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Full text of "Letters From An American Farmer"

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Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, 
In thy most need to go by thy side. 



EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY 
No. 640 



TRAVEL & TOPOGRAPHY 



LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN FARMER 

BY HECTOR ST. JOHN DE CREVECCEUR 

INTRODUCTION AND NOTES BY WARREN 

BARTON BLAKE 



MICHEL-GUILLAUME JEAN DE CREVE- 
CCFUR, commonly known as Hector St. 
John de Crevecceur, was born in 173$ in 
Normandy. After spending some time in 
England he emigrated to America and settled 
in 176^ in New York State. After the 
Revolution he became French Consul at 
New York. He returned to Europe and 
died in 1813. 



LETTERS FROM 
AN AMERICAN FARMER 




HECTOR ST. JOHN DE CREVECCEUR 



LONDON: J. M. DENT & SONS LTD. 
NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO. INC. 



All nVJ,ts reserved 
Mj'lc in Gie.it Britain 

by 
Thr Temple Press Letchworth 

For 

j. M. Dent & Sons Ltd. 

Airline House Bedford St. London 

HrM published in this edition 1912 

Last reprinted 19^1 



INTRODUCTION 

MORE than eighty years ago Hazlitl wrote that of the three 
notable writers whom the eighteenth century had produced, 
in the North American colonies, one was " the author 
(whoever he was) of the American Farmer 1 P 6 Letters.'' 
Crevecceur was that unknown author; and Hazlitt said 
further of him that he rendered, in his own vividly charac- 
teristic manner, " no! only the objects, but the feelings, of 
a new coin; try/' Great is the essayist's relish for passages 
descriptive of " a battle between two snakes," of " the 
dazzling, almost invisible flutter of the humming-bird's 
wing," ol the manners of " the Nan tucket people, their 
frank simplicity, and festive lejoicings after the penis arid 
hardships of the whale- fishing." " The power to sym- 
pathise witli nature, without thinking of ourselves or 
others, if it is not a definition of genius, comes very near 
to it," writes Hazlitt of our author. And his references to 
Crevecccnr are closed with the remark: " We have said 
enough of this ILLUSTRIOUS OBSCURE; for it is the rule of 
criticism to praise none but the over-praised, and to off or 
fresh incense to the idol of the day." 

Others, at least, have followed that " rule of criticism," 
and the American Farmer has long enjoyed undisturbed 
seclusion. Only once since the eighteenth century lias 
th^re been a new edition of his Letters, that were first 
published at London in 1782, and reissued, with a few 
corrections, in the next year. The original American 
edition of this book about America was that published at 
Philadelphia in 1793, and there was no reprint till 1904,* 
wh^n careless editing did all it could to destroy the value 
of the work, the name of whose very author was misstated. 

1 References may be found to American editions of 170.1 and 1798, 
but no copies of such editions are preserved in any library to which 
the editor has had access. 



viii Letters from an American Farmer 

Yet the facts which we have concerning him are few enough 
to merit truthful presentation. 



Except by naturalisation, the author of Letters from an 
American Farmer was not an American; and he was no 
ordinary farmer. Yet why quarrel with him for the 
naming of his book, or for his signing it " J. Hector Saint- 
John," when the " Hector " of his title-pages and American 
biographers was only a prenom de faintaisie ? We owe 
some concessions to the author of so charming a book, to 
the eighteenth-century Thoreau. His life is certainly more 
interesting than the real Thoreau's and would be, even if 
it did not present many contradictions. Our records of 
that life are in the highest degree inexact; he himself is 
wanting in accuracy as to the date of more than one event. 
The records, however, agree that Cr^vecoeur belonged to the 
petite noblesse of Normandy. The date of his birth was 
January 31, 1735, the place was Caen, and his full name 
(his great-grandson and biographer vouches for it) was 
Michel -Guillaume- Jean de Crevecoeur. The boy was well 
enough brought up, but without more than the attention 
that his birth gave him the right to expect; he divided the 
years of his boyhood between Caen, where his father's 
town-house stood, and the College du Mont, where the 
Jesuits gave him his education. A letter dated 1785 and 
addressed to his children tells us all that we know of his 
school-days; though it is said, too, that he distinguished 
himself in mathematics. " If you only knew," the reminis- 
cent father of a faniily exclaims in this letter, " in what 
shabby lodging, in what a dark and chilly closet, I was 
mewed up at your age; with what severity I was treated; 
how I was fed and dressed ! " Already his powers of 
observation, that were so to distinguish him, were quickened 
by his old-world milieu. 

" From my earliest youth," he wrote in 1803, " I had a 
passion for taking in all the antiques that I met with: 
moth-eaten furniture, tapestries, family portraits, Gothic 
manuscripts (that I had learned how to decipher), had for 
me an indefinable charm. A little later on, I loved to 



Introduction ix 

walk in the solitude of cemeteries; to examine the tombs 
and to trace out their mossy epitaphs. I knew most of the 
churches of the canton, the date of their foundation, and 
what they contained of interest in the way of pictures and 
sculptures." 

The boy's gift of accurate and keen observation was to 
be tested soon by a very different class of objects: there 
were to be no crumbling saints and canvases of Brd- 
Chamber Grooms for him to stud)'' in the forests of America ; 
no reminders of the greatness of his country's past, and 
the honour of his family. 

From school, the future woodsman passed over into 
England. A distant relative was living near Salisbury; 
for one reason or another the boy was sent thither to finish 
his schooling. From England, with what motives we know 
not, he set out for the New World, where he was to spend 
his busiest and happiest d ays. In the Bibliothcca A mericana 
Nova Rich makes the statement that Crevecoeur was b\:t 
sixteen when he made the plunge, and others have followed 
Rich in this error. The lad's age was really not less than 
nineteen or twenty. According to the family legend, his 
ship touched at Lisbon on the way out; one cannot decide 
whether this was just before or immediately after the great 
earthquake. Then to New France, where he joined Mont- 
calm. Entering the service as cadet, he advanced to the 
rank o1 lieutenant ; was mentioned in the Gazette ; shared 
hi the French successes; drew maps of the forests and 
block-houses that found their way to the king's cabinet; 
served with Montcalm in the attack upon Fort William 
Henry. With that the record is broken off: we can less 
definitely associate his name with the humiliation of the 
French in America than with their brief triumphs. Yet 
it is quite certain, says Robert de Crdvecoeur, his descendant, 
that he did not return to France with the rag-tag of the 
defeated army. Quebec fell before Wolfe's attack in 
September 1759; at some time in the course of the year 
1760 we may suppose the young officer to have entered the 
British colonies; to have adopted his family name of 
" Saint John " (Saint-Jean), and to have gradually worked 
his way south, probably by the Hudson. The reader of the 
Letters hardly supposes him to have enjoyed his frontier 



x Letters from an American Farmer 

life; nor i* there any means of knowing how much of that 
life it was his fortune to lead. In time, he found himself as 
far south as Pennsylvania. He visited Shippensbnrg and 
Lancaster and Carlisle; perhaps he resided at or near one 
of these towns. Many years later, when his son Louis 
purchased a farm of two hundred acres from Chancellor 
Livingstone, at Navesink, near the Blue Mountains, Creve- 
creur the elder was still remembered; and it may have 
been at this epoch that he visited the place. During the 
term of hi.s military service under Montcalm, Crevecceur 
saw something of the Great Lakes and the outlying country; 
prior to hi* experience as a cultivator, and, indeed , after 
he had settled down as such, he " travelled like Plato," even 
visited Bermuda, by his own account. Not until 1764, 
however, have we any positive evidence of his whereabouts; 
it wae. in April of that year that he took out naturalisation 
paper? at New V.;L Some months later, he installed 
himself on the (arm variously called Greycourt and Pine- 
Hill, in the same state; he drained a great marsh there, and 
soems to have practised agriculture upon a generous scale. 
The certificate of the marriage of Cre"veco?ur to Mehi table 
Tippet, of Yonkers, is dated September 20, 1769; and of 
this union three children were the issue. And more than 
children: for with the marriage ceremony once performed 
bv the worthy Tfitard, a clergyman of New York, formerly 
settled over a French Reformed Church at Charleston, 
South Carolina, Crevecoeur is more definitely than ever the 
" American Farmer "; he has thrown in his lot with that 
new country; his children are to be called after their 
parent's adopted name, Saint-John; the responsibilities of 
the adventurer are multiplied; his life in America has 
become a matter more easy to trace and richer, perhaps, 
in meaning. 

II 

One of the historians ol American literature has written 
that these Letters furnish " a greater number of delightful 
pages than any other book written in America during the 
eighteenth century, save only Franklin's Autobiography.* 9 
A safe compliment, this; and yet does not the very empti- 



Introduction xi 

ness of American annals during the eighteenth century 
make for our cherishing all that they offer of the vivid and 
the significant? Professor Moses Coit Tyler long ago sug- 
gested what was the literary influence of the American 
Farmer, whose " idealised treatment of rural life in America 
wrought quite traceable effects upon the imaginations of 
Campbell, Byron, Sou they, Coleridge, and furnished not 
a few materials for such captivating and airy schemes of 
literary colonisation in America as that of ' Pantisocracy.' " 
Hazlitt praised the book to his friends and, as we have seen, 
commended it to readers of the Edinburgh Review. Lamb 
mentions it in one of his letters which is already some 
distinction. Yet when was a book more completely lost to 
popular viow even among the books that have deserved 
oblivion ? The Letters were published, ail the same, at 
Belfast and Dublin and Philadelphia, as well as at London; 
they were recast in French by the author, translated into 
German and Dutch by pirating penny-a-liners, and given a 
" sequel " by a publisher at Paris. 1 

The American Farmer made his first public appearance 
cle\ en years before Chateaubriand found a publisher for his 
E'^ai sur les Revolutions, wherein the great innovator first 
used the American materials that he worked over more 
effectively in his travels, tales, and memoirs. In Saint- 
John de Crevecu;iir, we have a contemporary -a corre- 
spondent, even of Franklin; but if our author shared 
many of poor Richard's interests, one may travel far 
without finding a more complete antithesis to that common- 
sense philosopher. 

Cievecceur expresses mild wonderment that, while so 
many travellers visit Italy and " the town of Pompey under 
ground," few come to the new continent, where may be 
studied, not what is found in books, but " the humble 
rudiments and embryos of society spreading everywhere, 
the recent foundations of our towns, and the settlements of 
so many rural districts." In the course of his sixteen or 
seventeen years' experience as an American farmer he 
himself studied all these matters; and he gives us a 

1 Oitvrage pour sernr de suite an*. I ettrcs d'ufi cultivateur Amcrmnn, 
Paris, 1785. The work so offered seems to have been a translation of 
John Filson's History of Kentucky (Wilmington, Del., 1764). 



xii Letters from an Amei ican Farmer 

charming picture of them. Though his book has very 
little obvious system, its author describes for us frontier 
and farm; the ways of the Nan tucket fishermen and their 
intrepid wives; life in the Middle Colonies; the refinements 
and atrocities of Charleston. Crdvecoeur's account of the 
South (that he knew but superficially and who knows? 
more, it may be, by Tetard's anecdotes than through 
personal knowledge) is the least satisfactory part of his 
performance. One feels it to be the most " literary " 
portion of a book whose beauty is naivete. But whether 
we accept or reject the story of the negro malefactor hung 
in a cage from a tree, and pecked at by crows, it is certain 
that the traveller justly regarded slavery as the one con- 
spicuous blot on the new country's shield. CreVecreur was 
not an active abolitionist, like that other naturalised French- 
man, Benezet of Philadelphia; he had his own slaves to 
work his northern farms; he was, however, a man of 
humane feelings one who " had his doubts." 1 And his 
narrative description of life in the American colonies hi the 
years immediately preceding the Revolution is one that 
social historians cannot ignore. 

Though our Farmer emphasises his plainness, and 
promises the readers of his Letters only a matter-of-fact 
account of his pursuits, he has his full share of eighteenth- 
century " sensibility." Since he is, however, at many 
removes from the sophistications of London and Paris, he 
is moved, not by the fond behaviour of a lap-dog, or the 
" little arrangements " carters make with the bridles of 
their faithful asses (that they have driven to death, belike), 
but by such matters as he finds at home. " When I con- 
template my wife, by my fire-side, while she either spins, 
knits, darns, or suckles our child, I cannot describe the 
various emotions of love, of gratitude, or conscious pride 
which thrill in my heart, and often overflow in voluntary 
tears ..." He is like that old classmate's of Fitzgerald's, 
buried deep " in one of the most out-of-the-way villages in 
all England," for if he goes abroad, " it is always involun- 

1 In his Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie (sic) et dans VEtat de New 
York (Paris, 1801) slavery is severely attacked by Crdvecoeur. His 
descendant, Robert de Crevecceur, refers to him as " a friend of 
Wilberforce." 



Introduction xiii 

tary. I never return home without feeling some pleasant 
emotion, which I often suppress as useless and foolish." 
He has his reveries; but they are pure and generous ; their 
subject is the future of his children. In midwinter, instead 
of trapping and " murthering " the quail, " often in the 
angles of the fences where the motion of the wind prevents 
the snow from settling, I carry them both chaff and grain: 
the one to feed them, the other to prevent their tender feet 
from freezing fast to the earth as I have frequently observed 
them to do." His love of birds is marked: this in those 
provinces of which a German traveller wrote: " In the 
thrush kind America is poor; there is only the red-breasted 
robin. . . . There are no sparrows. Very few birds nest 
in the woods; a solemn stillness prevails through them, 
interrupted only by the screaming of the crows." It is 
good, after such a passage as this has been quoted, to set 
down what Crdvecoeur says of the bird kingdom. " In the 
spring," he writes, " I generally rise from bed about that 
indistinct interval which, properly speaking, is neither night 
nor day: " fur then it is that he enjoys " the universal 
vocal choir." He continues more and more lyrically: 
" Who can listen unmoved, to the sweet love- tales of our 
robins, told from tree to tree ? Or to the shrill cat birds ? 
The sublime accents of the thrush from on high, always 
retard ray steps, that I may listen to the delicious music." 
And the Farmer is no less interested in " the astonishing 
art which all birds display in the construction of their nests, 
ill provided as we may suppose them with proper tools ; 
their neatness, their convenience." At some time during 
his American residence he gathered the materials for an 
unpublished study of ants; and his bees proved an unfailing 
source of entertainment. " Their government, their in- 
dustry, their quarrels, their passions, always present me 
with something new," he writes; adding that he is most 
often to be found, in hours of rest, under the locust tree 
where his beehive stands. "By their movements," says 
h~, " T can predict the weather, and can tell the day of their 
warming." When other men go hunting game, he goes 
bee-hunting. Such are the matters he tells of in his 
Letters. 

