National Habits. --Stage-coach Preaching. --Winnsville. --Character of Proprietor. --National Vanity. --Old World and New World. --Last Home and Hope of Liberty. --Natural Scenery. --Staunton. --Cure for Love. --Slaves in the Valley. --Education prohibited. --Purity of Breakfast-table. --Natural Bridge. --Whipping and Gouging. --Customs of the Valley. --Honesty and Hospitality. --Soul-drivers. --Alleghany.
On Monday, the 12th, I left Richmond by the Charlotteville stage. There were but two other passengers; one a bookseller in the former place, --the other the book-keeper to the coach-office. The former was very conversible; the latter a good-tempered fellow, but sadly addicted to yawning; a practice so little thought of in the country, as not to be considered disrespectful, --and so general, as to be almost a national habit, except that the better half of the community have neither adopted it as a luxury, nor yielded to it as an infirmity. It was some time before I could fully comprehend this matter. I naturally thought, when I found myself the yawnee, that the yawner was tired of the tête-à-tete; and though the intimation was neither delicate nor agreeable, I generally took the hint. Further experience convinced me that I was in error, and that a man might give complete expansion to his jaws, and look you full in the face, in the midst of your narrative, without committing a breach of good manners, any more than by spitting on your best carpet, or lounging, in the presence of a stranger, with his heels above his head.
To return to my fellow-travellers: we got on very well, till we took up a young man dressed in black, and, soon after, some ladies at a tavern on the road. The former proved to be a Presbyterian preacher, who had come into the district to join in a three-days' preaching. No sooner had they taken their seats, when he began to dilate to the mother on the respective merits, doctrinal and moral, of his reverend brethren in the neighbourhood, and to question the daughter on the progress she had made in the way of salvation; informing her he had some very instructive and interesting tracts at her service in his portmanteau. So zealous was he in what he considered religious truth, that he gave us a long history of a young lady's conversion at a milliner's shop by a pious young man; --a tedious dialogue between an infidel and a mountaineer, the latter using the same arguments as one Dr. Paley, but much more pithily and pointedly; --and a dissertation upon the utter depravity of man, with a grateful acknowledgement of the high privilege we enjoyed to approach the throne of grace. This was the first instance I ever met with, in a public conveyance, of any one making frequent and familiar use of the Saviour's name --and I hope it will be the last. The book-keeper looked at me and smiled; while the bookseller preserved his gravity with a degree of composure well suited to the theological books, which he had for sale in his store, and which, before the entrance of the lecturer, he had told us, were getting into fashion.
After we had passed the place, where the stage had stopped to breakfast on its way to Richmond, one of the passengers got out, to go by another stage to Scottsville: and I took the opportunity of changing the coach and the company, and transferred myself and my baggage to the other vehicle.
We proceeded on a very good road, and through a fine country, the greater part uncleared forest, about fourteen miles to a place called Winnsville; where we stopped till the next morning at five; when the stage took us on to Scottsville, a very neat pretty town on the James river.
Winnsville derives its name from a person, to whom the land belongs, and who has erected a few houses and keeps a tavern, which shares his time and attention with his farm. At his house I met with the accommodations I wanted, and a reception beyond what I should have experienced at a more splendid hotel.
Mine host was a man highly respected; and, if I might judge from what I saw, most deservedly so. He was unassuming in his manners, and civil to every one. He had twelve children; --the eldest a lad of seventeen years of age. I never saw a finer family, or one whose appearance and behavior did more credit to their parents. I could not but compliment the father on the good looks and good conduct of his children. He replied that he endeavored to bring them up usefully and respectably; but that he was afraid his efforts were not so judicious as he could wish. Talking to him of the Richmond Penitentiary, I told him that our government had sent a commissioner to his country, for the purpose of inspecting its prisons. He expressed some surprise at the information, adding : "I thought your prisons in Europe were much better conducted than ours." The good sense the man exhibited in setting an example to his family of modesty, instead of filling their heads with ridiculous ideas about American greatness and wisdom, impressed my mind with a higher degree of respect for him. Its rarity made it the more valuable and remarkable. If such were the general character of his countrymen, the ridicule of open enemies and the flattery of false friends would be equally vain. There would be no motive for disparagement, and no subject for satire. Such a nation would attain greatness by declining it; convert jealousy into respect; and make the self love of others tributary to its true glory *.
I am led into these reflections by the awkward situation in which I often found myself. The very next day I was asked whether there was any building in Europe equal to the Capitol at Washington; whether London or Paris possessed any houses as good as those in New York and Philadelphia: and whether we had any orators in England equal to Clay and Webster. What can you say on these occasions? If you give a direct answer; you must either wound another man's self love or betray your own; --for what is patriotism too often, but pride disguised as a virtue, --whispering to its possessor that he loves his country while he loves nothing but himself? This man took me into an inner room of his hotel, to shew me a most wonderful invention, very recently produced by an artist at Boston. It was a cloak saturated with a composition of Indian rubber!
* At a "tariff dinner" given, in 1827, at Lexington (Kentucky) to the representative of that district in Congress, the following toast was drunk by about 300 people. "Our country! May she be always right: but right or wrong, may she always prosper!" Mr. Foot said, in the Senate, speaking of Mr. Van Buren's appointment as minister to England: "Sir, it has ever been our pride and our glory that, in all our diplomatic intercourse with foreign nations, we have never admitted our country to be in the wrong; nor has she ever been proved to be in the wrong before the late humiliating and disgraceful correspondence with the British government."
