ページの画像
PDF

“ remarkable occurrences since the revolution P’ In short, federal America has done nothing, either to extend, diversify, or embellish the sphere of human knowledge.— Though all she has written were obliterated from the records of learning, there would (if we except the works of Franklin) be no positive diminution, either of the useful or the agreeable. The destruction of her whole literature would not occasion so much regret as we feel for the loss of a few leaves from an ancient classick.

But, notwithstanding all this, we really cannot agree with Mr. Ashe in thinking the Americans absolutely incapable, or degenerate; and are rather inclined to think, that when their neighbourhood thickens, and their opulence ceases to depend on exertion, they will show something of the same talents to which it is a part of our duty to do justice among ourselves. And we are the more inclined to adopt this favourable opinion, from considering, that her history has already furnished occasions for the display of talents of a high order; and that, in the ordinary business of government, she displays no mean share of ability and eloquence. In opposition to all this, to be sure, we have the positive assertion of Mr. Ashe, who will not allow that she has at any time attained mediocrity, either in statesmanship or Wall".

“I cannot honour,” says he, “with the name of commanders, the men who overwhelmed a handful of British, and, after several years combat, obtained an unprofitable victory. In like manner” [and the simile is really incomparable] “I have known a shoal of herrings run down a whale on the coast of Cornwall; but it did not follow that 1 was to attribute this accident to the individual prowess of any such contemptible animals, or to the absence of strength and capacity in the whale.” I. 137.

This eloquent person next takes a survey of the legislature; and, after assuring us that “he asserts nothing

without positive proofs,” delivers himself as follows:

“There are in America no real politicians The speeches you see in papers are made by Irish and Scotch journalists, who attend the congress and senate, merely to take the spirit of their proceedings, and clothe it with a language interesting to read. Attending the debates of congress, on a day when a subject of consequence was to be discussed, I left the house full of contempt of its eloquence, and the paucity of talent employed for the support or condemnation of the question. Notwithstanding this, I read in next morning’s gazette, “that a debate took place in the house last night, of the most interesting nature, and was agitated by all the talent in the country.” And here followed certain eloquent orations, a sentence of which never passed in the house.” I. 140.

[blocks in formation]

traveller at length enters upon a description of the Ohio, preparatory to the narrative of his voyage. The length of this fine river, from Pittsburgh to its confluence with the Mississippi, is eleven hundred miles. It rises greatly in spring and autumn, when it is navigable by large vessels; but, when it subsides, can admit only of flat-bottomed boats. The space of twenty days is reckoned a good spring voyage to the Mississippi; but, in summer, when the waters are low, from six to ten weeks are required to perform it. Very little use is made of the oar. The boat, which is of a square form, and guided by a huge oar at the stern, is committed to the stream; and all that is necessary is, to keep clear of the numerous islands, which greatly add to its beauty, while they embarrass its navigation. We meet with nothing remarkable in the voyage, till Mr. Ashe reaches. Wheeling, a town about ninety miles below Pittsburgh, on the Virginia side of the river. This is a considerable commercial station, and thriving marvelously, notwithstanding the nefarious character of its inhabitants. On coming here, it is very desirable to ascertain who have ears, and who want them; as a considerable part of the male population happen, according to Mr. Ashe, to have left these appendages nailed to certain penitential crosses in other places of America. Quarrels are frequent; and, when two persons fight, it is generally “according to the rule of rough and tumble; a kind of combat in which it is lawful for the combatants to peel the skull, tear out the eyes, or smooth away the nose !” Our author gives a long account of a battle of this kind, between a Virginian and Kentuckyan; but we must refer to the book itself such of our readers as delight in wild sports. The great western road from Philadelphia to Lexington, in Kentucky, passes through this town; and there is a mail-coach, which

performs the journey [700 miles] in fifteen days. Small inns, affording bacon, Indian bread, and whiskey, are to be found at convenient distances along this route; and “let those,” says our author, “who despise this bill of fare, remember, that seven years ago this road was called the wilderness; and travellers had to encamp, and find their own provisions, and with great difficulty secure their horses from panthers and wolves.” What striking facts from a writer who endeavours, in other places, to make us believe that this very country is devoted, by the vices of its people and its climate, to barbarism and progressive degeneracy. He gives a pretty favourable account of the inhabitants of Marietta, a town situated at the junction of the Great Muskingum with the Ohio. Here, as well as at Pittsburgh, are built ships of considerable burden; and the people, besides being industrious and enterprising, are well educated, and moral; having schools and churches supported by fixed contributions. Still, however, Mr. Ashe cannot refrain from what he thinks wit, at their expense:–

“Yesterday I was speaking rather harshly to a man who had not fulfilled an agreement with me to caulk my boat, when a gentleman came up, and accosted him with—“Ah! General, how do you do? I mean to dine with you:—What's your hour?' I made sure of this opportunity to go on to the baker in pursuit of some biscuit. On seeing the bread, I began to com. ment on the price and quality, and might have betrayed some little dissatisfaction and incivility, had not a third person entered opportunely to say: “Colonel, I want a loaf of bread P My next call was on a butcher, whose dirty looking meat made me neglectful of my late experience,

and 1 raved without any consideration of

decorum, till brought to a sense of misconduct by a negro, who, taking me aside, very kindly warned me that the butcher was a judge, and would fine folks for cursing and swearing !” I. p. 297.

