CORNING, NEW YORK. September 5, 1841 Titles Used by the Americans.
I asked the landlord of the inn at Corning, who was very attentive to his guests, to find my coachman. He immediately called out in his bar-room, " Where is the gentleman that brought this man here ?" A few days before, a farmer in New York had styled my wife " the woman," though he called his own daughters ladies, and would, I believe, have freely extended that title to their maid-servant. I was told of a witness in a late trial at Boston, who stated in evidence that " while he and another gentleman were shovelling up mud," &c.; from which it appears that the spirit of social equality has left no other signification to the terms "gentleman" and "lady " but that of ''male and female individual."
HUDSON RIVER, NEW YORK. Sept. 27. 1841. Steamboat Travel; Treatment of Women Travelers in General.
We embarked once more on the Hudson, to sail from Albany to New York, with several hundred passengers on board, and thought the scenery more beautiful than ever. The steamboat is a great floating hotel, of which the captain is landlord. He presides at meals, taking care that no gentlemen take their places at table till all the ladies, or, as we should say in England, the women of every class, are first seated. The men, by whom they are accompanied, are then invited to join them, after which, at the sound of a bell, the bachelors and married men travelling en garcon pour into the saloon, in much the same style as members of the House of Commons rush into the Upper House to hear a speech from the throne.
One of the first peculiarities that must strike a foreigner in the United States is the deference paid universally to the sex, without regard to station. Women may travel alone here in stage-coaches, steam-boats, and railways, with less risk of encountering disagreeable behaviour, and of hearing coarse and unpleasant conversation, than in any country I have ever visited. The contrast in this respect between the Americans and the French is quite remarkable. There is a spirit of true gallantry in all this, but the publicity of the railway car, where all are in one long room, and of the large ordinaries, whether on land or water, is a great protection, the want of which has been felt by many a female traveller without escort in England. As the Americans address no conversation to strangers, we soon became tolerably reconciled to living so much in public.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. October 27, 1841 Meeting Laura Bridgeman at the Blind Asylum
In the Blind Asylum I saw Laura Bridgman, in her twelfth year. At the age of two she lost her sight and hearing by a severe illness, but although deaf, dumb, and blind, her mind has been so advanced by the method of instruction pursued by Dr. Howe, that she shows more intelligence and quickness of feeling than many girls of the same age who are in full possession of all their senses. The excellent reports of Dr. Howe, on the gradual development of her mind, have been long before the public, and have recently been cited by Mr. Dickens, together with some judicious observations of his own. Perhaps no one of the cases of a somewhat analogous nature, on which Dugald Stewart and others have philosophised, has furnished so many new and valuable facts illustrating the extent to which all intellectual developmcnt is dependent on the instrumentality of the senses in discerning external objects, and, at the same time, in how small a degree the relative acuteness of the organs of sense determine the moral and intellectual superiority of the individual.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. Nov. 15, 1841 Wages in the Mills; Education in Lowell.
Went twenty-six miles to the north of Boston, by an excellent railway, to the manufacturing town of Lowell, which has sprung up entirely in the last sixteen years, and now contains about 20,000 inhabitants. The mills are remarkably clean, and weII warmed, and almost all for making cotton and woollen goods, which are exported to the west. The young women from the age of eighteen to twenty-five, who attend to the spinning-wheels, are good-looking and neatly dressed, chiefly the daughters of New England farmers, sometiines of the poorer clergy. They belong, therefore, to a very different class from our manufacturing population, and after remaining a few years in the factory, return to their homes, and usually marry.
We are told that, to work in these factories is considered far more eligible for a young woman than domestic service, as they can save more and have stated hours of work (twelve hours a day !), after which they are at liberty. Their moral character stands very high, and a girl is paid off, if the least doubt exists on that point. Boarding-houses, usually kept by widows, are attached to each mill, in which the operatives are required to board; the men and women being separate. This regard for the welfare and conduct of the workpeople when they are not on actual duty is comparatively rare in England, wherc the greater supply of labour would render such interference and kind superintendence much more practicable. Still we could not expect that the results would be equally satisfactory with us, on account of the lower grade of the operatives, and the ignorance of the lower classes in England. In regard to the order, dress, and cleanliness of the people, these merits are also exemplified in the rural districts of Lancashire, and it is usually in our large towns alone, that the work people are unhealthy and squalid, especially where a number of the poor Irish live crowded together in bad dwellings.