One difference from the stereotyped " sensibility " of the 



xiv Letters from an American Farmer 

old world one may discover in the openness of Cr&vecoeur's 
heart; and that is the completeness of his interest in all 
the humbler sorts of natural phenomena. Nature is, for 
him, no mere bundle of poetic stage-properties, soiled by 
much handling, but something fresh and inviting and full 
of interest to a man alive. He takes more pleasure in 
hunting bees than in expeditions with his dogs and gun; 
the king-birds destroy his bees but, he adds, they drive 
the crows away. Ordinarily he could not persuade himself 
to shoot them. On one occasion, however, he fired at a 
more than commonly impertinent specimen, " and im- 
mediately opened his maw, from which I took 171 bees; 
I laid them all on a blanket in the suri, and to my great 
surprise fifty-four returned to life, licked themselves clean, 
and joyfully went back to the hive, where they probably 
informed their companions of such an adventure and 
escape, as I believe had never happened before to American 
bees." Must one regard this as a fable ? It is by no means 
as remarkable a yarn as one may find told by other 
naturalists of the same century. There is, for example, that 
undated letter of John Bartram's, in which he makes 
inquiries of his brother William concerning " Ye Wonderful 
Flower; " 1 there is, too, Kalm's report of Bartram's bear: 
" When a bear catches a cow, he kills her in the following 
manner: he bites a hole into the hide and blows with all 
his power into it, till the animal swells excessively and dies; 
for the air expands greatly between the flesh and the hide." 
After these fine fancies, where is the improbability of 
Crevecneur's modest adaptation of the Jonah-allegory that 
he applies to the king-bird and his bees? The episode 
suggests, for that matter, a chapter in Mitchell's My Farm 
at Edgcwood. Mitchell, a later American farmer, describes 
the same king-birds, the same bees; has, too, the same 
supremely gentle spirit. " 1 have not the heart to shoot at 
the king-birds; nor do I enter very actively into the battle 
of the bees. ... I give them fair play, good lodging, 
limitless flowers, willows bending (as Virgil advises) into 
the quiet water of a near pool ; I have even read up the 
stories of a poor blind Huber, who so dearly loved the bees, 

1 See " A Botanical Marvel," in The Nation (New York), August 5. 
1909, and Jsiote vii. in this book (p. 239). 



Introduction xv 

and the poem of Giovanni Rucellai, for their benefit." Can 
the reader state, without stopping to consider, which author 
it was that wrote thus Mitchell or Crevecoeur ? Certainly 
it is the essential modernity of the earlier writer's style that 
most impresses one, after the charm of his pictures. His 
was the age of William Livingston later Governor of the 
State of New Jersey; and in the very year when a London 
publisher was bringing out the first edition of the Farmer's 
Letters, Livingston, described on his title-page as a " young 
gentleman educated at Yale College," brought out his 
Philosophic Solitude at Trenton, in his native state. It is 
worth quoting Philosophic Solitude for the sake of the 
comparison to be drawn between Crevecoeur's prose and 
contemporary American verse: 

" Let ardent heroes seek renowii in arms, 
Pant after fame, and rush to war's alarms . . . 
Mine be the pleasures of a rural life." 

The thought is, after all, the same as that which we have 
found less directly phrased in Crevecoeur. But let us quote 
the lines that follow the exordium now we should find the 
poet unconstrained and fancy-free: 

" Me to sequestred scenes, ye muses, guide, 
Where nature wantons in her virgin-pride; 
To mossy banks edg'd round with op'ning flow'rs, 
Elysian fields, and ainaranthm bow'rs. . . . 

" Welcome, ye shades! all hail, ye vernal blooms! 
Ye bow'ry thickets, and prophetic glooms! 
Ye forests hail! ye solitary woods. . . ." 

and the " solitary woods " (rhyming with " floods ") are a 
good place to leave the " young gentleman educated at 
Yale College." Livingston was, plainly enough, a poet of 
his time and place. He had a fine eye for Nature seen 
through library windows. He echoed Goldsmith and a 
whole line of British poets echoed them atrociously. 

That one finds no " echoes " in Crevecceur is one of our 
reasons for praising his spontaneity and vigour. He did 
not import nightingales into his America, as some of the 
poets did. He blazed away, rather, toward our present 
day appreciation of surrounding nature which was not 
banal then. Crevecoeur's honest and unconven tionaliscd 



xvi Letters from an American Farmer 

love of his rural environment is great enough to bridge the 
difference between the years 1782 and 1912. It is as easy 
for us to pass a happy evening with him as it was for 
Thomas Campbell, figuring to himself a realisation of 
Cowley's dreams and of Rousseau's poetic seclusion ; " till 
at last," in Southey's words, "comes an ill-looking Indian 
with a tomahawk, and scalps me a most melancholy proof 
that society is very bad." It is the freshness, the youthful- 
ness, of these Letters, after their century and more of dust- 
gathering, that is least likely to escape us. And this 
" Farmer in Pennsylvania " is almost as unmistakably of 
kin with good Gilbert White of Selborne as he is the 
American Thoreau's eighteenth- century forerunner. 

Ill 

It is time, indeed, that we made the discovery that 
Crdvecoeur was a modern. He was, too, a dweller in the 
young republic even before it was a republic. Twice a 
year he had " the pleasure of catching pigeons, whose 
numbers are sometimes so astonishing as to obscure the sun 
in their flight." There is, then, no poetic licence about 
Longfellow's description, in Evangeline, of how 

" A pestilence fell on the city 

Presaged by wondrous signs, and mostly by flocks of wild pigeons, 
Darkening the sun in their flight, with naught in their craws but an 
acorn." 

Longfellow could have cited as his authority for this flight 
of pigeons Mathew Carey's Record of the Malignant Fever 
lately Prevalent, published at Philadelphia, which, to be 
sure, discusses a xlifferent epidemic, but tells us that 
" amongst the country people, large quantities of wild 
pigeons in the spring are regarded as certain indications of 
an unhealthy summer. Whether or not this prognostic 
has ever been verified, I cannot tell. But it is very certain 
that during the last spring the numbers of these birds 
brought to market were immense. Never, perhaps, were 
there so many before." 

Carey wrote in 1793, the year, as has been noted, of the 
first American reprint of the Letters, that had first been 
published at London. Carey was himself Crdvecoeur's 



Introduction xvii 

American publisher; and he may well have thought as he 
wrote the lines quoted of Crevecoeur's earlier pigeons 
" obscuring the sun in their flight." Crevecceur had by 
this time returned to France, and was never more to ply the 
avocations of the American farmer. In the interval, much 
had happened to this victim of both the revolutions. 
Though the Letters are distinguished by an idyllic temper, 
over them is thrown the shadow of impending civil war. 
The Farmer was a man of peace, for all his experience under 
Montcalm in Canada (and even there his part was rather an 
engineer's than a combatant's); he long hoped, therefore, 
that peaceful counsels would prevail, and that England and 
the colonies would somehow come to an understanding 
without hostilities. Then, after the Americans had boldly 
broken with the home government, he lent them all his 
sympathy but not his arms. He had his family to watch 
over; likewise his two farms, one in Orange County, New 
York, one in New Jersey. As it was, the Indians in the 
royal service burned his New Jersey estate; and after his 
first return to France (he was called thither by his father, 
we are told, though we know nothing of the motives of this 
recall) he entered upon a new phase of his career. " After 
his first return to France," I have said, as if that had been 
an entirely simple matter. One cannot here describe all 
its alleged difficulties; his arrest at New York as a sus- 
pected spy (though after having secured a pass from the 
American commander, General MacDougal, he had secured 
a second pass from General Clinton, and permission to 
embark for France); his detention in the provost's prison 
in New York; the final embarkation with his oldest son 
this on September i, 1780; the shipwreck which he de- 
scribed as occurring off the Irish coast; his residence for 
some months in Great Britain, and during a part of that 
time in London, where he sold the manuscript of the 
Letters for thirty guineas. One would like to know 
Crevecoeur's emotions on finally reaching France and joining 
his father and relatives at Caen. One would like to 
describe his romantic succour of five American seamen, who 
had escaped from an English prison and crossed the Channel 
in a sloop to Normandy. A cousin of one of these seamen, 
a Captain Fellowes of Boston, was later to befriend Creve- 



xviii Letters from an American Farmer 

creur's daughter and younger son in the new country; that 
was after the Loyalists and their Indian allies had destroyed 
the Farmer's house at Pine Hill, after his wife had fled to 
Westchester with her two children, and had died there soon 
after, leaving them unprotected. But all this must, in 
nautical phrase, "go by the board/' including the novel 
founded upon the episode. Nor can we linger over Creve- 
coenr's entry into polite society, both in the Norman capital 
and at Paris. Fancy the returned prodigal if one may 
so describe him in the salon of Madame d'Houdetot, 
Rousseau's former mistress! He was fairly launched, this 
American Farmer, in the society of the lettres. 

" Twice a week/' he wrote, some years after, " I went 
with M. de Turgot to see the Duchesse de Beauvilliers, his 
sister; and another twice-a-week I went with him to the 
Comte de Buffon's. ... It was at the table of M. de 
BufTon, it was in his salon, during long winter evenings, that 
I was awakened once more to the graces, the beauties, the 
timid purity of our tongue, which, during my long sojourn 
in North America, had become foreign to me, and of which 
I had almost lost command though not the memory." 

Madame d'Houdetot presented Crdvecoeur to the families 
of La Rochefoucauld, Liancourt, d'Estissac, Breteuil, 
Rohan-Chabot, Beauvau, Necker; to the academicians 
d'Alembert, La Harpe, Grimm, Suard, Rulbriere; to the 
poet-academician Delille. We have in the Memoircs of 
Brissot an allusion to his entrance into this society, under 
the wing of his elderly protectress: 

" Proud of possessing an American savage, she wished to form him, 
and to launch him in society. He had the good sense to refuse and 
to confine himself to the picked society of men of letters." 

It was at a later period that Brissot and Crdvecceur were to 
meet; their quarrel, naturally, came later still. 

Madame d'Houdetot did more than entertain the Farmer, 
whose father had been one of her oldest friends. She 
secured his nomination as Consul-General to the United 
States, now recognised by France; it was at New York that 
he took up residence. Through the influence of Madame 
d'Houdetot and her friends, he retained the appointment 
through the stormy years that followed, though in the end 



Introduction xix 

he was obliged to make way for a successor more in sym- 
pathy with the violent republicanism of the age. Through- 
out the years of the French Revolution, the ex-farmer lived 
a life of retirement, and, if never of conspicuous danger, of 
embarrassment enough, and of humiliation. We need not 
discuss those years spent at Paris; or the visits paid, after 
the close of the Revolution, to his son-in-law and daughter, 
for his daughter Frances- America was married to a French 
Secretary of Legation, who became a Count of the Empire. 
Now he was in Paris or the suburbs; now in London, or 
Munich. Five years of the Farmer's later life were spent 
at the Bavarian capital ; Maximilian entertained him there, 
and told him that he had read his book with the keenest 
pleasure and great profit too. He busied himself in pre- 
paring his three-volume Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie 
(sic) et dans I'Etat de New York, and in adding to his paper 
on potato culture, 1 a second on the false acacia; but his 
best work was done and he knew it. Crevecceur lived on 
until 1813, dying in the same year with Madame d'Houdetot, 
who was so much his elder. He paid a worthy tribute to 
that lady's character; perhaps we do her an injustice in 
knowing her only for the liaison with Jean- Jacques. He 
died on November 12, 1813: member of agricultural 
societies and of the Academy (section of moral and political 
science), and of Franklin's Philosophical Society at Phila- 
delphia. A town in Vermont had been named St. Johns- 
bury in his honour; he had the freedom of more than one 
New England city. It is, none the less, as the author of 
the Letters from an American Farmer, published in 1782, 
and written, for the most part, years before that date, that 
we remember him so far as we do remember. 

IV 

Much remains unsaid much, even, of the essential. 
Some of the facts are still unknown ; others may be looked 
for in the biography written by his great-grandson, Robert 
de CreVecceur, and published at Paris some thirty years 
ago. There is hardly occasion to discuss here what Crdve- 
cceur did, as consul at New York, to encourage the exchange 
1 Ttaitt de la Culture dcs Pommes de Tcrre, 1782. 



xx Letters from an American Farmer 

of French manufactures and American exports; or to tell 
of his packet-line the first established between New York 
and a French port; or to set down the story of his children; 
or to describe those last sad years, at home and abroad, 
after the close of his consular career. There is no room at 
all for the words of praise that were spoken of the Letters 
by Franklin and Washington, who recommended them to 
intending immigrants as a faithful, albeit " highly coloured " 
picture. We must let the writings of the American Farmer 
speak for themselves: they belong, after all, to literature. 

It was a modest man a modest life; a life filled, none 
the less, with romantic incident. All this throws into relief 
the beauty of its best fruits. Cr^vecceur made no claim to 
artistry when he wrote his simple, heartfelt Letters ; and 
yet his style, in spite of occasional defects and extra 
flourishes, seems to us worthy of his theme. These Letters 
from an American Farmer have been an inspiration to 
poets and they " smell of the woods." 

In a prose age, Crdvecoeur lived a kind of pastoral poetry ; 
in an age largely blind, he saw the beauties of nature, less 
through readings in the Nouvelle Heloisc and Bernardin's 
Etudes than with his own keen eyes; he was a true idealist, 
besides, and as such kindles one's enthusiasm. The man's 
optimism, his grateful personality, his saneness, too for 
here is a dreamer neither idle nor morbid are qualities no 
less enduring, or endearing, than his fame as " poet- 
naturalist." The American Farmer might have used 
Cotton's Retirement for an epigraph on his title-page: 

" Farewell, them busy world, and may 

We never meet again, 
Here I can eat and sleep and pray. . . ." 

but for the fact that he found time to turn the clods, withal, 
and eyes to watch the earth blackening behind the plough. 
" Our necessities," wrote Poe, who contended, in a half- 
hearted way, that the Americans of his generation were as 
poetical a people as any other, " have been mistaken for 
our propensities. Having been forced to make railroads, 
it has been deemed impossible that we should make verse." 
But here was Saint- John de Crdvecoeur writing, in the 
eighteenth century, his idyllic Letters, while, if he did not 



Introduction xxi 

build railways, he interested himself in the experiments of 
Fitch and Rumsey and Parmentier, and organised a 
packet-line between New York and Lorient, in Brittany. 
This Crdvecoeur should from the first have appealed to the 
imagination especially to the American imagination 
combining as he did the faculty of the ideal and the achieve 
ment of the actual. It is not too late for him to appeal 
to-day; in spite of all his quaintness, Crdvecceur is a 
contemporary of our own. 

WARREN BARTON BLAKE. 

BRADFORD HILLS, WEST CHESTER. 
PENNSYLVANIA. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

WORKS: Letters from an American Farmer (London), 1782, 1783; 
(Dublin), 1782; (Belfast), 1783; (Philadelphia), 1793; (New York), 
1904; (London), 1908; translated into French (with gratuitous addi- 
tions) as Lettres d'un cultivateur Amencain (Paris), 1784 and 1787; into 
German as Brief e eines Amerikanischen Landmanns (Leipzig), 1788, 
1789. Vovage dans la Haute Pensylranie et dans Fetat de New York 
(Paris), 1801. In 1928 there appeared posthumously a play, Land- 
scapes, and some essays entitled Sketches of Eighteenth-century America. 