The banks of the Great Muskingum opened to our traveller a scene of various and interesting occupations; for, not to mention his speculations on the habits of wild turkeys, and his terrible contest with a huge rattlesnake, it was here his longing eyes were first greeted with a view of those Indian remains— “those venerable relicks of once polished, but now degraded nations,” upon which he has descanted through so many pages of mawkish enthusiasm and inept speculation. It is to his discourses upon tumuli and barrows and mud camfis, that his sage editor alludes, when he boasts of the “astonishment” which his book must occasion to the antiquary. The truth is, that these antiquities, as they are called, have been described before by far more sober and competent observers. We shall not, therefore, disturb our readers with any of his tedious and frothy descriptions, far less with his manifold absurdities in regard to their origin. Suffice it to say, that he ascribes them to some remote period, when the ancestors of the present savages were powerful and polished; an opinion which we should not deem worthy of notice, had it not the previous sanction of Dr. Benjamin Barton, whose writings contain the best descriptions of these curious vestiges. But, notwithstanding this more respectable authority, we cannot hesitate, for a moment, to reject, as altogether visionary, the idea of a civilisation which records itself in no language or tradition; in no monument of higher art than a mud wall; and in no instrument more perfect than a hatchet of stone. It is a rule in philosophy, not to admit unknown causes, when the phenomena may be accounted for by those , which are known. Now, Dr. Barton & himself tells us, that some of the Indian nations had intercourse with the Mexicans. Why, therefore, might they not derive from them those

[ocr errors]

rings and articles of pottery, upon which he builds so much : With regard to the mud encampments, again, we know from Oldmixon,” and other writers, that the savages on the Atlantick coast erected works of that description when we first invaded them; and thus, all that remains to be accounted for is the greater magnitude of those beyond the Alleghany mountains; as to which it is quite enough to say, that it is now perfectly known that the tribes in that region were formerly much more numerous than they are at present. M. Volney,t after a careful inspection of these boasted monuments, gives it as his decided opinion, that they are exactly similar to those mentioned by Oldmixon; and certainly we ought to adopt his opinion, in preference to one which does so much violence to analogy, to reason, and to history.

On arriving at the Scioto, Mr. Ashe made an excursion to Chilicothé, the capital of the Ohio state, and which is situated about sixty miles up that river. The place, he says, is so unhealthy, that the government has it in contemplation to remove to some more eligible situation. The whole country, indeed, like all the other parts not cleared of their woods and marshes, is, more or less, subject to periodical returns of fever and diarrhoea; and this, according to Mr. Ashe, forms the main objection to the Ohio state, which is in considerable favour with him. We shall here briefly collect a few other particulars regarding this flourishing member of the union. It lies along the right bank of the river from which it takes its name, extending at least five hundred miles in length and breadth. The soil in general is extremely rich, and that extensive portion of it which lies between the two rivers Miamis, is pronounced,

• History of British America, Vol. I. p. 54, &c.
f View of the Climate and soil of America.

Vol. Iv. P

[merged small][graphic]

by our author, to contain “by much the finest land in the known world.” Here fifty or sixty bushels of wheat, and towards one hundred of Indian 'corn, may be raised on an acre. At Cincinnati there is an office for the sale of lands; and in 1896, no less than seventeen thousand contracts, at the rate of two dollars per acre, were entered there, bearing the names of persons from all quarters of Europe, as well as America. By merely keeping these lands ten years, they may, according to Mr. Ashe, be rented at a profit of fifty dollars or more per acre; and this, he thinks, is the most eligible line for a speculator; as at present, the price of labour is so high, produce so cheap, and markets so distant, that little more than a subsistence is to be made by mere farming. This state is not more preeminent in fertility, than in industry and morals; a superiority which Mr. Ashe, with reason, ascribes to the great number of quakers it contains, and to the abolition of slavery, which formed one of the first acts of its government. This state was admitted into the union in 1803. Mr. Ashe does not mention the amount of its population; but we find Dr. Holmes states it to have been in that year upwards of seventy-six thousand. - South of this lies the state of Kentucky, of which we shall also collect a short account. It takes its name from the river Kentucky, which flows through it into the Ohio, and which is navigable a great way from its mouth. It is generally mountainous and uneven, and has, according to our author, been greatly embellished, in certain insidious accounts given of it in Europe. There are here millions of acres called Barrens, altogether incapable of cultivation from want of water. There are other districts, however, particularly one in the middle, of sixty miles by thirty, to which, he admits, full justice has scarcely been done,