How completely our opinions are perverted by false analogies and fanciful metaphors! With us, the wisdom of old age is attributed to our ancestors. In America, its decrepitude is predicated of our posterity. To hear the inhabitants of the latter expatiate on its wonders, physical, political, and moral, you would imagine that it produced at the same time, like an orange-tree, the blossoms of spring and the fruits of autumn; and that the eagle it cherishes had the strength and plumage of a full-grown bird, before he had moulted his first feathers. It would seem that the species, like the nations that compose it, were divided into patrician and plebeian; and that the citizens of the United States of North America bore, to the rest of the world, exactly the same relation that the aristocracy of Europe bear to their respective communities, --that they were born to greatness, while others achieve it.
The national vanity may be traced to the arts of demagogues, and the adulation of the press. Mr. Van Buren, while speaking in the New York Convention of his countrymen, declared that "it was the boast and the pride and the security of the American nation, that she had in her bosom a body of men, who, for sobriety, integrity, industry, and patriotism, were unequalled by the cultivators of the earth in any part of the known world; --nay more, --to compare them with men of similar pursuits in other countries, was to degrade them."
Even the republication of foreign works affords an opportunity of reminding the people, to whom they are addressed, of the superiority they are said to enjoy over other nations, in all that constitutes an intelligent and happy race. The health and vigor of their juvenile condition are contrasted with the opposite characteristics of European decrepitude; as if the forced analogy which has been drawn between individuals and communities were philosophically correct; and the infirmities of the one were necessarily incidental to the other. The parallel does not hold even in the case of societies that have emerged, by the development of their own energies, from barbarism to civilization. In the present instance there is still less approximation to resemblance in the modes of existence thus brought into juxta-position. The American States, --both of the Northern and Southern continents, --are new societies made up of old materials, with peculiarities corresponding to such combination, without any preponderating influence of either of these two elements; and partaking as well of the evils as of the advantages of both. If the whole population of England were suddenly transferred to New Holland, (supposing adequate preparation for its reception,) we might, with equal propriety, call ourselves, in our new situation, a new country. Yet, if we are to believe what the oracles of Hesperian wisdom tell us, we must be prepared to see the old world sink into the feebleness and foolishness of old age, while the new continent will receive the last rays that may scintillate from Science as she expires in an exhausted society; and will transmit to happier climes and communities the discoveries and improvements which shall have been forgotten or disfigured in the land that gave birth to the progenitors of its inhabitants.
"There must be a limit", proclaims the North American Review, (1824,) with awful solemnity, "to the multiplication of powerful nations; and while political power and national wealth are increasing with a rapidity we can hardly compute in this hemisphere", (meaning, through the mazes of its prophetic mystery, that the increase, not the computation, is to be made in this hemisphere,) "it is scarcely possible that the seeds of their decline should not be sown in the eastern. Perilous conflicts must in time follow, and vast rivalries grow up; and, in this condition of the world's politics, it is plain that the complicated enginery of the old world must give way in the collision with the new."
We are comforted, however, under the contemplation of this heavy infliction, with the assurance, that a remnant of all that has delighted and ennobled our species, will survive; and that the human form will emerge, from this calamity, in all its pristine purity and beauty. "Time's noblest offspring is the last." Civilization will have crossed the ocean, unsoiled by the swarthy embraces of the tribes that have darkened its less fortunate islands.
After breakfasting at Scottsville, I started, at half-past seven in the morning, in a covered wagon with two horses, to meet the stage from Charlotteville, at a place called Brookesville, twenty-six miles distant. The country was very beautiful, the blue ridge forming the principal feature in the landscape. At a pass called Israel's Gap, the view was magnificent. In front was the blue ridge, separated from the height we were passing by a valley, abounding in the most lovely scenery; the green of which formed a delightful contrast with the tints on the mountains; the latter, as they receded from the view, diminishing in intensity, till they were blended and lost in one common color. On the road the driver found a bucket that had dropped from some wagon in advance. He observed to me, --I was the only passenger, --that if he did not find the owner, it would be his, by right of discovery. We soon overtook the man to whom it belonged; and my companion, in handing it to him, claimed twelve cents for finding it. The other gave him six; and both seemed satisfied with the bargain. He had just before told me that the blacks were more generous to one another than the whites. His assertion had all the authority his own conduct could give it. His account of these poor creatures was precisely the same as I had heard from every one of his class to whom I had spoken about them. I went into one of their log buts that stood by the road; and a more miserable dog-hole I never saw. There was but one room for the whole family. Three or four children were within, trying to warm themselves by a wood fire. Part of the mud between the beams, of which the hut was constructed, had given way, and let in the cold wind. There was one couch with straw, and a blanket, --and no furniture beyond what was necessary to cook their scanty allowance of Indian corn. As it was so near the public road, and accessible to travellers from the north, whose prying eyes are to be guarded against, it was, probably, not the worst of its kind.