LIFE: S. /. de C\: sa vie et ses ouvrages, ////-/ <?/.?, by Robert de 
Crevecoeur (Paris), 1883; Un Colon Norniand en Amtrique an dix-hmt- 
itme siecle, by Count E. Fourier de Bacourt (Evreux), 1908 (?). 



CONTENTS 

LETTER PAGE 

I. INTRODUCTION ....... 7 

II. ON THE SITUATION, FEELINGS, AND PLEASURES OF 

AN AMERICAN FARMER . . . .21 

III. WHAT is AN AMERICAN ..... 39 

IV. DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLAND OF NANTUCKET, WITH 

THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, POLICY, AND TRADE 
. OF THE INHABITANTS . . . . 87 

V. CUSTOMARY EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT OF THE 

INHABITANTS OF NANTUCKET . . 113 

VI. DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLAND OF MARTHA'S VINE- 
YARD, AND OF THE WHALE FISHERY . . IIQ 

VII. MANNERS AND CUSTOMS AT NANTUCKET . . 131 
VIII. PECULIAR CUSTOMS AT NANTUCKET . . .144 

IX. DESCRIPTION OF CHARLES-TOWN; THOUGHTS ON 
SLAVERY; ON PHYSICAL EVIL; A MELAN- 
CHOLY SCENE 158 

X. ON SNAKES; AND ON THE HUMMING BIRD . -174 

XI. FROM MR. Iw N AL z, A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN, 
DESCRIBING 1HE VlSIT HE PAID AT MY REQUEST 
TO MR. JOHN BERTRAM, THE CELEBRATED 
PENNSYLVANIA BOTANIST . . . .182 

XII. DISTRESSES OF A FRONTIER MAN . . .198 
NOTES ........ 233 

INDEX 253 



XX 111 



LETTERS 

FROM AN 

AMERICAN FARMER; 

DESCRIBING 

CERTAIN PROVINCIAL SITUATIONS, 

MANNERS, AND CUSTOMS, 
NOT GENERALLY KNOWN; 

AND CONVEYING 

SOME IDEA OF THE LATE AND PRESENT 

INTERIOR CIRCUMSTANCES 

OF T H E 

BRITISH COLONIES 

IN 

NORTH AMERICA. 



WRITTEN FOR THE INFORMATION OF A FRIEND 
IN ENGLAND, 

By J. HECTOR ST. JOHN, 

A FARMER IN PENNSYLVANIA 



LONDON, 

PRINTED FOR. THOMAS DAVIES IN RUSSELL STREET COVKNT- 

GARDEN, AND LOCKYER DAVIS IN HOLBORN. 

M DCC LXXXII. 



ADVERTISEMENT 

[To the first edition, 1782.] 

The following Letters are the genuine production of the 
American Farmer whose name they bear. Tlicy were 
privately written to gratify the curiosity of a friend ; and 
are made public, because they contain much authentic 
information, little known on this side the Atlantic : thcv 
cannot therefore fail of beiiig higJily interesting to the 
people of England, at a time when everybody's attention 
is directed toward the affairs of America. 

That these letters are the actual result of a private corre- 
spondence may fairly be inferred (exclusive of other 
evidence] from the style and manner in which they are con- 
ceived ; for though plain and familiar, and sometimes 
animated, they are by no means exempt from such inac- 
curacies as must unavoidably occur in the rapid effusions 
of a confessedly inexperienced writer. 

Our Farmer had long been an eye-witness of transactions 
that have deformed the face of America: he is one of 
those who dreaded, and has severely felt, the desolating 
consequences of a rupture between the parent state and 
her colonies : for he has been driven from a situation, 
the enjoyment of which the reader will find pathetically 
described in the early letters of this volume. The unhappy 
contest is at length, however, drawing toward a period ; 
and it is now only left us to hope, that the obvious interests 

3 



4 Letters from an American Farmer 

and mutual wants of both countries, may in due time, and 
in spite of all obstacles, happily re-unite them. 

Should our Farmer's letters be found to afford matter 
of useful entertainment to an intelligent and candid public, 
a second volume, equally interesting with those now 
published, may soon be expected. 



ADVERTISEMENT 

[To the Second Edition, 1783.] 

Since the publication of this volume, we hear thai Mr. 
St. John has accepted a public employment at New York. 
It is therefore, perhaps, doubtful whether he will soon 
be at leisure to revise his papers, and give the world a 
second collection of the American Fanner Letters. 



TO THE 

ABBfi RAYNAL, F.R.S. 

BEHOLD, Sir, an humble American Planter, a simple 
cultivator of the earth, addressing you from the farther 
side of the Atlantic; and presuming to fix your name 
at the head of his trifling lucubrations. I wish they 
were worthy of so great an honour. Yet why should 
not I be permitted to disclose those sentiments which 
I have so often felt from my heart? A few years since, 
I met accidentally with your Political and Philosophical 
History, and perused it with infinite pleasure. For the 
first time in my life I reflected on the relative state of 
nations; I traced the extended ramifications of a com- 
merce which ought to unite but now convulses the world ; 
I admired that universal benevolence, that diffusive 
goodwill, which is not confined to the narrow limits 
of your own country; but, on the contrary, extends to 
the whole human race. As an eloquent and powerful 
advocate you have pleaded the cause of humanity in 
espousing that of the poor Africans: you viewed these 
provinces of North America in their true light, as the 
asylum of freedom ; as the cradle of future nations, and 
the refuge of distressed Europeans. Why then should 
I refrain from loving and respecting a man whose 
writings I so much admire? These two sentiments are 
inseparable, at least in my breast. I conceived your 
genius to be present at the head of my study: under its 
invisible but powerful guidance, I prosecuted my small 
labours: and now, permit me to sanctify them under 
the auspices of your name. Let the sincerity of the 

5 



6 Letters from an American Farmer 

motives which urge me, prevent you from thinking thai 
this well meant address contains aught but the purest 
tribute of reverence and affection. There is, no doubt, 
a secret communion among good men throughout the 
world; a mental affinity connecting them by a simili- 
tude of sentiments: then, why, though an American, 
should not I be permitted to share in that extensive 
intellectual consanguinity? Yes, I do: and though 
the name of a man who possesses neither titles nor 
places, who never rose above the humble rank of a 
farmer, may appear insignificant; yet, as the sentiments 
1 have expressed are also the echo of those of my 
countrymen; on their behalf, as well as on my own, 
give me leave to subscribe myself, 

Sir, 
Your very sincere admirer, 

J. HECTOR ST. JOHN. 

CARLISLE IN PENNSYLVANIA. 



LETTERS FROM 
AN AMERICAN FARMER 



LETTER I 

INTRODUCTION 

WHO would have thought that because I received you 
with hospitality and kindness, you should imagine me 
capable of writing with propriety and perspicuity? 
Your gratitude misleads your judgment. The know- 
ledge which I acquired from your conversation has 
amply repaid me for your five weeks' entertainment. 
I gave you nothing more than what common hospitality 
dictated; but could any other guest have instructed 
me as you did? You conducted me, on the map, from 
one European country to another ; told me many extra- 
ordinary things of our famed mother-country, of which 
I knew very little; of its internal navigation, agriculture, 
arts, manufactures, and trade: you guided me through 
an extensive maze, and I abundantly profited by the 
journey; the contrast therefore proves the debt of 
gratitude to be on my side. The treatment you received 
at my house proceeded from the warmth of my heart, 
and from the corresponding sensibility of my wife; 
what you now desire must flow from a very limited 
power of mind: the task requires recollection, and a 
variety of talents which I do not possess. It is true I 
can describe our American modes of farming, our 
manners, and peculiar customs, with some degree of 



8 Letters from an American Farmer 

propriety, because I have ever attentively studied them ; 
but my knowledge extends no farther. And is this 
local and unadorned information sufficient to answer 
all your expectations, and to satisfy your curiosity? I 
am surprised that in the course of your American 
travels you should not have found out persons more 
enlightened and better educated than I am; your 
predilection excites my wonder much more than my 
vanity ; my share of the latter being confined merely to 
the neatness of my rural operations. 

My father left me a few musty books, which his 
father brought from England with him ; but what help 
can I draw from a library consisting mostly of Scotch 
Divinity, the Navigation of Sir Francis Drake, the 
History of Queen Elizabeth, and a few miscellaneous 
volumes ? Our minister often comes to see me, though 
he lives upwards of twenty miles distant. I have 
shown him your letter, asked his advice, and solicited 
his assistance; he tells me, that he hath no time to spare, 
for that like the rest of us must till his farm, and is more- 
over to study what he is to say on the sabbath. My 
wife (and I never do anything without consulting her) 
laughs, and tells me that you cannot be in earnest. 
What! says she, James, wouldst thee pretend to send 
epistles to a great European man, who hath lived 
abundance of time in that big house called Cambridge; 
where, they say, that worldly learning is so abundant, 
that people gets it only by breathing the air of the place ? 
Wouldst not thee be ashamed to write unto a man who 
has never in his life done a single day's work, no, not 
even felled a tree; who hath expended the Lord knows 
how many years in studying stars, geometry, stones, 
and flies, and in reading folio books? Who hath 
travelled, as he told us, to the city of Rome itself! Only 
think of a London man going to Rome ! Where is it that 
these English folks won't go? One who hath seen the 



Introductory Letter 9 

factory of brimstone at Suvius, and town of Pompey 
under ground! wouldst thou pretend to letter it with 
a person who hath been to Paris, to the Alps, to Peters- 
burg, and who hath seen so many fine things up and 
down the old countries; who hath come over the great 
sea unto us, and hath journeyed from our New Hamp- 
shire in the East to our Charles Town in the South; 
who hath visited all our great cities, knows most of our 
famous lawyers and cunning folks; who hath conversed 
with very many king's men, governors, and counsellors, 
and yet pitches upon thee for his correspondent, as thee 
calls it? surely he means to jeer thee! I am sure he 
does, he cannot be in a real fair earnest. James, thee 
must read this letter over again, paragraph by paragraph, 
and warily observe whether thee can'st perceive some 
words of jesting; something that hath more than one 
meaning: and now I think on it, husband, I wish thee 
wouldst let me see his letter; though I am but a woman, 
as thee mayest say, yet I understand the purport of 
words in good measure, for when I was a girl, father 
sent us to the very best master in the precinct. She 
then read it herself very attentively: our minister was 
present, we listened to, and weighed every syllable: we 
all unanimously concluded that you must have been in 
a sober earnest intention, as my wife calls it; and your 
request appeared to be candid and sincere. Then again, 
on recollecting the difference between your sphere of 
life and mine, a new fit of astonishment seized us all! 

Our minister took the letter from my wife, and read 
it to himself; he made us observe the two last phrases, 
and we weighed the contents to the best of our abilities. 
The conclusion we all drew made me resolve at last to 

write. You say you want nothing of me but what 

lies within the reach of my experience and knowledge; 
this I understand very well; the difficulty is, how to 
collect, digest, and arrange what I know? Next you 

B ^40 



io Letters from an American Farmer 

assert, that writing letters is nothing more than talking 
on paper; which, I must confess, appeared to me quite 
a new thought. Well then, observed our minister, 
neighbour James, as you can talk well, I am sure you 
must write tolerably well also; imagine, then, that 
Mr. F. B. is still here, and simply write down what you 
would say to him. Suppose the questions he will put 
to you in his future letters to be asked by his viva voce, 
as we used to call it at the college; then let your answers 
be conceived and expressed exactly in the same language 
as if he was present. This is all that he requires from 
you, and I am sure the task is not difficult. He is your 
friend : who would be ashamed to write to such a person ? 
Although he is a man of learning and taste, yet I am 
sure he will read your letters with pleasure: if they be 
not elegant, they will smell of the woods, and be a little 
wild; I know your turn, they will contain some matters 
which he never knew before. Some people are so fond 
of novelty, that they will overlook many errors oi 
language for the sake of information. We are all apt 
to love and admire exotics, tho' they may be often 
inferior to what we possess; and that is the reason I 
imagine why so many persons are continually going to 
visit Italy. That country is the daily resort of modern 
travellers. 

James. I should like to know what is there to be 
seen so goodly and profitable, that so many should wish 
to visit no other country ? 

Minister. I do not very well know. I fancy their 
object is to trace the vestiges of a once flourishing people 
now extinct. There they amuse themselves in viewing 
the ruins of temples and other buildings which have 
very little affinity with those of the present age, and 
must therefore impart a knowledge which appears 
useless and trifling. I have often wondered that no 
skilful botanists or learned men should come over here; 



Introductory Letter 1 1 

methinks there would be much more real satisfaction in 
observing among us the humble rudiments and embryos 
of societies spreading everywhere, the recent foundation 
of our towns, and the settlements of so many rural 
districts. I am sure that the rapidity of their growth 
would be more pleasing to behold, than the ruins of old 
towers, useless aqueducts, or impending battlements. 

James. What you say, minister, seems very true: 
do go on : I always love to hear you talk. 

Minister. Don't you think, neighbour James, that 
the mind of a good and enlightened Englishman would 
be more improved in remarking throughout these 
provinces the causes which render so many people 
happy? In delineating the unnoticed means by which 
we daily increase the extent of our settlements ? How 
we convert huge forests into pleasing fields, and exhibit 
through these thirteen provinces so singular a display 
of easy subsistence and political felicity. 

In Italy all the objects of contemplation, all the 
reveries of the traveller, must have a reference to ancient 
generations, and to very distant periods, clouded with 
the mist of ages. Here, on the contrary, everything is 
modern, peaceful, and benign. Here we have had no 
war to desolate our fields : l our religion does not oppress 
the cultivators : we are strangers to those feudal institu- 
tions which have enslaved so many. Here nature 
opens her broad lap to receive the perpetual accession 
of new comers, and to supply them with food. I am 
sure I cannot be called a partial American when I say 
that the spectacle afforded by these pleasing scenes 
must be more entertaining and more philosophical than 
that which arises from beholding the musty ruins of 
Rome. Here everything would inspire the reflecting 

1 The troubles that now convulse the American colonies 
had not broke out when this and some of the following 
letters were written. 