The factories at Lowell are not only on a great scale, but have been so managed as to yield high profits, a fact which should be impressed on the mind of every foreigner who visits them, lest, after admiring the gentility of manner and dress of the women and men employed, he should go away with the idea that he had been seeing a model mill, or a set of gentlemen and ladies playing at factory for their amusement. There are few children employed, and those under fifteen are compelled by law to go to school three months in the year, under penalty of a heavy fine. If this regulation is infringed, informers are not wanting, for there is a strong sympathy in the public mind with all acts of the legislature, enforcing education. The Bostonians submit to pay annually for public instruction in their city alone, the sum of 30,000l. sterling, which is about equal to the parliamentary grant of this year (1841) for the whole of England, while the sum raised for free schools in the state this year, by taxes for wages of teachers, and their board, and exclusive of funds for building, exceeds 100,000l. sterling.
The law ordains, that every district containing fifty families shall maintain one school, for the support of which the inhabitants are required to tax themselves, and to appoint committees annually for managing the funds, and choosing their own schoolmasters. The Bible is allowed to be read in all, and is actually read in nearly all the schools; but the law prohibits the use of books "calculated to favour the tenets of any particular sect of Christians;Ó Parents and guardians are expected to teach their own children, or to procure them to be taught, what they believe to be religious truth, and for this purpose besides family worship and the pulpit, there are Sunday-schools. The system works well among this church-building and churchgoing population.
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA. November 29, 1841 Encounter with Recent English Emigrant
On entering the station-house of a railway which was to carry us to our place of embarkation, we found a room with only two chairs in it. One of these was occupied by a respectable-looking woman, who immediately rose, intending to give it up, to me, an act betraying that she was English, and newly-arrived, as an American gentleman, even if already seated, would have felt it necessary to rise and offer the chair to any woman, whether mistress or maid, and she, as a matter of course, would have accepted the proffered seat. After I had gone out, she told my wife that she and her husband had come a few months before from Hertfordshire, hoping to get work in Virginia, but she had discovered that there was no room here for poor white people, who were despised by the very negroes if they laboured with their own hands. She had found herself looked down upon, even for carrying her own child, for they said she ought to hire a black nurse. These poor emigrants were now anxious to settle in some free state.
RAILWAY FROM NORFOLK TO WELDON, NORTH CAROLINA. December 23, 1841. Separate Arrangements for Men and Women on Railway Cars.
Our car, according to the usual construction in this country, was in the shape of a long omnibus, with the seats transverse, and a passage down the middle, where, to the great relief of the traveller, he can stand upright with his hat on, and walk about, warming himself when he pleases at the stove, which is in the centre of the car. There is often a private room fitted up for the ladies, into which no gentleman can intrude, and where they are sometimes supplied with rocking-chairs, so essential to the comfort of the Americans, whether at sea or on land, in a fashionable drawing-room or in the cabin of a ship. It is singular enough that this luxury, after being popular for ages all over Lancashire, required transplantation to the New World before it could be improved and become fashionable, so as to be reimported into its native land.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. December 28, 1841. Provisions for Slaves.
Returning home to this hospitable mansion in the dusk of the evening of the day following, I was surprised to see, in a grove of trees near the court-yard of the farm, a Iarge wood-fire blazing on the ground. Over the fire hung three cauldrons, filled, as I afterwards learned, with hog's lard, and three old negro women, in their usual drab-coloured costume, were leaning over the cauldrons, and stirring the lard to clarify it. The red glare of the fire was reflected from their faces, and I need hardly say how much they reminded me of the scene of the witches in Macbeth. Beside them, moving slowly backwards and forwards in a rockingchair, sat the wife of the overseer, muffled up in a cloak, and suffering from a severe cold, but obliged to watch the old slaves, who are as thoughtless as children, and might spoil the lard if she turned away her head for a few minutes. When I inquired the meaning of this ceremouy, I was told it was " killing time," this being the coldest season of the year, and that since I left the farm in the morning thirty hogs had been sacrificed by the side of a running stream not far off.
These were destined to serve as winter provisions for the negroes, of whom there were about a hundred on this plantation. To supply all of them with food, clothes, and medical attendants, young, old, and impotent, as well as the able-bodied, is but a portion of the expense of slave-labour. They must be continually superintended by trustworthy whites, who might often perform no small part of the task, and far more effectively, with their own hands.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. January 13, 1842 Purchase Price for Slaves; Slave Wedding.