At Brookesville, where we arrived at one o'clock, I joined the stage, in which was my fellow traveller, the preacher, with other passengers. He greeted me very cordially, and expressed a wish that we might go on together to Cincinnati. I preferred the box with its official incumbent to the full congregation he had within. Soon after I had taken my seat, the following dialogue passed between myself and the driver: "You have a fine country here?" --"Yes! but it is much better on the other side of the ridge: --the land is superior, and quite a different sort of people." --"Do they cultivate their land with slaves?" --"Some of them do, but they do not treat them as they are treated here. They work them half to death here." "They tell me the same story, wherever I go." --"They cannot tell you otherwise, if they tell you the truth." My fiend, however, was not very liberal towards the race, whose wrongs he seemed to commiserate. The free blacks, he said, ought to be kept down and humbled; there were too many of them, and they presumed too much. I soon perceived the cause of his hostility. "Pray," said I, pointing to a well dressed black, "who is that man? Is he a slave? --"Not he, indeed! --he is better off than I am. He is a plasterer: he gets higher wages than I do."
Soon after, we crossed the ridge; on ascending which, the finest views in the greatest variety presented themselves, clothed in the softest colors that Claude or Glover ever threw on canvass, or conceived in imagination. From the summit, the view on the western side was magnificent; the north mountains terminating the horizon. This pass is called the Rock-fish Gap. At half past five in the afternoon, the stage reached Staunton, about twenty miles from Brookesville, which we left a little after one o'clock. Here I stopped, and the coach proceeded with the rest of its freight. At Brookesville, the book-keeper used an expression which was quite new to me. "Have you many passengers?" I enquired, as I was taking my place. "We have quit a smart chance," was his reply. I interpret "chance" in his favor. It would have been "smarter" for the passengers, if there had been fewer of them.
There are two lunatic asylums in Virginia, supported by the State, one at Williamsburg, in the Eastern section; and the other at this place. A quarter of a dollar is the price of admittance to the latter. This regulation, common as it is with us, is open to many objections. The chief check to abuse in all charitable establishments, more particularly in those appropriated to the reception of the insane, is to be found in publicity; the limits of which are restricted by this tax on inquiry and benevolence. Those who have the strongest disposition to exert themselves in favor of the unfortunate or the oppressed, are often the least able to pay for its indulgence. A single visit would rarely be made, where more would be requisite but inconvenient. What may be obtained as a favor may be withheld as a right, or clogged with conditions too personal in their operation to be acceptable. Hence it happens that the inmates of such institutions are often left at the mercy of the attendants, who can easily conceal from the eye of an inexperienced or transient spectator, what would be detected after a few visits. As for the reasons, by which this regulation is defended, the inhabitants of a town, containing but fourteen or fifteen hundred souls, are not likely to be more indiscreet or inquisitive than the population of Hartford or Boston; nor are the evils of a free admittance to respectable persons to be weighed against a rule which reduces the patients of a lunatic hospital to the level of wild beasts exhibited for a shilling at a fair, and tends to destroy in their friends and neighbors all active interest, in their welfare. It is here as it is in England. The poor, are not excluded because they are troublesome: but they are troublesome because they are excluded.
As I saw nothing of this establishment, I can give no opinion upon it. From what I could learn, however, the proportion of patients restored to health is not very great. Coercion and depletion seem to be the chief articles in the curative pharmacopoeia. One case, where the latter was successfully used, was that of a young man who had been rejected by the goddess of his idolatry. He had lost both the lady and his senses. Perhaps it may be said he never had more of the one than of the other. However that may be, the love-sick patient was bled, blistered, and bread-and-watered, till he was a man again. It is as well to know that the lancet, like poverty, drives Love out of the window; and that the little god, at, the sight of human blood, as
The weather was at this time so cold, that fires were to be found in all the houses. The winter had been very severe, the snow having lain upwards of two feet deep on the ground, and crushed the pines. with its weight, as I could see while passing through the woods; whereas at New York it did not remain at any time more than two days on the land. In the north the weather had been unusually mild, and unusually inclement in the south. A similar interchange of temperature is often experienced in Europe. Some years ago, while we were sitting with our windows open in London, people were dying of cold at Naples and Madrid.. . . . . . "at the sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies."
Staunton is the county town of Augusta county. It lies in a hollow, surrounded by hills, from whence are some very picturesque views. From an eminence, overlooking the Asylum, there is a most charming landscape. A hill, gently rising from the valley, and clothed to its summit with woods, forms, on each side, the screen: in the distance is a portion of the blue ridge; and, in the foreground, are farmhouses and meadows, and corn-fields and copses. It bears some resemblance to the scenery about Berne; with the addition of that soft and mellow coloring, which some atmospheric peculiarity, seems to have bestowed upon this district.
The soil of the valley, in which this country is chiefly placed, is very good in most parts, producing wheat, and pasturage for cattle. Some of the farmers are wealthy. The price of provisions is low. Beef and veal, on an average, four cents per lb.; mutton three: venison about the same. Butter averages, throughout the year, 12-1/2 cents: eggs six to eight cents per dozen: flour, four dollars the barrel of two cwt.
The first settlers in the valley, were Irish Presbyterians and Dutch, --an appellation bestowed in common upon the Germans and the emigrants from Holland. The slaves are much better treated on this, than on the other side of the ridge. Many of them are hired from persons in the eastern section, and are, of course, reluctant to return thither. The vicinity of Ohio renders it a matter of policy to conciliate by mildness; and facility of escape may fairly be considered as a persuasive auxiliary to humanity. No less than 200 were disposed of, the preceding year, to the traders, and carried off from this county alone to the southern market. The free blacks, though less harshly used than at Richmond, have, many of them, quitted the State for Canada. We passed three or four wagons filled with them, as we were coming to Staunton. One of these expatriated people, while writing to a friend at the latter place, told him that he was so well pleased with Canada, that he would not return to his native land, if anyone would give him his weight in gold.