1 2 Letters from an American Farmer 

traveller with the most philanthropic ideas; his imagina- 
tion, instead of submitting to the painful and useless 
retrospect of revolutions, desolations, and plagues, 
would, on the contrary, wisely spring forward to the 
anticipated fields of future cultivation and improve- 
ment, to the future extent of those generations which 
are to replenish and embellish this boundless continent. 
There the half-ruined amphitheatres, and the putrid 
fevers of the Campania, must fill the mind with the most 
melancholy reflections, whilst he is seeking for the 
origin and the intention of those structures with which 
he is surrounded, and for the cause of so great a decay. 
Here he might contemplate the very beginnings and 
outlines of human society, which can be traced nowhere 
now but in this part of the world. The rest of the earth, 
I am told, is in some places too full, in others half de- 
populated. Misguided religion, tyranny, and absurd 
laws everywhere depress and afflict mankind. Here 
we have in some measure regained the ancient dignity 
of our species; our laws are simple and just, we are a 
race of cultivators, our cultivation is unrestrained, and 
therefore everything is prosperous and flourishing. For 
my part I had rather admire the ample barn of one of 
our opulent farmers, who himself felled the first tree in 
his plantation, and was the first founder of his settle- 
ment, than study the dimensions of the temple of Ceres. 
I had rather record the progressive steps of this in- 
dustrious farmer, throughout all the stages of his 
labours and other operations, than examine how 
modern Italian convents can be supported without 
doing anything but singing and praying. 

However confined the field of speculation might be 
here, the time of English travellers would not be wholly 
lost. The new and unexpected aspect of our extensive 
settlements ; of our fine rivers ; that great field of action 
everywhere visible; that ease, that peace with which 



Introductory Letter 13 

so many people live together, would greatly interest 
the observer: for whatever difficulties there might 
happen in the object of their researches, that hospitality 
which prevails from one end of the continent to the 
other would in all parts facilitate their excursions. 
As it is from the surface of the ground which we till 
that we have gathered the wealth we possess, the surface 
of that ground is therefore the only thing that has 
hitherto been known. It will require the industry of 
subsequent ages, the energy of future generations, ere 
mankind here will have leisure and abilities to penetrate 
deep, and, in the bowels of this continent, search for 
the subterranean riches it no doubt contains. Neigh- 
bour James, we want much the assistance of men of 
leisure and knowledge, we want eminent chemists to 
inform our iron masters; to teach us how to make and 
prepare most of the colours we use. Here we have none 
equal to this task. If any useful discoveries are there- 
fore made among us, they are the effects of chance, or 
else arise from that restless industry which is the prin- 
cipal characteristic of these colonies. 

James. Oh! could I express myself as you do, my 
friend, I should not balance a single instant, I should 
rather be anxious to commence a correspondence which 
would do me credit. 

Minister. You can write full as well as you need, and 
will improve very fast; trust to my prophecy, your 
letters, at least, will have the merit of coming from the 
edge of the great wilderness, three hundred miles from 
the sea, and three thousand miles over that sea: this will 
be no detriment to them, take my word for it. You 
intend one of your children for the gown, who knows but 
Mr. F. B. may give you some assistance when the lad 
comes to have concerns with the bishop; it is good for 
American fanners to have friends even in England. 
What he requires of you is but simple what we speak 



14 Letters from an American Farmer 

out among ourselves we call conversation, and a letter 
is only conversation put down in black and white. 

James. You quite persuade me if he laughs at my 
awkwardness, surely he will be pleased with my ready 
compliance. On my part, it will be well meant let the 
execution be what it may. I will write enough, and so 
let him have the trouble of sifting the good from the 
bad, the useful from the trifling; let him select what 
he may want, and reject what may not answer his 
purpose. After all, it is but treating Mr. F. B. now 
that he is in London, as I treated him when he was in 
America under this roof; that is with the best things I 
had; given with a good intention ; and the best manner 
I was able. Very different, James, very different 
indeed, said my wife, I like not thy comparison; our 
small house and cellar, our orchard and garden afforded 
what he wanted; one half of his time Mr. F. B., poor 
man, lived upon nothing but fruit-pies, or peaches and 
milk. Now these things were such as God had given 
us, myself and wench did the rest; we were not the 
creators of these victuals, we only cooked them as well 
and as neat as we could. The first thing, James, is to 
know what sort of materials thee hast within thy own 
self, and then whether thee canst dish them up. Well, 
well, wife, thee art wrong for once; if I was filled with 
worldly vanity, thy rebuke would be timely, but thee 
knowest that I have but little of that. How shall I 
know what I am capable of till I try ? Hadst thee never 
employed thyself in thy father's house to learn and to 
practise the many branches of house-keeping that thy 
parents were famous for, thee wouldst have made but a 
sorry wife for an American farmer; thee never shouldst 
have been mine. I married thee not for what thee 
hadst, but for what thee knewest; doest not thee observe 
what Mr. F. B. says beside; he tells me, that the art of 
writing is just like unto every other art of man; that 



Introductory Letter 15 

it is acquired by habit, and by perseverance. That is 
singular ly true, said our minister, he that shall write a 
letter every day of the week, will on Saturday perceive 
the sixth flowing from his pen much more readily than 
the first. I observed when I first entered into the 
ministry and began to preach the word, I felt perplexed 
and dry, my mind was like unto a parched soil, which 
produced nothing, not even weeds. By the blessing of 
heaven, and my perseverance in study, I grew richer 
in thoughts, phrases, and words; I felt copious, and now 
I can abundantly preach from any text that occurs to 
my mind. So will it be with you, neighbour James; 
begin therefore without delay; and Mr. F. B.'s letters 
may be of great service to you : he will, no doubt, in- 
form you of many things: correspondence consists in 
reciprocal letters. Leave off your diffidence, and I will 
do my best to help you whenever I have any leisure. 
Well then, I am resolved, I said, to follow your counsel ; 
my letters shall not be sent, nor will I receive any, 
without reading them to you and my wife; women are 
curious, they love to know their husband's secrets; it 
will not be the first thing which I have submitted to 
your joint opinions. Whenever you come to dine with 
us, these shall be the last dish on the table. Nor will 
they be the most unpalatable, answered the good man. 
Nature hath given you a tolerable share of sense, and 
that is one of her best gifts let me tell you. She has 
given you besides some perspicuity, which qualifies you 
to distinguish interesting objects; a warmth of imagina- 
tion which enables you to think with quickness; you 
often extract useful reflections from objects which 
presented none to my mind: you have a tender and a 
well meaning heart, you love description, and your 
pencil, assure yourself, is not a bad one for the pencil of 
a farmer; it seems to be held without any labour; your 
mind is what we called at Yale college a Tabula rasa, 



1 6 Letters from an American Farmer 

where spontaneous and strong impressions are delineated 
with facility. Ah, neighbour! had you received but 
half the education of Mr. F. B. you had been a worthy 
correspondent indeed. But perhaps you will be a more 
entertaining one dressed in your simple American garb, 
than if you were clad in all the gowns of Cambridge. 
You will appear to him something like one of our wild 
American plants, irregularly luxuriant hi its various 
branches, which an European scholar may probably 
think ill placed and useless. If our soil is not remark- 
able as yet for the excellence of its fruits, this exuberance 
is however a strong proof of fertility, which wants 
nothing but the progressive knowledge acquired by 
time to amend and to correct. It is easier to retrench 
than it is to add; I do not mean to flatter you, neighbour 
James, adulation would ill become my character, you 
may therefore believe what your pastor says. Were I 
in Europe I should be tired with perpetually seeing 
espaliers, plashed hedges, and trees dwarfed into 
pigmies. Do let Mr. F. B. see on paper a few American 
wild cherry trees, such as nature forms them here, in 
all her unconfined vigour, in all the amplitude of their 
extended limbs and spreading ramifications let him 
see that we are possessed with strong vegetative embryos. 
After all, why should not a farmer be allowed to make 
use of his mental faculties as well as others; because a 
man works, is not he to think, and if he thinks usefully, 
why should not he in his leisure hours set down his 
thoughts ? I have composed many a good sermon as 1 
followed my plough. The eyes not being then engaged 
on any particular object, leaves the mind free for the 
introduction of many useful ideas. It is not in the noisy 
shop of a blacksmith or of a carpenter, that these studious 
moments can be enjoyed; it is as we silently till the 
ground, and muse along the odoriferous furrows of our 
low lands, uninterrupted either by stones or stumps; 



Introductory Letter 17 

it is there that the salubrious effluvia of the earth 
animate our spirits and serve to inspire us ; every other 
avocation of our farms are severe labours compared to 
this pleasing occupation: of all the tasks which mine 
imposes on me ploughing is the most agreeable, because 
I can think as I work ; my mind is at leisure ; my labour 
flows from instinct, as well as that of my horses; there 
is no kind of difference between us in our different 
shares of that operation; one of them keeps the furrow, 
the other avoids it; at the end of my field they turn 
either to the right or left as they are bid, whilst I thought- 
lessly hold and guide the plough to which they are 
harnessed. Do therefore, neighbour, begin this corre- 
spondence, and persevere, difficulties will vanish in 
proportion as you draw near them; you'll be surprised 
at yourself by and by: when you come to look back 
you'll say as I have often said to myself; had I been 
diffident I had never proceeded thus far. Would you 
painfully till your stony up-land and neglect the fine 
rich bottom which lies before your door? Had you 
never tried, you never had learned how to mend and 
make your ploughs. It will be no small pleasure to 
your children to tell hereafter, that their father was not 
only one of the most industrious farmers in the country, 
but one of the best writers. When you have once 
begun, do as when you begin breaking up your summer 
fallow, you never consider what remains to be done, you 
view only what you have ploughed. Therefore, neigh- 
bour James, take my advice; it will go well with you, 

I am sure it will. And do you really think so, Sir? 

Your counsel, which I have long followed, weighs much 
with me, I verily believe that I must write to Mr. F. B. 

by the first vessel. If thee persistcst in being such a 

foolhardy man, said my wife, for God's sake let it be 
kept a profound secret among us ; if it were once known 
abroad that thee writest to a great and rich man over 



1 8 Letters from an American Farmer 

at London, there would be no end of the talk of the 
people; some would vow that thee art going to turn an 
author, others would pretend to foresee some great 
alterations in the welfare of thy family ; some would say 
this, some would say that: Who would wish to become 
the subject of public talk? Weigh this matter well 
before thee beginnest, James consider that a great deal 
of thy time, and of thy reputation is at stake as I may 
say. Wert thee to write as well as friend Edmund, 
whose speeches I often see in our papers, it would be the 
very self same thing ; thee wouldst be equally accused of 
idleness, and vain notions not befitting thy condition. 
Our colonel would be often coming here to know what 
it is that thee canst write so much about. Some would 
imagine that thee wan test to become either an assembly- 
man or a magistrate, which God forbid; and that thee 
art telling the king's men abundance of things. Instead 
of being well looked upon as now, and living in peace 
with all the world, our neighbours would be making 
strange surmises: I had rather be as we are, neither 
better nor worse than the rest of our country folks. Thee 
knowest what I mean, though I should be sorry to 
deprive thee of any honest recreation. Therefore as I 
have said before, let it be as great a secret as if it was 
some heinous crime; the minister, I am sure, will not 
divulge it; as for my part, though I am a woman, yet 
I know what it is to be a wife. I would not have thee, 
James, pass for what the world calleth a writer; no, not 
for a peck of gold, as the saying is. Thy father before 
thee was a plain dealing honest man, punctual in all 
things; he was one of yea and nay, of few words, all he 
minded was his farm and his work. I wonder from 
whence thee hast got this love of the pen? Had he 
spent his time in sending epistles to and fro, he never 
would have left thee this goodly plantation, free from 
debt. All I say is in good meaning; great people over 



Introductory Letter 19 

sea may write to our town's folks, because they have 
nothing else to do. These Englishmen are strange 
people ; because they can live upon what they call bank 
notes, without working, they think that all the world 
can do the same. This goodly country never would 
have been tilled and cleared with these notes. I am 
sure when Mr. F. B. was here, he saw thee sweat and 
take abundance of pains; he often told me how the 
Americans worked a great deal harder than the home 
Englishmen; for there he told us, that they have no 
trees to cut down, no fences to make, no negroes to buy 
and to clothe: and now I think on it, when wilt thee 
send him those trees he bespoke? But if they have 
no trees to cut down, they have gold in abundance, 
they say; for they rake it and scrape it from all parts 
far and near. I have often heard my grandfather tell 
how they live there by writing. By writing they send 
this cargo unto us, that to the West, and the other to 
the East Indies. But, James, thee knowest that it is 
not by writing that we shall pay the blacksmith, the 
minister, the weaver, the tailor, and the English shop. 
But as thee art an early man follow thine own inclina- 
tions; thee wantest some rest, I am sure, and why 
shouldst thee not employ it as it may seem meet unto 
thee. However let it be a great secret; how wouldst 
thee bear to be called at our country meetings, the man 
of the pen? If this scheme of thine was once known, 
travellers as they go along would point out to our house, 
saying, here liveth the scribbling farmer; better hear 
them as usual observe, here liveth the warm substantial 
family, that never begrudge th a meal of victuals, or a 
mess of oats, to any one that steps in. Look how fat 
and well clad their negroes are. 

Thus, Sir, have I given you an unaffected and candid 
detail of the conversation which determined me to 
accept of your invitation. I thought it necessary thus 



20 Letters from an American Farmer 

to begin, and to let you into these primary secrets, to 
the end that you may not hereafter reproach me with 
any degree of presumption. You'll plainly see the 
motives which have induced me to begin, the fears 
which I have entertained, and the principles on which 
my diffidence hath been founded. I have now nothing 
to do but to prosecute my task Remember you are to 
give me my subjects, and on no other shall I write, lest 
you should blame me for an injudicious choice How- 
ever incorrect my style, however unexpert my methods, 
however trifling my observations may hereafter appear 
to you, assure yourself they will all be the genuine 
dictates of my mind, and I hope will prove acceptable 
on that account. Remember that you have laid the 
foundation of this correspondence; you well know that 
I am neither a philosopher, politician, divine, nor 
naturalist, but a simple farmer. I flatter myself, there- 
fore, that you'll receive my letters as conceived, not 
according to scientific rules to which I am a perfect 
stranger, but agreeable to the spontaneous impressions 
which each subject may inspire. This is the only line 
I arn able to follow, the line which nature has herself 
traced for me; this was the covenant which I made 
with you, and with which you seemed to be well pleased. 
Had you wanted the style of the learned, the reflections 
of the patriot, the discussions of the politician, the 
curious observations of the naturalist, the pleasing garb 
of the man of taste, surely you would have applied to 
some of those men of letters with which our cities 
abound. But since on the contrary, and for what 
reason I know not, you wish to correspond with a 
cultivator of the earth, with a simple citizen, you must 
receive my letters for better or worse. 



