommon and admirable, that we shall here quote the passage, throwing it into our larger type; for it is worthy of appearing in golden letters. Says the historian,-“ While the neighbouring province of South Carolina displayed 'a universal zeal for assisting its new ally and bulwark,' the persecuted Protestants, known to us as Moravians, heard the message of hope, and, on the invitation of the Society in England for propagating the Gospel, prepared to emigrate to the Savannah. A free passage, provisions in Georgia for a whole season, land for themselves and their children, free for ten years, then to be held for a small quitrent, the privileges of native Englishmen, freedom of worshipthese were the promises made, accepted, and honourably fulfilled. On the last day of October, 1733, the evangelical community, well supplied with Bibles and hymn-books, catechisms and books of devotion, conveying in one wagon their few chattels, in two other covered ones their feebler companions, and especially their little ones, after a discourse and prayer and benedictions, cheerfully, and in the name of God, began their pilgrimage. History need not stop to tell what charities cheered them on their journey ; what towns were closed against them by Roman Catholic magistrates ; or how they entered Frankfort-on-the-Maine, two by two, in solemn procession, singing spiritual songs. As they floated down the Maine, and between the castled crags, the vineyards, and the white

walled towns that adorn the banks of the Rhine, their conversation, amidst hymns and prayers, was of justification, and of sanctification, and of standing fast in the Lord. At Rotterdam they were joined by two preachers, Bolzius and Gronau, both disciplined in charity at the Orphan House in Halle. A passage of six days carried them from Rotterdam to Dover; where several of the trustees visited them, and provided considerately for their wants. In January 1734, they set sail for their new homes. The majesty of the ocean quickened their sense of God's omnipotence and wisdom ; and as they lost sight of land, they broke out into a hymn to his glory. The setting sun, after a calm, so kindled the sea and the sky, that words could not express their rapture; and they cried out, 'How lovely the creation ! how infinitely lovely the Creator! When the wind was adverse they prayed ; and as it changed one opened his mind to the other on the power of prayer, even the prayer' of a man subject to like passions as we are. As the voyage excited weariness, a devout listener confessed himself to be an unconverted man; and they reminded him of the promise to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at the word. As they sailed pleasantly with a favouring breeze, at the hour of evening-prayer, they made a covenant with each other, like Jacob of old, and resolved, by the grace of Christ, to cast all the strange gods which were in their hearts into the depths of the sea. A storm grew so high that not a sail could be set, and they raised their voices in song amidst the tempest; for to love the Lord Jesus as a brother gave consolation. At Charleston, Oglethorpe bade them welcome; and in five days more the wayfaring men, whose home was beyond the skies, pitched their tents near Savannah. It remained to select for them a residence. To cheer their principal men as they toiled through the forest, and across brooks, Oglethorpe, having provided horses, himself joined the little party. By the aid of blazed trees and Indian guides, he made his way through morasses ; a fallen tree served as a bridge over a stream, which the horses swam for want of a ford; at night he encamped with them abroad round a fire, and shared every fatigue till the spot for their village was chosen, and, like the little stream which formed its border, was named Ebenezer. There they built their dwellings; and there they resolved to raise a column of stone in token of gratitude to God, whose providence had brought them safely to the ends of the earth."

Surely this is a narrative which should be studied and copied as a companion to that of any given of the going forth of the Pilgrim Fathers; even of George Bancroft's account of that noble and Christian enterprize.

With respect to the wondrous growth of the United States, it would be idle for us at present to utter a word; while, as regards

VOL. III. (1841.) no. Iv.

prayer and

2 0

any modern

their existing condition and prospects, we shall cite some parts of Colonel Maxwell's picture and insinuated predictions, after a short critical preface relative to his tone, disposition, and style of narrative.