These men have too much reason to prefer Canada to Virginia. One of them told me that he was desirous of giving his children a decent education that two or three years ago they were making satisfactory progress at school, when he was compelled to remove them, and teach them himself as well as he could, with the assistance of his wife, during his leisure hours. Not only are the colored people forbidden to learn reading and writing, but no white is permitted to instruct them. There is an ordinance of the city of Savannah, in Georgia, by which "any person that teaches any person of colour, slave or free, to read or write, or causes, such persons to be so taught, is subjected to a fine of thirty dollars, or to be imprisoned ten days and whipped thirty-nine lashes." So much for liberty in America, where even a white man is not free to perform a benevolent action, or to educate his own children.
No expedient is left untried to drive the emancipated and their descendants out of the slave States. By a most iniquitous act, passed in 1823, the town-council of George-town are empowered to impose and collect an annual tax on such lot or lots, piece or pieces of land, within the limits of the town, as may be exclusively inhabited by a slave or slaves, or a free person of color, &c., not, within an enclosure upon which a white person resides: --provided the said annual tax shall not exceed one hundred dollars on each lot or piece of land. They may also impose and collect an annual tax upon each and every free person of color, who shall keep, within the limits of the town, any store or shop, &c., provided the tax shall not exceed one hundred dollars. Thus are these poor creatures disabled from getting their bread honestly, and then stigmatized as depraved and debased. This is one way of recruiting for Liberia! These legislators boast of their liberty in these extravagant terms: --"We believe none can say with us, --the happy people of these United States, --that every one can sit 'under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none to make him afraid.' We are the only people upon the earth that enjoy a rational, civil, and religious liberty, and the inestimable blessing of a free and enlightened government."*
It was to be expected that the severity exercised towards the slaves would increase with their numbers. Who would have believed, however, that what was a civil obligation, forty years ago, should have become a crime; and that the very same act which is now prohibited, should then have been compulsory, under a heavy penalty? Among the statutes of the New Jersey legislature, passed in 179, is one for the education of slaves, making it imperative on owners to teach and instruct all such, under the age of twenty-one years, to read, &c., and rendering them liable, for neglect or refusal, to pay a fine of thirty dollars, "to be recovered by action of debt, with costs of suit, in any court having cognizance thereof, by the overseers of the poor of the township, &c., to the use of the poor."
* Report of the Committee of Religion in the Senate of South Carolina Dec. 8, 1818.
On the 15th, I left Staunton early in the morning. There were two men from North Carolina in the stage: and before we had quitted the town, we took up a black man. The cold weather supplied a ready topic of conversation, which soon branched off into other directions, with the usual accompaniments of yawning and spitting out of the window. The black was less accomplished, or more bashful; for he kept his saliva to himself, and when he could not resist the "catching" contagion, he placed his hand before his mouth, while he dropped the lower jaw. I put several questions to him; but he handed them over to the other passengers, and was silent. I set him down for the slave of one of the others.
At eleven o'clock we stopped for breakfast. After we had remounted, we were detained a short time. I inquired the reason, and was told we were waiting for our sable companion, who was taking his meal by himself. I found afterwards that he was a free man and plied with his two wagons between Baltimore and Tennessee, to which he belonged. His teams and wagons were worth twelve or fifteen hundred dollars. He was possessed of considerable property; and his word (the driver, who knew him well, assured me) would be taken as soon as any man's in the valley. From the carrier himself I subsequently learnt, that he had been so hurried he had not had half his breakfast; though he was charged the same price with the other passengers, who had been refreshing the inner man at their leisure, while he was cooling his heels in the passage. "If I were to travel often in this way," said the poor fellow, "I should be starved." "If I were but once in England," he added, "nothing should ever induce me to come back to this country." He could not see the natural connexion between a spare diet and a swarthy skin. He could not understand why he was to suffer, that the dignity of the American animal,"bipes implume," should not be offended. Yet, had he attempted to sit down to table with us, the landlady's gastronomic labors would all have been thrown away; the pig's face would have reddened with indignation: --the eggs would have turned rotten with horror; and the coffee would have refused obedience to the law of gravity.
We passed through a beautiful country; --the soil; in many parts, extremely good, and the farming much superior to what is to be seen on the eastern side of the ridge. The people are industrious and are addicted neither to gambling nor drinking. The farms average about 250 acres, and contain fine grazing lands. The whites work with the slaves, when there are any; and the overseers, when such are employed, participate in the labors of the field. They have no need of pistols or dirks, as the slaves are generally well treated, and shew, by the alacrity with which they handle the plough, that example is a better stimulus than the whip.
When the stage stopped to change horses, I walked on; and, meeting a slave on horseback, I entered into conversation with him. I asked him among other things, if he should like to read. "Yes, Sir," was his reply: --"if I could but read enough to understand the spelling-books the children use in the schools, I would not give up my knowledge for a thousand dollars." It was a natural feeling, and I thought of the waterman's answer to Dr. Johnson. "What would you give to know about the Argonauts?" "I would give all I have, Sir!" He was about sixty years of age --shrewd and sensible and, as far as I could judge from some of his observations, a very religious man, What he said upon the duty of submission to his lot here, and his reliance on Divine justice hereafter, would have done no discredit to the best educated white.
Lexington (where we stopped to dine) is a charming spot, about thirty-five miles from Staunton. It contains eight or nine hundred people. Some of the houses are good, and built in a neat and picturesque manner. Nothing but rock and water is wanting to make the scenery of this district perfect. With the exception of the north fork of the James river, which we forded, and the Buffalo creek, the view of which, from an eminence on the promontory it forms, is very fine, I saw little or no water. I felt, from its absence, how much beauty it adds to the landscape.