LETTER II 

ON THE SITUATION, FEELINGS, AND PLEASURES, OF AN 
AMERICAN FARMER 

As you are the first enlightened European I have ever 
had the pleasure of being acquainted with, you will not 
be surprised that I should, according to your earnest 
desire and my promise, appear anxious of preserving 
your friendship and correspondence. By your accounts, 
I observe a material difference subsists between your 
husbandry, modes, and customs, and ours; everything 
is local; could we enjoy the advantages of the English 
farmer, we should be much happier, indeed, but this 
wish, like many others, implies a contradiction; and 
could the English farmer have some of those privileges 
we possess, they would be the first of their class in the 
world. Good and evil I see is to be found in all societies, 
and it is in vain to seek for any spot where those in- 
gredients are not mixed. I therefore rest satisfied, and 
thank God that my lot is to be an American farmer, 
instead of a Russian boor, or an Hungarian peasant. 
I thank you kindly for the idea, however dreadful, 
which you have given me of their lot and condition; 
your observations have confirmed me in the justness of 
my ideas, and I am happier now than I thought myself 
before. It is strange that misery, when viewed in others, 
should become to us a sort of real good, though I am 
far from rejoicing to hear that there are in the world 
men so thoroughly wretched ; they are no doubt as harm- 
less, industrious, and willing to work as we are. Hard 
is their fate to be thus condemned to a slavery worse 

21 



22 Letters from an American Farmer 

than that of our negroes. Yet when young I enter- 
tained some thoughts of selling my farm. I thought it 
afforded but a dull repetition of the same labours and 
pleasures. I thought the former tedious and heavy, 
the latter few and insipid; but when I came to consider 
myself as divested of my farm, I then found the world 
so wide, and every place so full, that I began to fear 
lest there would be no room for me. My farm, my house, 
my barn, presented to my imagination objects from 
which I adduced quite new ideas; they were more 
forcible than before. Why should not I find myself 
happy, said I, where my father was before? He left 
me no good books it is true, he gave me no other educa- 
tion than the art of reading and writing; but he left 
me a good farm, and his experience; he left me free 
from debts, and no kind of difficulties to struggle with. 
I married, and this perfectly reconciled me to my 
situation ; my wife rendered my house all at once cheer- 
ful and pleasing; it no longer appeared gloomy and 
solitary as before; when I went to work in my fields I 
worked with more alacrity and sprightliness ; I felt that 
I did not work for myself alone, and this encouraged 
me much. My wife would often come with her knitting 
in her hand, and sit under the shady trees, praising the 
straightness of my furrows, and the docility of my 
horses; this swelled my heart and made everything 
light and pleasant, and I regretted that I had not 
married before. 

I felt myself happy in my new situation, and where is 
that station which can conifer a more substantial system 
of felicity than that of an American farmer, possessing 
freedom of action, freedom of thoughts, ruled by a 
mode of government which requires but little from us? 
I owe nothing, but a pepper corn to my country, a small 
tribute to my king, with loyalty and due respect; I 
know no other landlord than the lord of all land, to whom 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 23 

I owe the most sincere gratitude. My father left me 
three hundred and seventy-one acres of land, forty- 
seven of which are good timothy meadow, an excellent 
orchard, a good house, and a substantial barn. It is 
my duty to think how happy I am that he lived to build 
and to pay for all these improvements; what are the 
labours which I have to undergo, what are my fatigues 
when compared to his, who had everything to do, from 
the first tree he felled to the finishing of his house? 
Every year I kill from 1500 to 2000 weight of pork, 
1 200 of beef, half a dozen of good wethers in harvest 
of fowls my wife has always a great stock: what can I 
wish more? My negroes are tolerably faithful and 
healthy ; by a long series of industry and honest dealings, 
my father left behind him the name of a good man; I 
have but to tread his paths to be happy and a good 
man like him. I know enough of the law to regulate my 
little concerns with propriety, nor do I dread its power; 
these are the grand outlines of my situation, but as I 
can feel much more than I am able to express, I hardly 
know how to proceed. 

When my first son was born, the whole train of my 
ideas were suddenly altered; never was there a charm 
that acted so quickly and powerfully; I ceased to 
ramble in imagination through the wide world; my 
excursions since have not exceeded the bounds of my 
farm, and all my principal pleasures are now centred 
within its scanty limits: but at the same time there is 
not an operation belonging to it in which I do not find 
some food for useful reflections. This is the reason, I 
suppose, that when you was here, you used, in your 
refined style, to denominate me the farmer of feelings; 
how rude must those feelings be in him who daily holds 
the axe or the plough, how much more refined on the 
contrary those of the European, whose mind is improved 
by education, example, books, and by every acquired 



24 Letters from an American Farmer 

advantage ! Those feelings, however, I will delineate as 
well as I can, agreeably to your earnest request. 

When I contemplate my wife, by my fire-side, while she 
either spins, knits, darns, or suckles our child, I cannot 
describe the various emotions of love, of gratitude, of 
conscious pride, which thrill in my heart and often over- 
flow in involuntary tears. I feel the necessity, the 
sweet pleasure of acting my part, the part of an husband 
and father, with an attention and propriety which may 
entitle me to my good fortune. It is true these pleasing 
images vanish with the smoke of my pipe, but though 
they disappear from my mind, the impression they have 
made on my heart is indelible. When I play with the 
infant, my warm imagination runs forward, and eagerly 
anticipates his future temper and constitution. I 
would willingly open the book of fate, and know in 
which page his destiny is delineated; alas! where is the 
father who in those moments of paternal ecstasy can 
delineate one half of the thoughts which dilate his heart ? 
I am sure I cannot; then again I fear for the health of 
those who are become so dear to me, and in their sick- 
nesses I severely pay for the joys I experienced while 
they were well. Whenever I go abroad it is always 
involuntary. I never return home without feeling 
some pleasing emotion, which I often suppress as useless 
and foolish. The instant I enter on my own land, the 
bright idea of property, of exclusive right, of independ- 
ence exalt my mind. Precious soil, I say to myself, by 
what singular custom of law is it that thou wast made 
to constitute the riches of the freeholder ? What should 
we American farmers be without the distinct possession 
of that soil? It feeds, it clothes us, from it we draw 
even a great exuberancy, our best meat, our richest 
drink, the very honey of our bees comes from this 
privileged spot. No wonder we should thus cherish its 
possession, no wonder that so many Europeans who 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 25 

have never been able to say that such portion of land 
was theirs, cross the Atlantic to realise that happiness. 
This formerly rude soil has been converted by my father 
into a pleasant farm, and in return it has established all 
our rights ; on it is founded our rank, our freedom, our 
power as citizens, our importance as inhabitants of such 
a district. These images I must confess I always behold 
with pleasure, and extend them as far as my imagina- 
tion can reach: for this is what may be called the true 
and the only philosophy of an American farmer. 

Pray do not laugh in thus seeing an artless country- 
man tracing himself through the simple modifications of 
his life; remember that you have required it, therefore 
with candour, though with diffidence, I endeavour to 
follow the thread of my feelings, but I cannot tell you 
all. Often when I plough my low ground, I place my 
little boy on a chair which screws to the beam of the 
plough its motion and that of the horses please him, 
he is perfectly happy and begins to chat. As I lean over 
the handle, various are the thoughts which crowd into 
my mind. I am now doing for him, I say, what my 
father formerly did for me, may God enable him to live 
that he may perform the same operations for the same 
purposes when I am worn out and old! I relieve his 
mother of some trouble while I have him with me, the 
odoriferous furrow exhilarates his spirits, and seems to do 
the child a great deal of good, for he looks more bloom- 
ing since I have adopted that practice; can more 
pleasure, more dignity be added to that primary occupa- 
tion ? The father thus ploughing with his child, and to 
feed his family, is inferior only to the emperor of China 
ploughing as an example to his kingdom. In the evening 
when I return home through my low grounds, I am 
astonished at the myriads of insects which I perceive 
dancing in the beams of the setting sun. I was before 
scarcely acquainted with their existence, they are so 



26 Letters from an American Farmer 

small that it is difficult to distinguish them; they are 
carefully improving this short evening space, not daring 
to expose themselves to the blaze of our meridian sun. 
I never see an egg brought on my table but I feel pene- 
trated with the wonderful change it would have under- 
gone but for my gluttony; it might have been a gentle 
useful hen leading her chickens with a care and vigilance 
which speaks shame to many women. A cock perhaps, 
arrayed with the most majestic plumes, tender to its 
mate, bold, courageous, endowed with an astonishing 
instinct, with thoughts, with memory, and every dis- 
tinguishing characteristic of the reason of man. I never 
see my trees drop their leaves and their fruit in the 
autumn, and bud again in the spring, without wonder; 
the sagacity of those animals which have long been the 
tenants of my farm astonish me: some of them seem to 
surpass even men in memory and sagacity. I could 
tell you singular instances of that kind. What then is 
this instinct which we so debase, and of which we are 
taught to entertain so diminutive an idea? My bees, 
above any other tenants of my farm, attract my atten- 
tion and respect; I am astonished to see that nothing 
exists but what has its enemy, one species pursue and 
live upon the other: unfortunately our kingbirds are 
the destroyers of those industrious insects; but on the 
other hand, these birds preserve our fields from the 
depredation of crows which they pursue on the wing 
with great vigilance and astonishing dexterity. 

Thus divided by two interested motives, I have long 
resisted the desire I had to kill them, until last year, 
when I thought they increased too much, and my 
indulgence had been carried too far; it was at the time 
of swarming when they all came and fixed themselves 
on the neighbouring trees, from whence they catched 
those that returned loaded from the fields. This made 
me resolve to kill as many as I could, and I was just 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 27 

ready to fire, when a bunch of bees as big as my fist, 
issued from one of the hives, rushed on one of the birds, 
and probably stung him, for he instantly screamed, 
and flew, not as before, in an irregular manner, but in a 
direct line. He was followed by the same bold phalanx, 
at a considerable distance, which unfortunately becoming 
too sure of victory, quitted their military array and 
disbanded themselves. By this inconsiderate step they 
lost all that aggregate of force which had made the 
bird fly off. Perceiving their disorder he immediately 
returned and snapped as many as he wanted; nay, he 
had even the impudence to alight on the very twig from 
which the bees had drove him. I killed him and im- 
mediately opened his craw, from which I took 171 bees ; 
I laid them all on a blanket in the sun, and to my great 
surprise 54 returned to life, licked themselves clean, 
and joyfully went back to the hive; where they 
probably informed their companions of such an adven- 
ture and escape, as I believe had never happened before 
to American bees ! I draw a great fund of pleasure from 
the quails which inhabit my farm; they abundantly 
repay me, by their various notes and peculiar tameness, 
for the inviolable hospitality I constantly show them in 
the winter. Instead of perfidiously taking advantage 
of their great and affecting distress, when nature offers 
nothing but a barren universal bed of snow, when irre- 
sistible necessity forces them to my barn doors, I permit 
them to feed unmolested ; and it is not the least agreeable 
spectable which that dreary season presents, when I see 
those beautiful birds, tamed by hunger, intermingling 
with all my cattle and sheep, seeking in security for the 
poor scanty grain which but for them would be useless 
and lost. Often in the angles of the fences where the 
motion of the wind prevents the snow from settling, I 
carry them both chaff and grain; the one to feed them, 
the other to prevent their tender feet from freezing 



28 Letters from an American Farmer 

fast to the earth as I have frequently observed them 
to do. 

I do not know an instance in which the singular 
barbarity of man is so strongly delineated, as in the 
catching and murthering those harmless birds, at that 

cruel season of the year. Mr. , one of the most 

famous and extraordinary farmers that has ever done 
honour to the province of Connecticut, by his timely 
and humane assistance in a hard winter, saved this 
species from being entirely destroyed. They perished all 
over the country, none of their delightful whistlings 
were heard the next spring, but upon this gentleman's 
farm; and to his humanity we owe the continuation of 
their music. When the severities of that season have 
dispirited all my cattle, no farmer ever attends them 
with more pleasure than I do; it is one of those duties 
which is sweetened with the most rational satisfaction. 
I amuse myself in beholding their different tempers, 
actions, and the various effects of their instinct now 
powerfully impelled by the force of hunger. I trace their 
various inclinations, and the different effects of their 
passions, which are exactly the same as among men; 
the law is to us precisely what I am in my barn yard, a 
bridle and check to prevent the strong and greedy from 
oppressing the timid and weak. Conscious of superiority, 
they always strive to encroach on their neighbours; 
unsatisfied with their portion, they eagerly swallow it in 
order to have an Opportunity of taking what is given to 
others, except they are prevented. Some I chide, others, 
unmindful of my admonitions, receive some blows. 
Could victuals thus be given to men without the assist- 
ance of any language, I am sure they would not behave 
better to one another, nor more philosophically than 
my cattle do. 

The same spirit prevails in the stable; but there I 
have to do with more generous animals, there my well- 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 29 

known voice has immediate influence, and soon restores 
peace and tranquillity. Thus by superior knowledge I 
govern all my cattle as wise men are obliged to govern 
fools and the ignorant. A variety of other thoughts 
crowd on my mind at that peculiar instant, but they all 
vanish by the time I return home. If in a cold night I 
swiftly travel in my sledge, carried along at the rate oi 
twelve miles an hour, many are the reflections excited 
by surrounding circumstances. I ask myself what sort 
of an agent is that which we call frost? Our minister 
compares it to needles, the points of which enter our 
pores. What is become of the heat of the summer; in 
what part of the world is it that the N. W. keeps these 
grand magazines of nitre ? when I see in the morning a 
river over which I can travel, that in the evening before 
was liquid, I am astonished indeed! What is become 
of those millions of insects which played in our summer 
fields, and in our evening meadows; they were so puny 
and so delicate, the period of their existence was so 
4iort, that one cannot help wondering how they could 
learn, in that short space, the sublime art to hide them- 
selves and their of spring in so perfect a manner as to 
baffle the rigour of the season, and preserve that precious 
embryo of life, that small portion of ethereal heat, which 
if once destroyed would destroy the species! Whence 
that irresistible propensity to sleep so common in all 
those who are severely attacked by the frost. Dreary as 
this season appears, yet it has like all others its miracles, 
it presents to man a variety of problems which he can 
never resolve; among the rest, we have here a set of 
small birds which never appear until the snow falls; 
contrary to all others, they dwell and appear to delight 
in that element. 

It is my bees, however, which afford me the most 
pleasing and extensive themes; let me look at them 
when I will, their government, tbeir industry, their 



30 Letters from an American Farmer 

quarrels, their passions, always present me with some- 
thing new; for which reason, when weary with labour 
my common place of rest is under my locust-tree, close 
by my bee-house. By their movements I can predicl 
the weather, and can tell the day of their swarming 
but the most difficult point is, when on the wing, tc 
know whether they want to go to the woods or not. 11 
they have previously pitched in some hollow trees, i1 
is not the allurements of salt and water, of fennel 
hickory leaves, etc., nor the finest box, that can induce 
them to stay; they will prefer those rude, rough habita- 
tions to the best polished mahogany hive. When thai 
is the case with mine, I seldom thwart their inclinations , 
it is in freedom that they work: were I to confine them ) 
they would dwindle away and quit their labour. IE 
such excursions we only part for a while ; I am generally 
sure to find them again the following fall. This elope- 
ment of theirs only adds to my recreations; I know 
how to deceive even their superlative instinct ; nor do ] 
fear losing them, though eighteen miles from my house, 
and lodged in the most lofty trees, in the most impervious 
of our forests. I once took you along with me in one oi 
these rambles, and yet you insist on my repeating the 
detail of our operations: it brings back into my mind 
many of the useful and entertaining reflections with 
which you so happily beguiled our tedious hours. 