After the accounts I had read of the sufferings of slaves, I was agreeably surprised to find them, in general, so remarkably cheerful and light-hearted. It is true that I saw no gangs working under overseers on suga plantations, but out of two millions and a half of slaves in the United States, thee larger proportion are engaged in such farming occupations and domestic services as I witnessed in Georgia and South Carolina. I was often for days together with negroes who served me as guides, and found them as talkative and chatty as children, usually boasting of their master's wealth, and their own peculiar merits. At an inn in Virginia, a female slave asked us to guess for how many dollars a year she was let out by her owner. We named a small sum, but she told us exultingly, that we were much under the mark, for the landlord paid fifty dollars, or ten guineas a year for her hire. A good-humoured butler, at another inn in the same state, took care to tell me that his owner got 30l a year for him. The coloured stewardess of a steam-vessel was at great painS to tell us her value, and how she came by the name of Queen Victoria. When we recollect that the dollars are not their own, we can hardly refrain from smiling at the childlike simplicity with which they express their satisfaction at the high price set on them. That price, however, is a fair test of their intelligence and moral worth, of which they have just reason to feel proud, and their pride is at least free from all sordid and mercenary considerations. We might even say that they labour with higher motives than the whites-a disinterested love of doing their duty. I am aware that we may reflect and philosophise on this peculiar and amusing form of vanity, until we perceive in it the evidence of extreme social degrradation; but the first impression which it made upon my mind was very consolatory, as I found it impossible to feel a painful degree of commiseration for persons so exceedingly well satisfied with themselves
South Carolina is one of the few states where there is a numerical preponderance of slaves. One night, at Charleston, I went to see the guard-house, where there is a strong guard kept constantly in arms, and on the alert. Every citizen is obliged to serve in person, or find a substitute; and the maintenance of such a force, the strict laws against importing books relating to emancipation, and the prohibition to bring back slaves who have been taken by their masters into free states, allow that the fears of the owner, whether well-founded or not, are real.
During our stay at Charleston, we were present at a negro wedding, where the bride and bridegroom, and nearly all the company, were of unmixed African race. They were very merry. The bride and bridemaids all dressed in white. The marriage service performed by an Episcopal clergyman. Not long afterwards, when staying at a farm-house in North Carolina, I happened to ask a planter if one of his negroes with whom we had been conversing was married. He told me, Yes, he had a wife on that estate, as well as another, her sister, on a different property which belonged to him; but that there was no legal validity in the marriage ceremony. I remarked, that he must be mistaken, as an Episcopal minister at Charleston would not have lent himself to the performance of a sacred rite, if it were nugatory in practice, and in the eye of the law. He replied, that he himself was a lawyer by profession, and that no legal validity ever had been, or ought to he, given to the marriage tie, so long as the right of sale could separate parent and child, husband and wife. Such separations, he said, could not always be prevented, when slaves multiplied fast, though they were avoided by the masters as far as possible. He defended the custom of bringing up the children of the same estate in common, as it was far more humane not to cherish domestic ties among slaves. On the same farm I talked with several slaves who had been set to fell timber by task-work, and had finished by the middle of the day. They never appeared to be overworked; and the rapidity with which they increase beyond the whites in the United States shows that they are not in a state of discomfort, oppression, and misery. Doubtless, in the same manner as in Ireland and parts of Great Britain, the want of education, mental culture, and respect for themselves, favours improvident marriages among the poor; so the state of mere animal existence of the slave, and his low moral and intellectual condition, coupled with kind treatment and all freedom from care, promote their multiplication. The effect of the institution on the progress of the whites is most injurious, and, after travelling in the northern States, and admiring their rapid advance, it is most depressing to the spirits. There appears to be no place in society for poor whites. If they are rich, their slaves multiply, and from motives of kindly feeling towards retainers, and often from false pride, they are very unwilling to sell them. Hence They are constantly tempted to maintain a larger establishment than is warranted by the amount of their capital, and they often become involved in their circumstances, and finally bankrupt. The prudence, temper, and decision of character required to manage a plantation successfully is very great. It is notorious that the hardest taskmasters to the slaves are those who come from the northern free States.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. Feb. 1, 1842 Religious Fervor of Women.
While here I heard complaints of the religious excitement into which the city had been just thrown by the arrival of a popular New England preacher, who attracted such crowds that at length all the sittings of his church were monopolized by the fair sex. American gallantry forbids that a woman should remain standing while gentlemen are comfortably seated in their pews, so that at last the men were totally excluded. Notice was immediately given that certain services were to be entirely reserved for the men; this announcement well calculated to provoke curiosity, and to tempt many a stray sheep from other folds. It was then thought expedient for the ministers of rival sects to redouble their zeal, that they might not be Ieft behind in the race, and even the sober Episcopalians, though highly disapproving of the movement, increased the number of their services; so that I was assured it would be possible for the same individual between the hours of seven o'clock in the morning and nine in the evening, to go seven times to church in one day. The consequences are too like those occasionally experienced in the " old country," where enthusiasm is not kindled by so much free competition, to be worth dwelling upon. Every day added new recruits to a host of ascetic devotees, and places of public amusement were nearly deserted-- at last even the innocent indulgence of social intercourse was not deemed blameless: and the men who had generally escaped the contagion in the midst of their professional avocations, found a gloomy cast over society or over their domestic circle. The young ladies, in particular, having abundance of leisure, were filled with a lively sense of their own exceeding wickedness, and the sins of their parents and guardians.