At four o'clock we arrived at Galbraith's tavern, twelve miles from Lexington, and two from the celebrated natural bridge. The roads were so rough and hilly that I was almost knocked up; yet I would have gone on thirteen miles further to Pattonsburg, if the coachman had been willing to pass over the bridge; but his vehicle was in such a state of decay, that he was afraid to venture out of his way on a bad road. I resolved therefore to wait till the next stage arrived.
The landlord of the hotel was one of the civilest and most obliging of his tribe; a class of men, be it remembered, more independent than what we are used to in Europe; as they are in these remote regions, landholders as well as innkeepers. He had a farm of more than 400 acres, which he managed with the assistance of his sons.
By this time I was tolerably well "broken in" to and by the stages of Virginia. A few hints may be useful to others. Every traveller of course must take care of himself. Let him avoid the back seats, however comfortable and alluring they may seem. If any women are taken up on the road, he must turn out, and content himself with any vacant place he can find. The "Crossbench" is the most convenient. If he is seated with his back to the horses he may console himself with the reflection that he will be less shaken there than on either of the other seats. Should the weather be hot, and he wish for shade and coolness, he must study the points of the compass; and, having ascertained the direction in which he is to move, he must take especial care that the western sun dart not his burning rays on his head. If he dread an upset, let him study the "rule of the road", --that, if the coach fall in meeting another, he may not fall under his fellow-passengers. On these occasions, those who are uppermost have some chance of saving a limb or two among the many that are broken. The lowest strata are sure to be crushed between the living matter above and the dead matter below. After all, the box is the best seat; for you not only have the benefit of the air and the prospect, and the local knowledge of the driver, who is often-particularly in Virginia --a respectable, well-informed man, but you have the advantage of reconnoitering the road, of preparing yourself for the stumps and holes, with which it is "pretty considerably" sprinkled; and, by trimming, may escape, or soften the shock with which you are threatened. With a little experience in these matters, a man will move with the carriage, as a good rider moves with his horse. After a long day's journey, he will find he has suffered much less fatigue on the box than the inside passengers.
Tired as I was, I could not resist the inclination I felt to set my eyes on the bridge before I closed them for the night. I started, therefore, on foot, to warm myself, and gratify my curiosity.
The bridge, which appears to have been left after the solid rock was broken or cut through, is, according to an estimate in an album at the adjoining hotel, 208 feet above the stream, --15 feet in thickness, at the highest point, --its span 90, and breadth 75. On each side of the bed, in which the Cedar creek runs into the James river two miles below, the rock that incloses it rises perpendicularly. Whether you look up or down the stream, the scenery is magnificent: large masses of mountain, of various forms and dimensions, and clothed to their summits in the richest verdure, rising one above another. It is some time, however, before these beauties are observed. The object that absorbs attention, when the proper station for viewing it is reached, is the bridge itself. I doubt whether the mind is not impressed, at the first sight, with higher ideas of Almighty Power, than it is by its kindred wonder at Niagara. There are no accessaries or details: the eye takes in the whole at once. No sound, but the sighing of the breeze through the surrounding forests, or the gentle murmur of the rivulet beneath, occurs to divert or distract attention. The mind of the spectator is overwhelmed in admiration and astonishment at the contemplation of that mysterious force that could thus rend the enormous mass of rock, and leave the stupendous work unfinished. He trembles, lest its completion should be instantly effected. When the first emotion has subsided, the imagination is carried back to that unknown era, when the globe was shaken to its foundation, and organized matter was, at one moment, deprived of its vitality, to assume a durability of existence coeval with the rock in which it was imbedded. The flight of time, --the duration of the world, --the insignificance of man, --the omnipotence of the Creator, --all that can humble and ennoble, pass in rapid succession through the mind, and leaves a remembrance that will quit it but with life.
I returned to the tavern in time for supper, and we passed a evening round a blazing fire; the cheering aspect of which invited us to social chat, and elicited from the master of the house and his family some curious anecdotes illustrative of the manners of the country. Many sanguinary histories were related, of the way in which the peasantry settled their disputes; their gougings and kickings and shootings, relics of colonial barbarism, that are every day becoming less frequent, by becoming more disreputable. Some of those who had figured the most conspicuously in these exploits, had met the death they had before inflicted. One, not many years ago, was shot in open day by a man he had "whipped"; and his murderer was hanged. From the delight with which these deeds of blood were narrated and listened to, I could see that the spirit which prompted them had not been altogether subdued by the punishment it had evoked, but still lingered in the bosom to appear again in some shape less abhorrent to the improved state of public feeling. The Kentuckians, it was agreed on all hands, were still addicted to these practices of the "olden time"; --an assertion that my friend the driver, had he been present, would have denied with patriotic indignation; although he bore about his person incontestable proofs of its truth, if the loss of an eye and a broken jaw are credible witnesses. According to the testimony he gave me in the morning, no people in the Union were more civil and obliging than his fellow-citizens. A man might travel from one end of Kentucky to the other without a cent in his pocket; --such was the hospitality of the inhabitants. "There is no State", said he, "where there is so much hostility." Twice did he use the same word, and with appropriate emphasis. It was well chosen. He believed what he meant, and I believed what he said.