After I have done sowing, by way of recreation, 1 
prepare for a week's jaunt in the woods, not to hunt 
either the deer or the bears, as my neighbours do, but 
to catch the more harmless bees. I cannot boast that 
this chase is so noble, or so famous among men, but I 
find it less fatiguing, and full as profitable; and the last 
consideration is the only one that moves me. I take 
with me my dog, as a companion, for he is useless as tc 
this game ; my gun, for no man you know ought to enter 
the woods without one; my blanket, some provisions, 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 3 i 

some wax, vermilion, honey, and a small pocket compass. 
With these implements I proceed to such woods as are 
at a considerable distance from any settlements. I 
carefully examine whethei they abound with large trees, 
if so, I make a small fire on some flat stones, in a con- 
venient place ; on the fire I put some wax ; close by this 
fire, on another stone, I drop honey in distinct drops, 
which I surround with small quantities of vermilion, 
laid on the stone; and then I retire carefully to watch 
whether any bees appear. If there are any in that 
neighbourhood, I rest assured that the smell of the 
burnt wax will unavoidably attract them; they will 
soon find out the honey, for they are fond of preying on 
that which is not their own; and in their approach 
they will necessarily tinge themselves with some particles 
of vermilion, which will adhere long to their bodies. I 
next fix my compass, to find out their course, which they 
keep invariably straight, when they are returning home 
loaded. By the assistance of my watch, I observe how 
long those are returning which are marked with 
vermilion. Thus possessed of the course, and, in some 
measure, of the distance, which I can easily guess at, I 
follow the first, and seldom fail of coming to the tree 
where those republics are lodged. I then mark it; and 
thus, with patience, I have found out sometimes eleven 
swarms in a season; and it is inconceivable what a 
quantity of honey these trees will sometimes afford. 
It entirely depends on the size of the hollow, as the bees 
never rest nor swarm till it is all replenished; for like 
men, it is only the want of room that induces them to 
quit the maternal hive. Next I proceed to some of the 
nearest settlements, where I procure proper assistance 
to cut down the trees, get all my prey secured, and then 
return home with my prize. The first bees I ever pro- 
cured were thus found in the woods, by mere accident; 
for at that time I had no kind of skill in this method of 



32 Letters from an American Farmer 

tracing them. The body of the tree being perfectly 
sound, they had lodged themselves in the hollow of one 
of its principal limbs, which I carefully sawed off and 
with a good deal of labour and industry brought it home, 
where I fixed it up again in the same position in which I 
found it growing. This was in April ; I had five swarms 
that year, and they have been ever since very prosperous. 
This business generally takes up a week of my time every 
fall, and to me it is a week of solitary ease and relaxation. 
The seed is by that time committed to the ground ; 
there is nothing very material to do at home, and thk 
additional quantity of honey enables me to be more 
generous to my home bees, and my wife to make a due 
quantity of mead. The reason, Sir, that you found 
mine better than that of others is, that she puts two 
gallons of brandy in each barrel, which ripens it, 3nd 
takes off that sweet, luscious taste, which it is apt to 
retain a long time. If we find anywhere in the woods 
(no matter on whose land) what is called a bee-tree, we 
must mark it; in the fall of the year when we propose 
to cut it down, our duty is to inform the proprietor of 
the land, who is entitled to half the contents; if this is 
not complied with we are exposed to an action of trespass, 
as well as he who should go and cut down a bee-tree 
which he had neither found out nor marked. 

We have twice a year the pleasure of catching pigeons, 
whose numbers are sometimes so astonishing as to 
obscure the sun in their flight. Where is it that they 
hatch? for such multitudes must require an immense 
quantity of food. I fancy they breed toward the plains 
of Ohio, and those about lake Michigan, which abound 
in wild oats; though I have never killed any that had 
that grain in their craws. In one of them, last year, 1 
found some undigested rice. Now the nearest rice 
fields from where I live must be at least 560 miles; and 
cither their digestion must be suspended while they are 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 33 

flying, or else they must fly with the celerity of the wind. 
We catch them with a net extended on the ground, to 
which they are allured by what we call tame wild pigeons, 
made blind, and fastened to a long string; his short 
flights, and his. repeated calls, never fail to bring them 
down. The greatest number I ever catched was four- 
teen dozen, though much larger quantities have often 
been trapped. I have frequently seen them at the 
market so cheap, that for a penny you might have as 
many as you could carry away ; and yet from the extreme 
cheapness you must not conclude, that they are but an 
ordinary food; on the contrary, 1 think they are excel- 
lent. Every farmer has a tame wild pigeon in a cage at 
his door all the year round, in order to be ready when- 
ever the season comes for catching them. 

The pleasure I receive from the warblings of the birds 
in the spring, is superior to my poor description, as the 
continual succession of their tuneful notes is for ever 
new to me. I generally rise from bed about that in- 
distinct interval, which, properly speaking, is neither 
night or day ; for this is the moment of the most universal 
vocal choir. Who can listen unmoved to the sweet love 
tales of our robins, told from tree to tree? or to the 
shrill cat birds ? The sublime accents of the thrush from 
on high always retard my steps that I may listen to the 
delicious music. The variegated appearances of the 
dew drops, as they hang to the different objects, must 
present even to a clownish imagination, the most 
voluptuous ideas. The astonishing art which all birds 
display in the construction of their nests, ill provided 
as we may suppose them with proper tools, their neat- 
ness, their convenience, always make me ashamed oi 
the slovenliness of our houses ; their love to their dame, 
their incessant careful attention, and the peculiar songs 
they address to her while she tediously incubates their 
eggs, remind me of my duty could I ever forget it. Their 



34 Letters from an American Farmer 

affection to their helpless little ones, is a lively precept ; 
and in short, the whole economy of what we proudly 
call the brute creation, is admirable in every circum- 
stance; and vain man, though adorned with the 
additional gift of reason, might learn from the perfection 
of instinct, how to regulate the follies, and how to temper 
the errors which this second gift often makes him commit. 
This is a subject, on which I have often bestowed the 
most serious thoughts; I have often blushed within 
myself, and been greatly astonished, when I have com- 
pared the unerring path they all follow, all just, all 
proper, all wise, up to the necessary degree of perfection, 
with the coarse, the imperfect systems of men, not 
merely as governors and kings, but as masters, as 
husbands, as fathers, as citizens. But this is a sanctuary 
in which an ignorant farmer must not presume to enter. 

If ever man was permitted to receive and enjoy some 
blessings that might alleviate the many sorrows to which 
he is exposed, it is certainly in the country, when he 
attentively considers those ravishing scenes with which 
he is everywhere surrounded. This is the only time of 
the year in which I am avaricious of every moment, I 
therefore lose none that can add to this simple and 
inoffensive happiness. I roam early throughout all my 
fields; not the least operation do I perform, which is 
not accompanied with the most pleasing observations; 
were I to extend them as far as I have carried them, I 
should become tedious; you would think me guilty of 
affectation, and I should perhaps represent many things 
as pleasurable from which you might not perhaps receive 
the least agreeable emotions. But, believe me, what I 
write is all true and real. 

Some time ago, as I sat smoking a contemplative pipe 
in my piazza, I saw with amazement a remarkable 
instance of selfishness displayed in a very small bird, 
which I had hitherto respected for its inoffensiveness. 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 35 

Three nests were placed almost contiguous to each 
other in my piazza: that of a swallow was affixed in the 
corner next to the house, that of a phebe in the other, a 
wren possessed a little box which I had made on purpose, 
and hung between. Be not surprised at their tame- 
ness, all my family had long been taught to respect 
them as well as myself. The wren had shown before 
signs of dislike to the box which I had given it, but I 
knew not on what account; at last it resolved, small as 
it was, to drive the swallow from its own habitation, and 
to my very great surprise it succeeded. Impudence 
often gets the better of modesty, and this exploit was no 
sooner performed, than it removed every material to its 
own box with the most admirable dexterity; the signs 
of triumph appeared very visible, it fluttered its wings 
with uncommon velocity, an universal joy was perceiv- 
able in all its movements. Where did this little bird 
learn that spirit of injustice ? It was not endowed with 
what we term reason! Here then is a proof that both 
those gifts border very near on one another; for we see 
the perfection of the one mixing with the errors of the 
other 1 The peaceable swallow, like the passive Quaker, 
meekly sat at a small distance and never offered the 
least resistance; but no sooner was the plunder carried 
away, than the injured bird went to work with unabated 
ardour, and in a few days the depredations were repaired. 
To prevent however a repetition of the same violence, I 
removed the wren's box to another part of the house. 

In the middle of my new parlour I have, you may 
remember, a curious republic of industrious hornets; 
their nest hangs to the ceiling, by the same twig on 
which it was so admirably built and contrived in the 
woods. Its removal did not displease them, for they 
find in my house plenty of food; and I have left a hole 
open in one of the panes of the window, which answers 
all their purposes. By this kind usage they are become 



36 Letters from an American Farmer 

quite harmless; they live on the flies, which are very 
troublesome to us throughout the summer; they are 
constantly busy in catching them, even on the eyelids 
of my children. It is surprising how quickly they 
smear them with a sort of glue, lest they might escape, 
and when thus prepared, they carry them to their nests, 
as food for their young ones. These globular nests are 
most ingeniously divided into many stories, all provided 
with cells, and proper communications. The materials 
with which this fabric is built, they procure from the 
cottony furze, with which our oak rails are covered; 
this substance tempered with glue, produces a sort of 
pasteboard, which is very strong, and resists all the 
inclemencies of the weather. By their assistance, I 
am but little troubled with flies. All my family are so 
accustomed to their strong buzzing, that no one takes 
any notice of them; and though they are fierce and 
vindictive, yet kindness and hospitality has made them 
useful and harmless. 

We have a great variety of wasps ; most of them build 
their nests in mud, which they fix against the shingles of 
our roofs, as nigh the pitch as they can. These aggre- 
gates represent nothing, at first view, but coarse and 
irregular lumps, but if you break them, you will observe, 
that the inside of them contains a great number of 
oblong cells, in which they deposit their eggs, and in 
which they bury themselves in the fall of the year. 
Thus immured they securely pass through the severity 
of that season, and on the return of the sun are enabled 
to perforate their cells, and to open themselves a passage 
from these recesses into the sunshine. The yellow 
wasps, which build under ground, in our meadows, are 
much more to be dreaded, for when the mower un- 
wittingly passes his scythe over their holes they im- 
mediately sally forth with a fury and velocity superior 
even to the strength of man. They make the boldest 



Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures 37 

fly, and the only remedy is to lie down and cover our 
heads with hay, for it is only at the head they aim their 
blows ; nor is there any possibility of finishing that part 
of the work until, by means of fire and brimstone, they 
are all silenced. But though I have been obliged to 
execute this dreadful sentence in my own defence, I 
have often thought it a great pity, for the sake of a little 
hay, to lay waste so ingenious a subterranean town, 
furnished with every conveniency, and built with a most 
surprising mechanism. 

I never should have done were I to recount the many 
objects which involuntarily strike my imagination in 
the midst of my work, and spontaneously afford me 
the most pleasing relief. These appear insignificant 
trifles to a person who has travelled through Europe and 
America, and is acquainted with books and with many 
sciences; but such simple objects of contemplation 
suffice me, who have no time to bestow on more exten- 
sive observations. Happily these require no study, 
they are obvious, they gild the moments I dedicate to 
them, and enliven the severe labours which I perform. 
At home my happiness springs from very different 
objects; the gradual unfolding of my children's reason, 
the study of their dawning tempers attract all my 
paternal attention. I have to contrive little punish- 
ments for their little faults, small encouragements for 
their good actions, and a variety of other expedients 
dictated by various occasions. But these are themes 
unworthy your perusal, and which ought not to be 
carried beyond the walls of my house, being domestic 
mysteries adapted only to the locality of the small 
sanctuary wherein my family resides. Sometimes I 
delight in inventing and executing machines, which 
simplify my wife's labour. I have been tolerably 
successful that wa} r ; and these, Sir, are the narrow 
circles within which I constantly revolve, and what can 



38 Letters from an American Farmer 

I wish for beyond them ? I bless God for all the good he 
has given me; I envy no man's prosperity, and with no 
other portion of happiness than that I may live to teach 
the same philosophy to my children; and give each of 
them a farm, show them how to cultivate it, and be like 
their father, good substantial independent American 
farmers an appellation which will be the most fortunate 
one a man of my class can possess, so long as our civil 
government continues to shed blessings on our husbandry. 
Adieu. 



LETTER III 

WHAT IS AN AMERICAN 

I WISH I could be acquainted with the feelings and 
thoughts which must agitate the heart and present 
themselves to the mind of an enlightened Englishman, 
when he first lands on this continent. He must greatly 
rejoice that he lived at a time to see this fair country 
discovered and settled; he must necessarily feel a share 
of national pride, when he views the chain of settlements 
which embellishes these extended shores. When he 
says to himself, this is the work of my countrymen, who, 
when convulsed by factions, afflicted by a variety of 
miseries and wants, restless and impatient, took refuge 
here. They brought along with them their national 
genius, to which they principally owe what liberty they 
enjoy, and what substance they possess. Here he sees the 
industry of his native country displayed in a new manner, 
and traces in their works the embryos of all the arts, 
sciences, and ingenuity which flourish in Europe. Here he 
beholds fair cities, substantial villages, extensive fields, 
an immense country filled with decent houses, good roads, 
orchards, meadows, and bridges, where an hundred years 
ago all was wild, woody, and uncultivated! What a 
train of pleasing ideas this fair spectacle must suggest; 
it is a prospect which must inspire a good citizen with 
the most heartfelt pleasure. The difficulty consists in 
the manner of viewing so extensive a scene. He is 
arrived on a new continent; a modern society offers 
itself to his contemplation, different from what he had 
hitherto seen. It is not composed, as in Europe, of 

39 



4.o Letters from an American Farmer 

great lords who possess everything, and of a herd of 
people who have nothing. Here are no aristocratical 
families, no courts, no kings, no bishops, no ecclesiastical 
dominion, no invisible power giving to a few a very 
visible one; no great manufacturers employing thou- 
sands, no great refinements of luxury. The rich and 
the poor are not so far removed from each other as they 
are in Europe. Some few towns excepted, we are all 
tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida. 
We are a people of cultivators, scattered over an 
immense territory, communicating with each other by 
means of good roads and navigable rivers, united by 
the silken bands of mild government, all respecting the 
laws, without dreading their power, because they are 
equitable. We are all animated with the spirit of an 
industry which is unfettered and unrestrained, because 
each person works for himself. If he travels through 
our rural districts he views not the hostile castle, and 
the haughty mansion, contrasted with the clay-built 
hut and miserable cabin, where cattle and men help to 
keep each other warm, and dwell in meanness, smoke, 
and indigence. A pleasing uniformity of decent com- 
petence appears throughout our habitations. The 
meanest of our log-houses is a dry and comfortable 
habitation. Lawyer or merchant are the fairest titles 
our towns afford; that of a farmer is the only appellation 
of the rural inhabitants of our country. It must take 
some time ere he can reconcile himself to our dictionary, 
which is but short in words of dignity, and names of 
honour. There, on a Sunday, he sees a congregation of 
respectable farmers and their wives, all clad in neat 
homespun, well mounted, or riding in their own humble 
waggons. There is not among them an esquire, saving 
the unlettered magistrate. There he sees a parson as 
simple as his flock, a farmer who does not riot on the 
labour of others. We have no princes, for whom we 



What is an American 41 

toil, starve, and bleed: we are the most perfect society 
now existing in the world. Here man is free as he ought 
to be ; nor is this pleasing equality so transitory as many 
others are. Many ages will not see the shores of our 
great lakes replenished with inland nations, nor the 
unknown bounds of North America entirely peopled. 
Who can tell how far it extends? Who can tell the 
millions of men whom it will feed and contain? for no 
European foot has as yet travelled half the extent of 
this mighty continent! 