[blocks in formation]

place; and a canal was begun to carry vessels round the rafiids, which too greatly obstruct the navigation of the Ohio, Frankfort, the seat of government, is situated about seventy miles up the Kentucky. But Lexington is the largest town of this, indeed all the western states, and stands in that delightful tract already noticed. It contains three hundred houses, and is the seat of a university, where about a hundred students are taught English, Latin, Greek, and mathematicks. Of its inhabitants, and, indeed the whole population of the state, Mr. Ashe exhibits a very disagreeable picture, charging them with ferocity, boisterousness, and coarse debauchery. The following, he says, is a faithful picture of the general

mode of living through the state.

“I rode about fifteen miles, when I stopped at the house of a cultivator whom I had fallen in with on the road, and took such refreshment as we found prepared. On entering the house, which was a log one, fitted up very well, the Kentuckyan never exchanged a word with his wife or his children, though he had been absent several days. No tender inquiry or sentiment; nothing but a contemptuous silence and a stern brutality, which block up all the avenues to the heart. The poor woman made a large bowl of drink, composed of sugar, water, whiskey and peach juice, and handed it to her husband with all the servility of a menial. The dinner consisted of a large piece of salt bacon, a dish of homslie, and a tureen of squirrel broth. I dined entirely on the latter, which I found incomparably good, and nothing but whiskey, which soon made him two thirds drunk. In this he is also supported by the general habit. In a country, them, where bacon and spirits form the favourite summer repast, it cannot be just to attribute entirely the causes of inferiority to the climate. No people on earth live with less regard to regimen; they eat salt meat three times a day; seldom have any vegetables; and drink ardent spirits from morning till night.” II. 281.

the meat equal to the most delicate

chicken. The Kentuckyan ate nothing but bacon, which is the favourite diet of all the inhabitants of the state; and drank

Mr. Ashe gives a turgid account of his passage of the rafiids at Louisville, which was attended with many awful circumstances. Thousands of dull traders, indeed, had passed them before; but when “such a man as Mr. Mshe” (to use the words applied to him by the beauty at Cincinnati) was to make the transit, it was to be expected that nature should be strangely disturbed, and fill the hearts of sordid pilots with serious alarms. The voyage, after this achievement proceeded without incident, till Mr. Ashe passed the mouth of the Wabash, when, on “ the Indiana shore,” he explored a cave more replete with terrours, than any such place we ever read of in romance. We cannot enter either upon its history or horrours; but must tell the curious reader, that Mr. Ashe discovered, by means of certain figures on its sides, which he calls “ancient hieroglyphicks,” that it was a “temple dedicated to the sun, and a sanctuary of his priests, in those remote times when the North American Indians were similar to the other nations of antiquity 1" Mr. Ashe is never in the smallest difficulty on these points. Thus, he discovers, with equal ease and certainty, that some Indian mummies, which are said to have been found at Lexington, are of far higher date than the mummy-making eras of Egypt; and further, that iron aces were positively used in the Ohio country long before the flood / But it would be endless to notice all his ravings on these subjects. He never begins to speculate

without plunging at once into the depths of absurdity. Like “bold Arnall” in the Dunciad, he makes “a furious dive,” and sinks far below all the other sons of dulness. In this neighbourhood, our traveller paid a visit to a tribe of Indians, “ the true lords of the soil;” and his interview with them, strongly reminds us of that between the “friend of humanity” and the “knife-grinder,” in the poetry of the Anti-Jacobin. The Shawannees were quite as unconcerned about their rights as the knife-grinder, and were far more solicitous for whiskey, than for the condolence of our friend of humanity. Mr. Ashe assures us, however, that they are a more polite people than is commonly imagined; and in particular, that “they practise a very refined species of gallantry.” The married women are exceedingly correct. “To a person,” he says, “who met one in the woods and implored her to love and look on him, she made the following beautiful reply—Oulamar, who is for ever before my eyes, hinders me from seeing you, or any other fierson.” On reaching the Mississippi, Mr. Ashe made an excursion to St. Louis, the capital of Upper Louisia

na, a place containing near two thou

sand inhabitants, and, for its extent, of considerable trade. Twenty miles above it the Missouri joins the Mississippi, after “passing through a vale which it enriches and adorns to so wonderful a degree that it scarcely can be equalled. The scenes are so picturesque, so various and surprising, that the senses may rather be said to be ravished than simply pleased.” [III. 124.] He also visited St. Genevieve; and represents the inhabitants, who are a mixture of French and Spaniards, as being gay and happy.

“Here the guitar resounds, soon after sunset, with the complaints and amorous tales of the village swains; and the same hand which toils all day in the wilderness,

« 前へ次へ »