The mountain scenery, in the immediate neighborhood of Galbraith's tavern, is very fine. From a hill in front of it, the most lovely prospect presents itself on each side. No pen or pencil can do justice to it.
The best wheat and tobacco are raised here. The latter is planted on the declivities of the mountains, after they have been cleared; and, when they have yielded two or three crops, the fields are laid down in grass, or sown with grain. When the land is likely to be exhausted in the lower grounds, it is sown with clover; which remains for two or three years, with successive dressings of gypsum, and is afterwards ploughed in. About one third of a plantation is generally in woodlands. A farm of three or four hundred acres may be cultivated with three or four hands; and will leave a net profit of six or seven hundred dollars a year, if managed with economy and prudence. Board and lodging may be had, at a tavern, for a single man, for 100 dollars a year; and, at a private house, for 75. I heard of one instance where a man, a teacher, paid but fifty for a year's board and lodging. A temperance society, that had been some time established, had produced a sensible improvement in the valley. My landlord, during the last five years, had sold a less quantity of spirits than he did in the preceding three months.
Idleness and vice are discouraged in this part of the State; and honest poverty is more respected than profligate wealth. Some young men, who were sent to the University of Charlotteville not long ago, returned with habits of dissipation ill-suited to the place of their birth; where they had been brought up in the observance of regularity and decency. They had become confirmed drunkards; and one or two of them had paid for their imprudence or misfortune with their lives.
Large droves of bullocks and swine pass through this district during the autumn. Some of the latter are purchased by the inhabitants; and a singular fact has resulted from an experiment made upon these animals, when killed after their journey. If a pig, that has travelled five or six hundred miles, be slaughtered with another that has remained at home, it will, though of the same weight before, be, when salted, twenty-five per cent. heavier than the other. An increased price is, in consequence, given for the former. The difference, perhaps, arises from this:that the "tarry-at-homes" are more full of blood and fat than the "trampers"; and a commensurate collapse after death, may account for the diminution of weight. If the meat were intended for immediate use, it would, as is well known, be injured by driving the animal, the process of putrefaction being thus accelerated. Hence it seems, under the same circumstances, that salt meat gains in quantity while fresh meat loses in quality. Labor is highly paid in this sequestered region. Some of the means adopted to lessen the inconvenience are curious, as they shew that society is not sufficiently complicated to admit of much division of labor. The farmers have their shoes made at home. The leather, often from hides of their own cattle, is dressed by tanners in the neighborhood; and an itinerant shoemaker is employed in the house, to supply the wants of the family. He has his board and lodging; and is paid so much for every pair of shoes he makes. It is found that the shoes, thus procured, are better and last longer than those that are purchased at the stores.
An industrious man can earn a dollar a day in this manner: and might, if he had but common prudence, easily lay by 200 dollars a-year, and better his condition ad libitum. But few of them have either economy or foresight. They are a drunken thoughtless set, preferring a roving life to a decent settlement, and ruining themselves by the same system which benefits their employers. It is probably owing to the dissipated habits connected with this trade, that a farmer's son is never or seldom engaged in it; though it is more profitable than almost any other that he can find. It is thus that the disreputable character of a class perpetuates itself. These are some of the many deductions to be made from the happiness of the agricultural state of society.
My landlord's sons were respectable young men, possessed of good common sense, and anxious to improve themselves. One of them was learning Latin; another laid out what money he had in the purchase of books, and was seldom, when not employed on the farm or about the house, without one of them in his hand. As for the landlady, she was one of those who "don't like to be fashed." The first night of my arrival, she indulged me, as a favor, with a cup of tea. I pleaded in vain the next day; though I assured her that coffee never agreed with me at night. In the morning, when the landlord called me, he asked how I was? --I told him, I was very unwell; the coffee having kept the awake the greater part of the night. His only reply was the vernacular ejaculation, "Is it possible!" I begged hard for some tea: he made great difficulties about it. The coffee vas all ready --some people might like tea better nor coffee --his family never drank any thing but coffee --still they would get what I wanted, but then, there was the water to boil, and that would take some time. I mention this trifling circumstance, because it illustrates a striking feature in the national character. "Uncle Sam"*
is the veriest slave of habit in existence, and dislikes trouble. He would rather put up with an inconvenience than put himself out of his way.
* This appellation corresponds with our "John Bull"; and is supposed to be derived from the initials, U. S. As the nation has not yet been able to fix upon a distinctive title, perhaps that of Caucasia would not be inappropriate. It would be expressive of the nice jealousy and guardian watchfulness with which its citizens have provided, both politically and socially, for that purity of blood and beauty of eternal form, which, when the old world is worn out, will leave, amid the wreck and confusion of degeneracy and amalgamation in the new, a large portion of the species distinguished from the swarthy tribes of Ethiopian descent. The next State admitted into the Union, might receive the name of Circassia; which, in conjunction with the new title assumed by the confederation, would invest Georgia with associations peculiarly in accordance with the feelings and principles of her people.