Never before was such a roseate picture offered of the United States, or rather of the people of the New England and Middle States, as that designed, executed, and framed by the gallant Colonel. His Run is so kindly that a suspicious person might be ready to surmise he had previously received a handsome retainer for special pleading ; for not only does he overlook, or turn away from, whatever might offend the most indulgent, good-natured, and forgiving tourist, but almost everything that he deigns to glance at is superlatively attractive and good. Another feature of the Run is so apparent that it cannot escape the observation of any one ; he disclaims that which his narrative and remarks frequently convict him of. For instance, he declares that he had never read travels in the United States, and that he had no notion of what had been the opinions of others, “ except by hearsay," of the people of that country; and yet he very frequently alludes to what has been said by certain Captains, and also by several ladies, married and unmarried, in their caustic accounts of the Yankees. And thirdly, we must state that while his admiration and adulation are whole. sale, his particulars, if the reader will be at the pains to weigh many of them, are rather in the face than otherwise of the strong conclusions.

But we must also view the Colonel's narrative with an extenuating as well as with a critical feeling. He is a soldier, and has seen a great deal of service as a soldier; and while as superficial and frank as any one can conceive an old soldier to be, he appears to tell exactly what first struck him,--he being at the same time goodhumoured, for the most part in a pleasant vein, and swayed by no previously imbibed theory. Again, so happy was he during his Run, so smooth, gliding, and well-buttered its course—for Jonathan seems to have guessed on all occasions the trim and the weak side of the veteran—that it would have been most ungallant in him had he pried into faults, or even allowed his eye to rest upon palpable blemishes. He is cheerful, sincere, spirited, and obviously a rattling pleasant companion by nature and culture; and his volumes, whatever be their defects or exaggerations, are throughout amusing. If one could implicitly rely upon his reports, these would be at this moment of no ordinary value. Even with our doubts and the manifest mistakes of the Colonel, he must be deserving of a hearing, seeing that he not only describes many things which directly fall within his professional sphere, but that he has been in command upon the Border, under the Governor of Newfoundland, during the excitement produced by the Maine question.

[ocr errors]

Having now hastily paved the way for introducing to our readers various extracts, we shall begin with some that are extremely laudatory and unsuspicious; then insert a few of a miscellaneous and light character; and conclude with such as at the present moment have a special claim upon our notice.

Says the Colonel, " I never saw a more delightful country nor more charming people.” If it and they had nothing more to recommend them, the extraordinary fact that there are "no drunken men, no impertinent beggars, no insolent boys, no eaves-droppers, no looking after strangers, for all are occupied with their own affairs,” was enough for him. Now the volumes are constantly contradicting this assertion when it happens that some other admired feature made an impression upon the runner's feelings. With regard to no drunken men, and no impertinent beggars, we only remark as a set-off, that Miss Sedgwick never saw a shabbily dressed person during her sojourn in England !

The Colonel speaks scores of times in the style of the above and the following quotations :-" I again repeat, and you must bear with the repetition, that a more agreeable, charming, communicative people I never met with than the Americans. Don't look for French grimace or kissing Italians; but have a little patience with them, be civil and undandified, and you will soon find yourself well received and comfortable. I grant there is a little huskiness about their first manner ; but that wears off, and gives place to friendly communication and good fellowship. Also, I will again re-echo the assertion, that I have never seen a beggar, nor a drunken man; and I have never beheld a rude or forward action." The term impertinent is wholly dispensed with in this run.

“ I have said that all the American ladies are agreeable, and I'll maintain it; and well-bred too." He was, to be sure, a little startled on hearing one of them, when describing Saratoga springs, state that " all the young dandies there were considerable humbugs, she guessed.But “ she was very pretty, and very young, and that made up for everything." Therefore, guessed, pretty smart, considerable, calculated, go-a-hcad, and similar Yankeeisms had an idiomatic charm for him; and if he disapproves of anything that is American, the quarrel must be confined to fast eating. A monstrous lover of fish rather vexed him on one occasion :

"I sat directly opposite a newly-married pair. The bridegroom had, during the morning, been all fondness and attention, but the sight and smell of the viands changed at once the current of his feelings. What a knife and fork the fellow played ! He was a perfect cormorant for fish, helping himself to every particle within his reach, and bellowing for more when that had disappeared.

“Now being a lover of the finny race myself, I became rather nettled at this exclusive proceeding of his, and ventured to give him a civil hint

« ForrigeFortsæt »