The next wish of this traveller will be to know whence 
came all these people? they are a mixture of English, 
Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes. 
From this promiscuous breed, that race now called 
Americans have arisen. The eastern provinces must 
indeed be excepted, as being the unmixed descendants 
of Englishmen. I have heard many wish that they had 
been more intermixed also : for my part, I am no wisher, 
and think it much better as it has happened. They 
exhibit a most conspicuous figure in this great and 
variegated picture; they too enter for a great share in 
the pleasing perspective displayed in these thirteen 
provinces. I know it is fashionable to reflect on them, 
but I respect them for what they have done; for the 
accuracy and wisdom with which they have settled 
their territory ; for the decency of their manners ; for their 
early love of letters; their ancient college, the first in 
this hemisphere; for their industry; which to me who 
am but a farmer, is the criterion of everything. There 
never was a people, situated as they are, who with so 
ungrateful a soil have done more in so short a time. Do 
you think that the monarchical ingredients which are 
more prevalent in other governments, have purged them 
from all foul stains ? Their histories assert the contrary. 

In this great American asylum, the poor of Europe 
have by some means met together, and in consequence of 

C 6 4 



42 Letters from an American Farmer 

various causes; to what purpose should they ask one 
another what countrymen they are? Alas, two thirds 
of them had no country. Can a wretch who wanders 
about, who works and starves, whose life is a continual 
scene of sore affliction or pinching penury; can that 
man call England or any other kingdom his country? 
A country that had no bread for him, whose fields pro- 
cured him no harvest, who met with nothing but the 
frowns of the rich, the severity of the laws, with jails 
and punishments; who owned not a single foot of the 
extensive surface of this planet? No! urged by a 
variety of motives, here they came. Every thing has 
tended to regenerate them; new laws, a new mode of 
living, a new social system; here they are become men: 
in Europe they were as so many useless plants, wanting 
vegetative mould, and refreshing showers ; they withered, 
and were mowed down by want, hunger, and war; but 
now by the power of transplantation, like all other 
plants they have taken root and flourished! Formerly 
they were not numbered in any civil lists of their country, 
except in those of the poor; here they rank as citizens. 
By what invisible power has this surprising meta- 
morphosis been performed? By that of the laws and 
that of their industry. The laws, the indulgent laws, 
protect them as they arrive, stamping on them the 
symbol of adoption; they receive ample rewards for 
their labours; these accumulated rewards procure them 
lands; those lands confer on them the title of freemen, 
and to that title every benefit is affixed which men can 
possibly require. This is the great operation daily per- 
formed by our laws. From whence proceed these laws? 
From our government. Whence the government? It 
is derived from the original genius and strong desire of 
the people ratified and confirmed by the crown. This 
is the great chain which links us all, this is the picture 
which every province exhibits, Nova Scotia excepted. 



What is an American 43 

There the crown has done all; either there were no 
people who had genius, or it was not much attended to: 
the consequence is, that the province is very thinly 
inhabited indeed; the power of the crown in conjunction 
with the musketos has prevented men from settling 
there. Yet some parts of it flourished once, and it con- 
tained a mild harmless set of people. But for the fault of 
a few leaders, the whole were banished. The greatest 
political error the crown ever committed in America, 
was to cut off men from a country which wanted nothing 
but men! 

What attachment can a poor European emigrant 
have for a country where he had nothing? The know- 
ledge of the language, the love of a few kindred as poor 
as himself, were the only cords that tied him: his country 
is now that which gives him land, bread, protection, and 
consequence: Ubi panis ibi patria, is the motto of all 
emigrants. What then is the American, this new man? 
He is either an European, or the descendant of an 
European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which 
you will find in no other country. I could point out to 
vou a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, 
whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French 
woman, and whose present four sons have now four 
wives of different nations. He is an American, who, 
leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and 
manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life 
he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and 
the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by 
being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater. 
Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new 
race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day 
cause great changes in the world. Americans are the 
western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them 
that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry 
which began long since in the east; they will finish the 



44 Letters from an American Farmer 

great circle. The Americans were once scattered all 
over Europe ; here they are incorporated into one of the 
finest systems of population which has ever appeared, 
and which will hereafter become distinct by the power 
of the different climates they inhabit. The American 
ought therefore to love this country much better than 
that wherein either he or his forefathers were born. 
Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps 
the progress of his labour; his labour is founded on the 
basis of nature, self-interest ; can it want a stronger 
allurement? Wives and children, who before in vain 
demanded of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolic- 
some, gladly help their father to clear those fields whence 
exuberant crops are to arise to feed and to clothe them 
all; without any part being claimed, either by a despotic 
prince, a rich abbot, or a mighty lord. Here religion 
demands but little of him; a small voluntary salary to 
the minister, and gratitude to God ; can he refuse these ? 
The American is a new man, who acts upon new prin- 
ciples ; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form 
new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile 
dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed" 
to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample 
subsistence. This is an American. 

British America is divided into many provinces, 
forming a large association, scattered along a coast 1500 
miles extent and about 200 wide. This society I would 
fain examine, at least such as it appears in the middle 
provinces; if it does not afford that variety of tinges 
and gradations which may be observed in Europe, we 
have colours peculiar to ourselves. For instance, it is 
natural to conceive that those who live near the sea, 
must be very different from those who live in the woods ; 
the intermediate space will afford a separate and distinct 
class. 

Men are like plants; the goodness and flavour of the 



What is an American 45 

fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in 
which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive 
from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the 
government we obey, the system of religion we profess, 
and the nature of our employment. Here you will find 
but few crimes; these have acquired as yet no root 
among us. I wish I was able to trace all my ideas; if 
my ignorance prevents me from describing them properly, 
I hope I shall be able to delineate a few of the outlines, 
which are all I propose. 

Those who live near the sea, feed more on fish than 
on flesh, and often encounter that boisterous element. 
This renders them more bold and enterprising; this 
leads them to neglect the confined occupations of the 
land. They see and converse with a variety of people, 
their intercourse with mankind becomes extensive. The 
sea inspires them with a love of traffic, a desire of trans- 
porting produce from one place to another; and leads 
them to a variety of resources which supply the place 
of labour. Those who inhabit the middle settlements, 
by far the most numerous, must be very different; the 
simple cultivation of the earth purifies them, but the 
indulgences of the government, the soft remonstrances 
of religion, the rank of independent freeholders, must 
necessarily inspire them with sentiments, very little 
known in Europe among people of the same class. What 
do I say ? Europe has no such class of men ; the early 
knowledge they acquire, the early bargains they make, 
give them a great degree of sagacity. As freemen they 
will be litigious ; pride and obstinacy are often the cause 
of law suits; the nature of our laws and governments 
may be another. As citizens it is easy to imagine, that 
they will carefully read the newspapers, enter into every 
political disquisition, freely blame or censure governors 
and others. As farmers they will be careful and anxious 
to get as much as they can, because what they get is 



46 Letters from an American Farmer 

their own. As northern men they will love the cheerful 
cup. As Christians, religion curbs them not in their 
opinions; the general indulgence leaves every one to 
think for themselves in spiritual matters; the laws 
inspect our actions, our thoughts are left to God. 
Industry, good living, selfishness, litigiousness, country 
politics, the pride of freemen, religious indifference, are 
their characteristics. If you recede still farther from 
the sea, you will come into more modern settlements; 
they exhibit the same strong lineaments, in a ruder 
appearance. Religion seems to have still less influence, 
and their manners are less improved. 

Now we arrive near the great woods, near the last 
inhabited districts; there men seem to be placed still 
farther beyond the reach of government, which in some 
measure leaves them to themselves. How can it per- 
vade every corner; as they were driven there by mis- 
fortunes, necessity of beginnings, desire of acquiring 
large tracts of land, idleness, frequent want of economy, 
ancient debts; the re-union of such people does not 
afford a very pleasing spectacle. When discord, want 
of unity and friendship; when either drunkenness or 
idleness prevail in such remote districts; contention, 
inactivity, and wretchedness must ensue. There are 
not the same remedies to these evils as in a long estab- 
lished community. The few magistrates they have, 
are in general little better than the rest; they are often 
in a perfect state of war; that of man against man, 
sometimes decided by blows, sometimes by means of the 
law; that of man against every wild inhabitant of these 
venerable woods, of which they are come to dispossess 
them. There men appear to be no better than car- 
nivorous animals of a superior rank, living on the flesh 
of wild animals when they can catch them, and when 
they are not able, they subsist on grain. He who would 
wish to see America in its proper light, and have a true 



What is an American 47 

idea of its feeble beginnings and barbarous rudiments, 
must visit our extended line of frontiers where the last 
settlers dwell, and where he may see the first labours of 
settlement, the mode of clearing the earth, in all their 
different appearances; where men are wholly left de- 
pendent on their native tempers, and on the spur of 
uncertain industry, which often fails when not sanctified 
by the efficacy of a few moral rules. There, remote 
from the power of example and check of shame, many 
families exhibit the most hideous parts of our society. 
They are a kind of forlorn hope, preceding by ten or 
twelve years the most respectable army of veterans 
which come after them. In that space, prosperity will 
polish some, vice and the law will drive off the rest, who 
uniting again with others like themselves will recede 
still farther; making room for more industrious people, 
who will finish their improvements, convert the loghouse 
into a convenient habitation, and rejoicing that the first 
heavy labours are finished, will change in a few years 
that hitherto barbarous country into a fine fertile, well 
regulated district. Such is our progress, such is the 
march of the Europeans toward the interior parts of this 
continent. In all societies there are off-casts; this 
impure part serves as our precursors or pioneers; my 
father himself was one of that class, but he came 
upon honest principles, and was therefore one of the few 
who held fast; by good conduct and temperance, he 
transmitted to me his fair inheritance, when not above 
one in fourteen of his contemporaries had the same 
good fortune. 

Forty years ago this smiling country was thus in- 
habited ; it is now purged, a general decency of manners 
prevails throughout, and such has been the fate of our 
best countries. 

Exclusive of those general characteristics, each 
province has its own, founded on the government, 



48 Letters from an American Farmer 

climate, mode of husbandly, customs, and peculiarity of 
circumstances. Europeans submit insensibly to these 
great powers, and become, in the course of a few genera- 
tions, not only Americans in general, but either Penn- 
sylvanians, Virginians, or provincials under some other 
name. Whoever traverses the continent must easily 
observe those strong differences, which will grow more 
evident in time. The inhabitants of Canada, Massa- 
chusetts, the middle provinces, the southern ones will be 
as different as their climates ; their only points of unity 
will be those of religion and language. 

As I have endeavoured to show you how Europeans 
become Americans; it may not be disagreeable to show 
you likewise how the various Christian sects introduced, 
wear out, and how religious indifference becomes pre- 
valent. When any considerable number of a particular 
sect happen to dwell contiguous to each other, they 
immediately erect a temple, and there worship the 
Divinity agreeably to their own peculiar ideas. Nobody 
disturbs them. If any new sect springs up in Europe 
it may happen that many of its professors will come and 
settle in American. As they bring their zeal with them, 
they are at liberty to make proselytes if they can, and 
to build a meeting and to follow the dictates of their 
consciences; for neither the government nor any other 
power interferes. If they are peaceable subjects, and 
are industrious, what is it to their neighbours how and 
in what manner they think fit to address their prayers 
to the Supreme Being? But if the sectaries are not 
settled close together, if they are mixed with other 
denominations, their zeal will cool for want of fuel, and 
will be extinguished in a little time. Then the Americans 
become as to religion, what they are as to country, allied 
to all. In them the name of Englishman, Frenchman, 
and European is lost, and in like manner, the strict 
modes of Christianity as practised in Europe are lost 



What is an American 49 

also. This effect will extend itself still farther here- 
after, and though this may appear to you as a strange 
idea, yet it is a very true one. I shall be able perhaps 
hereafter to explain myself better ; in the meanwhile, let 
the following example serve as my first justification. 