Before I left Galbraith's tavern, I renewed my visit to the Natural Bridge; which I had hitherto seen from the top only of the cliff. Not having discovered a ready access to the gulf below, I had quitted the spot, on my first visit, with the intention of exploring the passage at a future time. I found the view from beneath very noble and imposing; --but not, I think, after making allowance for first impressions, so grand as that from above. The chasm appears less; and the archway suggests the idea that it is the work of art, effected by blasting or manual labor. Large fragments of rock have fallen from the sides, and lie dispersed around. The bridge itself is not endangered by these successive disruptions, as they serve merely to widen the lower part of the aperture, without weakening the foundation. I was sitting on one of these fragments, when a young man and a lad approached. Finding I was from England, the former very kindly inquired what my name might be. I was used to this sort of compliment; an old man, at the tavern, a few hours before, having, to use his own phrase, "axed me" where I was "raised." I repaid the youth's civility with interest, and let him see that his trade was as interesting to me as his name. After these preliminaries, Mr. Jones, the blacksmith, and I got on together as amicably as the shortness of our acquaintance would admit of. Having crossed the stream, we all three returned to the road above, by another pathway; climbing the precipice at the risk of our necks. The boy, who had the advantage of being without shoes and stockings, pointed out, as we were ascending, the spot where a man, who had fallen from above, had been dashed to pieces; and his companion told me not to look back. The precaution was needless: I knew what I was about. A rotten stump, or a loose stone, might have betrayed the confiding hand or foot; and my friendship with Mr. Jones would have ended more abruptly than it began. This extraordinary production would, in most other countries, have been ascribed, not to Nature, but to her arch enemy.
On the seventeenth I left Mr. Galbraith and his tavern. The former fully deserved the title I had heard bestowed upon him. Though short in stature and plain in person, he was "a fine man," --what the French call bon enfant --a "good fellow,'' --a worthy man. The phrase "brave homme" perhaps corresponds better to the expression, both in its meaning and in the change it has undergone. A great part of Virginia was settled by Cavalier families, as may be seen by the names of the counties. Bottetourt, --Fauquier, --Albemarle, --Buckingham, --Russell, &c. In those times it was personal show --as it was in the feudal times, personal bravery --that constituted excellence, and commanded admiration. Respect is now paid to different qualities; but its language is retained, while its object is changed; and the same appellation, which was formerly bestowed upon frivolous accomplishments and the sterner virtues, is now applied to that which is amiable in its motives and useful in its results. It is thus that modern terms often illustrate ancient manners; and the signs of barbarism become the landmarks of civilization.
The stage had by this time been repaired; and the driver would have wanted an excuse, had he wanted gallantry, for refusing the request of a young lady to take the road over the bridge: The latter was hardly more antiquated than the former; but, fortunately, not so dilapidated. We were nearly shaken to pieces: --the lady screamed, the driver swore at his horses, and I could hardly keep my seat on the box. The coachman had, a short time before, been thrown off at the very spot where we were, and confined to his bed for a fortnight. I defy the best whip in old or new England, --whether he come from Boston in Lincolnshire, or Boston in Massachusetts, --whether he belong to "the four-in-hand club," or "the people's line," to steer safely along the road we came. The bridge alone, though the shrubs and trees, which have sprung from its crevices, conceal, in some degree, the abyss below, would prove a "pons asinorum" to many who are at their ease in the bustle of Broadway, or the intricacies of Bond Street.
By eight o'clock we reached Buchanan, a small place separated, by the James river, from Pattonsburg, another small place; both together containing a population of five or six hundred souls. The house we put up at contained few rooms, and was crowded with people; to whom our vehicle brought an accession of some half dozen. Finding we must sleep in company, and perhaps in couples, I prevailed upon the landlord to put a mattrass for me on some chairs in the sittingroom. My window, which was on the ground-floor and looked to the public road, was, as well as the front door, left open all the night; and some hawkers, who arrived at the same time with ourselves, left two caravans, filled with goods, in the public street. One of them told me he always did so, and never lost anything.
Many of the houses have no locks or bolts to them. This is the case through the greater part, if not the whole, of Western Virginia. As the slaves are allowed to go out of a night, and are well fed, it is but fair to conclude, from this general exposure of valuable property, that they are not "naturally thieves," as they are said to be by those who starve them. There are some places, in the East, where mutton is not to be had "for love or money," --because the slaves are sheepstealers. --When there are two ways of accounting for a fact, a man would hardly choose that which would reflect discredit upon himself. A stranger, especially when he has met with hospitality, easily believes what he is told by those who have practical experience; and he leaves the country, convinced that the slave is characterised by every vice, and his owner by every virtue, under heaven.
This said hospitality has a wonderful effect in sharpening the discriminating faculties of the mind. A good dinner opens the eyes of a British officer in Jamaica, as it opens the heart of an alderman in London. When a man crams you with turtle-soup and drenches you with claret, you have no doubt of his benevolence.
There is a very perceptible difference, in point of external manners, between the north and the south. The people in the latter are very courteous and polite to strangers, and appear to take a pleasure in rendering assistance or giving information. Not that there is any want of good feeling in the former, but that it exhibits itself less spontaneously and with fewer marks of an obliging disposition. There is, however, in both sections, a custom, to which a man habituated to European usages is not soon or easily reconciled. It is that of making him repeat what he says. At Buchanan it was more provoking than usual; the chief word or thing indicated in a question being re-echoed, as if to give trouble at the moment it was acknowledged to be unnecessary. For example --"Pray can I have a bed in your house to-night?" "Bed?" "Yes! can I have a bed," &c. Again: "How far is it to Fincastle?" "Fincastle?" "Yes! how far is it to Fincastle?" Whether it proceed from indolence or from a want of that attention to the feelings of others, which is at once a mark and a measure of good-breeding, I know not; but the practice is so general as to stamp the national character with a peculiarity almost unknown in other countries; where not to catch the meaning of another's words is thought an impoliteness that requires an apology: --"I beg your pardon," or some form of speech of that kind, intimates that what you have said has not been comprehended. Here, whether you are comprehended or not, and before you have finished your sentence, you are greeted with "Sir?" --a word, however weak and diminutive, that is more variously and more frequently in use than any in the English vocabulary --as interrogative, appellative, distinctive, &c. I once asked an American, with whom I was in frequent habit of conversing, if he was deaf?" Not in the least," was his reply; "on the contrary, not a word escapes me." "I thought you were so," I said, "because you make me repeat my words so often." "Why! as for that, the current of my ideas was running another way --I was thinking of something else." In every country men prefer their own thoughts to another's: there are few where it is not thought a breach of good manners to tell him so.
Whatever jargon you talk to a Frenchman, he will rarely or never presume to correct you; while the very word you have used will be returned you by an American, with his revised pronunciation. This is one of the results that arise from two nations speaking the same language. I happened to say, I was rather deaf, when I was made to repeat the word two or three times. At last I was spared further trouble by the exclamation: " Oh! I understand you now --you are deef." If I had said I would rather heevan would deprive me of breeth than deprive the of hearing, or that I would rather be deed than deef, he would naturally have concluded that I intended to insult him. Another day I was told I was in error. I had no boils, as I asserted --I was plagued with biles. Analogy has nothing to do with these matters. I had as much right to require conformity from either of these innovators as he from me. If it be self conceit that refuses the correction, what is it that offers it?
Fincastle, at which place I passed a couple of days, contains about seven or eight hundred souls, and is a neat town, with pavement for foot-passengers --a luxury not to be had in places of much greater pretension. The inhabitants are remarkably civil and courteous, bowing to you, and yielding the wall as they pass.
If I am to credit the account I received of the manners that prevail among the mountaineers, they resemble those of the Swiss and Welch, who are placed in similar circumstances. This is a curious fact for the moral physiologist. It would seem that "the huntress Dian" has as few votaries in the sequestered valley as in the crowded city; and that her altars are deserted, whether there be too few people to encourage virtue, or too many to resist vice.
The evening before I left Fincastle, a coach-load of passengers, male and female, arrived. The women were well-dressed and well-looking, but bold and rather too free; while their companions made themselves offensively conspicuous, by their swearing and coarse manners. I found, afterwards, that they had all come from New Orleans, where one of the men resided; that they were slave-traders, and that one of the party had been to that city with a coffle of 200 human beings. The man, whose appearance was the least prepossessing among these repulsive faces, had, not long before, lost his father, and had evinced the utmost indifference and inattention to his parent during his last moments. He had been seen, a few days after, dancing and carousing at an infamous house in Lewisburg. Yet this "young gentleman" may one day soar or creep to the highest point of the social pyramid; the same hands that now hold the lash of the driver, may one day hold the reins of government: and a slave-dealer may again lay the foundation of his fortune at New Orleans and complete it at Washington.
On the 20th I left Fincastle for Lewisburg, at half past four in the morning. The road was good, and the scenery magnificent, as far as the Alleghany mountains, after which the country became less interesting. Having got through the pass, opposite Caldwell's Mountain, which we had on our left, and which presented the finest Alpine views as we ascended and came down, we arrived at Craig's Creek, which we forded; and, proceeding by the side of Barber's Creek, which rushed impetuously through its rocky channel, to mix with the former, and carry their joint tribute to the James river, we stopped to breakfast, at Hanly's Tavern --fourteen miles from Fincastle --a very romantic spot. Here we found an excellent repast prepared for us; --fish from the stream at our feet, and venison from the mountains above, with coffee that a Parisian would not have found fault with.
The innkeeper here contracts to feed the horses and the driver of the stage for 350 dollars a year, in addition to the profit he derives from the passengers, who take their meals at his house. For the last six months there had been 1200 registered in the books of the proprietors. They have to pay 450 dollars a year for tolls between Fincastle and Lewisburg --a distance of fifty-five miles; and as the fare is but four dollars and a half, and the receipts uncertain in amount, (I was the only passenger,) one would think the establishment could not pay very well. Where the contractor has not the benefit of providing for the passengers, he is paid 500 dollars a year.
miles further, we came to a pass of seven miles in length, four of which
were contained in the ascent. The sky had become hazy when we reached the
top; and the prospect, which is said to be very grand, was lost to us.
The trees were, many of them, in their winter garb --the dog-wood and the
sugar-maple being alone in leaf. The scenery was of a different description
from that I had hitherto seen. There was plenty of water; and here and
there some picturesque masses of rock. The range of view was not so extensive;
the mountains were more elevated, and there were fewer signs of cultivation.
We forded many creeks, --one of them, in passing the Alleghany, no less
than twenty-seven times in five miles. This pass has nothing remarkable
to distinguish it; there was no view from the highest point, and the descent
had fewer features of beauty or grandeur than many I had seen previously.
Some of the mountains, particularly those we saw in the early part of the
day, were very singular both in form and color. As
they rose from the valley, they were broken into ridges; the higher parts
of which were covered with pines, while the intervening declivities were
clothed with trees of a lighter shade; thus presenting a ribbed surface
along their whole length, the alternate tints running in parallel lines,
with a degree of order and regularity at once fantastic and beautiful.
The mountains, whether radiating from a common point, or ascending in opposite
lines, were separated by narrow valleys, embosomed in trees, and forming
an uneven but continuous mass of verdure. Nothing can be imagined more