Let us suppose you and I to be travelling ; we observe 
that in this house, to the right, lives a Catholic, who 
prays to God as he has been taught, and believes in 
traiisubstantiation ; he works and raises wheat, he has 
a large family of children, all hale and robust ; his belief, 
his prayers offend nobody. About one mile farther on the 
same road, his next neighbour may be a good honest 
plodding German Lutheran, who addresses himself to 
the same God, the God of all, agreeably to the modes 
he has been educated in, and believes in consubstantia- 
tion ; by so doing he scandalises nobody ; he also works 
in his fields, embellishes the earth, clears swamps, etc. 
What has the world to do with his Lutheran principles ? 
He persecutes nobody, and nobody persecutes him, he 
visits his neighbours, and his neighbours visit him. 
Next to him lives a seceder, the most enthusiastic of all 
sectaries; his zeal is hot and fiery, but separated as he 
is from others of the same complexion, he has no con- 
gregation of his own to resort to, where he might cabal 
and mingle religious pride with worldly obstinacy. He 
likewise raises good crops, his house is handsomely 
painted, his orchard is one of the fairest in the neigh- 
bourhood. How does it concern the welfare of the 
country, or of the province at large, what this man's 
religious sentiments are, or really whether he has any 
at all? He is a good farmer, he is a sober, peaceable, 
good citizen: William Penn himself would not wish for 
more. This is the visible character, the invisible one is 
only guessed at, and is nobody's business. Next again 
lives a Low Dutchman, who implicitly believes the rules 
laid down by the synod of Dort. He conceives no other 



50 Letters from an American Farmer 

idea of a clergyman than that of an hired man; if he 
does his work well he will pay him the stipulated sum; 
if not he will dismiss him, and do without his sermons, 
and let his church be shut up for years. But notwith- 
standing this coarse idea, you will find his house and 
farm to be the neatest in all the country; and you will 
judge by his waggon and fat horses, that he thinks more 
of the affairs of this world than of those of the next. 
Me is sober and laborious, therefore he is all he ought 
to be as to the affairs of this life ; as for those of the next, 
he must trust to the great Creator. Each of these people 
instruct their children as well as they can, but these 
instructions are feeble compared to those which are 
given to the youth of the poorest class in Europe. 
Their children will therefore grow up less zealous and 
more indifferent in matters of religion than their parents. 
The foolish vanity, or rather the fury of making 
Proselytes, is unknown here; they have no time, the 
seasons call for all their attention, and thus in a few 
years, this mixed neighbourhood will exhibit a strange 
religious medley, that will be neither pure Catholicism 
aor pure Calvinism. A very perceptible indifference 
even in the first generation, will become apparent; and 
it may happen that the daughter of the Catholic will 
marry the son of the seceder, and settle by themselves 
at a distance from their parents. What religious 
education will they give their children? A very im- 
perfect one. If there happens to be in the neighbour- 
hood any place of ^worship, we will suppose a Quaker's 
meeting; rather than not show their fine clothes, they 
will go to it, and some of them may perhaps attach 
themselves to that society. Others will remain in a 
perfect state of indifference; the children of these 
zealous parents will not be able to tell what their 
religious principles are, and their grandchildren still 
less. The neighbourhood of a place of worship generallv 



What is an American 5 1 

leads them to it, and the action of going thither, is the 
strongest evidence they can give of their attachment to 
any sect. The Quakers are the only people who retain 
a fondness for their own mode of worship; for be they 
ever so far separated from each other, they hold a sort 
of communion with the society, and seldom depart from 
its rules, at least in this country. Thus all sects are 
mixed as well as all nations ; thus religious indifference 
is imperceptibly disseminated from one end of the 
continent to the other; which is at present one of 
the strongest characteristics of the Americans. Where 
this will reach no one can tell, perhaps it may leave a 
vacuum fit to receive other systems. Persecution, 
religious pride, the love of contradiction, are the food 
of what the world commonly calls religion. These 
motives have ceased here; zeal in Europe is confined; 
here it evaporates in the great distance it has to travel; 
there it is a grain of powder inclosed, here it burns away 
in the open air, and consumes without effect. 

But to return to our back settlers. I must tell you, 
that there is something in the proximity of the woods, 
which is very singular. It is with men as it is with the 
plants and animals that grow and live in the forests; 
they are entirely different from those that live in the 
plains. I will candidly tell you all my thoughts but you 
are not to expect that I shall advance any reasons. By 
living in or near the woods, their actions are regulated 
by the wildness of the neighbourhood. The deer often 
come to eat their grain, the wolves to destroy their 
sheep, the bears to kill their hogs, the foxes to catch 
their poultry. This surrounding hostility immediately 
puts the gun into their hands; they watch these 
animals, they kill some; and thus by defending their 
property, they soon become professed hunters; this is 
the progress; once hunters, farewell to the plough. 
The chase renders them ferocious, gloomy, and un- 



52 Letters from an American Farmer 

sociable; a hunter wants no neighbour, he rather hates 
them, because he dreads the competition. In a little 
time their success in the woods makes them neglect 
their tillage. They trust to the natural fecundity of 
the earth, and therefore do little; carelessness in fencing 
often exposes what little they sow to destruction; they 
are not at home to watch ; in order therefore to make up 
the deficiency, they go oftener to the woods. That new 
mode of life brings along with it a new set of manners, 
which I cannot easily describe. These new manners 
being grafted on the old stock, produce a strange sort of 
lawless profligacy, the impressions of which are indelible. 
The manners of the Indian natives are respectable, 
compared with this European medley. Their wives 
and children live in sloth and inactivity; and having 
no proper pursuits, you may judge what education the 
latter receive. Their tender minds have nothing else 
to contemplate but the example of their parents; like 
them they grow up a mongrel breed, half civilised, half 
savage, except nature stamps on them some constitu- 
tional propensities. That rich, that voluptuous senti- 
ment is gone that struck them so forcibly; the possession 
of their freeholds no longer conveys to their minds the 
same pleasure and pride. To all these reasons you must 
add, their lonely situation, and you cannot imagine 
what an effect on manners the great distances they live 
from each other has! Consider one of the last settle- 
ments in its first view: of what is it composed? 
Europeans who have not that sufficient share of know- 
ledge they ought to have, in order to prosper; people 
who have suddenly passed from oppression, dread of 
government, and fear of laws, into the unlimited 
freedom of the woods. This sudden change must have 
a very great effect on most men, and on that class par- 
ticularly. Eating of wild meat, whatever you may think, 
tends to alter their temper: though all the proof I can 



What is an American 53 

adduce, is, that I have seen it: and having no place of 
worship to resort to, what little society this might afford 
is denied them. The Sunday meetings, exclusive of 
religious benefits, were the only social bonds that might 
have inspired them with some degree of emulation in 
neatness. Is it then surprising to see men thus situated, 
immersed in great and heavy labours, degenerate a 
little? It is rather a wonder the effect is not more 
diffusive. The Moravians and the Quakers are the only 
instances in exception to what I have advanced. The 
first never settle singly, it is a colony of the society 
which emigrates; they carry with them their forms, 
worship, rules, and decency: the others never begin so 
hard, they are always able to buy improvements, in 
which there is a great advantage, for by that time the 
country is recovered from its first barbarity. Thus our 
bad people are those who are half cultivators and half 
hunters; and the worst of them are those who have 
degenerated altogether into the hunting state. As old 
ploughmen and new men of the woods, as Europeans 
and new made Indians, they contract the vices of both; 
they adopt the moroseness and ferocity of a native, 
without his mildness, or even his industry at home. If 
manners are not refined, at least they are rendered 
simple and inoffensive by tilling the earth; all our 
wants are supplied by it, our time is divided between 
labour and rest, and leaves none for the commission of 
great misdeeds. As hunters it is divided between the 
toil of the chase, the idleness of repose, or the indul- 
gence of inebriation. Hunting is but a licentious idle 
life, and if it does not always pervert good dispositions; 
yet, when it is united with bad luck, it leads to want: 
want stimulates that propensity to rapacity and in- 
justice, too natural to needy men, which is the fatal 
gradation. After this explanation of the effects which 
follow by living in the woods, shall we yet vainly flatter 



54 Letters from an American Farmer 

ourselves with the hope of converting the Indians? 
We should rather begin with converting our back- 
settlers ; and now if I dare mention the name of religion, 
its sweet accents would be lost in the immensity of these 
woods. Men thus placed are not fit either to receive or 
remember its mild instructions; they want temples and 
ministers, but as soon as men cease to remain at home, 
and begin to lead an erratic life, let them be either tawny 
or white, they cease to be its disciples. 

Thus have I faintly and imperfectly endeavoured to 
trace our society from the sea to our woods! yet you 
must not imagine that every person who moves back, 
acts upon the same principles, or falls into the same 
degeneracy. Many families carry with them all their 
decency of conduct, purity of morals, and respect of 
religion; but these are scarce, the power of example is 
sometimes irresistible. Even among these back- 
settlers, their depravity is greater or less, according to 
what nation or province they belong. Were I to adduce 
proofs of this, I might be accused of partiality. If there 
happens to be some rich intervals, some fertile bottoms, 
in those remote districts, the people will there prefer 
tilling the land to hunting, and will attach themselves 
to it; but even on these fertile spots you may plainly 
perceive the inhabitants to acquire a great degree of 
rusticity and selfishness. 

It is in consequence of this straggling situation, and 
the astonishing power it has on manners, that the back- 
settlers of both the Carolmas, Virginia, and many other 
parts, have been long a set of lawless people; it has been 
even dangerous to travel among them. Government 
can do nothing in so extensive a country, better it should 
wink at these irregularities, than that it should use 
means inconsistent with its usual mildness. Time will 
efface those stains: in proportion as the great body of 
population approaches them they will reform, and 



What is an American 55 

become polished and subordinate. Whatever has been 
said of the four New England provinces, no such 
degeneracy of manners has ever tarnished their annals; 
their back-settlers have been kept within the bounds 
of decency, and government, by means of wise laws, and 
by the influence of religion. What a detestable idea 
such people must have given to the natives of the 
Europeans! They trade with them, the worst of people 
are permitted to do that which none but persons of the 
best characters should be employed in. They get 
drunk with them, and often defraud the Indians. 
Their avarice, removed from the eyes of their superiors, 
knows no bounds; and aided by the little superiority of 
knowledge, these traders deceive them, and even some- 
times shed blood. Hence those shocking violations, 
those sudden devastations which have so often stained 
our frontiers, when hundreds of innocent people have 
been sacrificed for the crimes of a few. It was in con- 
sequence of such behaviour, that the Indians took the 
hatchet against the Virginians in 1774. Thus are our 
first steps trod, thus are our first trees felled, in general, 
by the most vicious of our people; and thus the path is 
opened for the arrival of a second and better class, the 
true American freeholders; the most respectable set of 
people in this part of the world: respectable for their 
industry, their happy independence, the great share of 
freedom they possess, the good regulation of their 
families, and for extending the trade and the dominion 
of our mother country. 

Europe contains hardly any other distinctions but 
lords and tenants; this fair country alone is settled by 
freeholders, the possessors of the soil they cultivate, 
members of the government they obey, and the framers 
of their own laws, by means of their representatives. 
This is a thought which you have taught me to cherish; 
our difference from Europe, far from diminishing, rather 



56 Letters from an American Farmer 

adds to our usefulness and consequence as men and 
subjects. Had our forefathers remained there, they 
would only have crowded it, and perhaps prolonged 
those convulsions which had shook it so long. Every 
industrious European who transports himself here, may 
be compared to a sprout growing at the foot of a great 
tree; it enjoys and draws but a little portion of sap; 
wrench it from the parent roots, transplant it, and it 
will become a tree bearing fruit also. Colonists are 
therefore entitled to the consideration due to the most 
useful subjects; a hundred families barely existing in 
some parts of Scotland, will here in six years, cause an 
annual exportation of 10,000 bushels of wheat: 100 
bushels being but a common quantity for an industrious 
family to sell, if they cultivate good land. It is here 
then that the idle may be employed, the useless become 
useful, and the poor become rich; but by riches I do 
not mean gold and silver, we have but little of those 
metals; I mean a better sort of wealth, cleared lands, 
cattle, good houses, good clothes, and an increase of 
people to enjoy them. 

There is no wonder that this country has so many 
charms, and presents to Europeans so many tempta- 
tions to remain in it. A traveller in Europe becomes 
a stranger as soon as he quits his own kingdom; but it 
is otherwise here. We know, properly speaking, no 
strangers; this is every person's country; the variety 
of our soils, situations, climates, governments, and 
produce, hath something which must please everybody. 
No sooner does an European arrive, no matter of what 
condition, than his eyes are opened upon the fair 
prospect; he hears his language spoke, he retraces many 
of his own country manners, he perpetually hears the 
names of families and towns with which he is acquainted; 
he sees happiness and prosperity in all places dis- 
seminated; he meets with hospitality, kindness, and 



What is an American 57 

plenty everywhere; he beholds hardly any poor, he 
seldom hears of punishments and executions; and he 
wonders at the elegance of our towns, those miracles of 
industry and freedom. He cannot admire enough our 
rural districts, our convenient roads, good taverns, and 
our many accommodations; he involuntarily loves a 
country where everything is so lovely. When in 
England, he was a mere Englishman ; here he stands on 
a larger portion of the globe, not less than its fourth 
part, and may see the productions of the north, in iron 
and naval stores; the provisions of Ireland, the grain 
of Egypt, the indigo, the rice of China. He does not 
find, as in Europe, a crowded society, where every place 
is over-stocked; he does not feel that perpetual collision 
of parties, that difficulty of beginning, that contention 
which oversets so many. There is room for everybody 
in America; has he any particular talent, or industry? 
he exerts it in order to procure a livelihood, and it 
succeeds. Is he a merchant ? the avenues of trade are 
infinite; is he eminent in any respect? he will be 
employed and respected. Does he love a country life? 
pleasant farms present themselves; he may purchase 
what he wants, and thereby become an American 
farmer. Is he a labourer, sober and industrious? he 
need not go many miles, nor receive many informations 
before he will be hired, well fed at the table of his 
employer, and paid four or five times more than he can 
get in Europe. Does he want uncultivated lands? 
thousands of acres present themselves, which he may 
purchase cheap. Whatever be his talents or inclina- 
tions, if they are moderate, he may satisfy them. I do 
not mean that every one who comes will grow rich in 
a little time; no, but he may procure an easy, decent 
maintenance, by his industry. Instead of starving he 
will be fed, instead of being idle he will have employ- 
ment; and these are riches enough for such men as 



58 Letters from an American Farmer 

come over here. The rich stay in Europe, it is only the 
middling and the poor that emigrate. Would you wish 
to travel in independent idleness, from north to south, 
you will find easy access, and the most cheerful reception 
at every house ; society without ostentation, good cheer 
without pride, and every decent diversion which the 
country affords, with little expense. It is no wonder 
that the European who has lived here a few years, is 
desirous to remain; Europe with all its pomp, is not to 
be compared to this continent, for men of middle 
stations, or labourers. 

An European, when he first arrives, seems limited in 
his intentions, as well as in his views; but he very 
suddenly alters his scale; two hundred miles formerly 
appeared a very great distance, it is now but a trifle ; he 
no sooner breathes our air than he forms schemes, and 
embarks in designs he never would have thought of in his 
own country. There the plenitude of society confines 
many useful ideas, and often extinguishes the most 
laudable schemes which here ripen into maturity. Thus 
Europeans become Americans. 

But how is this accomplished in that crowd of low, 
indigent people, who flock here every year from all parts 
of Europe ? I will tell you ; they no sooner arrive than 
they immediately feel the good effects of that plenty of 
provisions we possess: they fare on our best food, and 
they are kindly entertained; their talents, character, 
and peculiar industry are immediately inquired into; 
they find countrymen everywhere disseminated, let 
them come from whatever part of Europe. Let me 
select one as an epitome of the rest ; he is hired, he goes 
to work, and works moderately; instead of being 
employed by a haughty person, he finds himself with 
his equal, placed at the substantial table of the farmer, 
or else at an inferior one as good ; his wages are high, his 
bed is not like that bed of sorrow on which he used to 



What is an American 59 

lie: if he behaves with propriety, and is faithful, he i 
caressed, and becomes as it were a member of the family, 
He begins to feel the effects of a sort of resurrection; 
hitherto he had not lived, but simply vegetated; he 
now feels himself a man, because he is treated as 
such; the laws of his own country had overlooked him in 
his insignificancy; the laws of this cover him with their 
mantle. Judge what an alteration there must arise in 
the mind and thoughts of this man ; he begins to forget 
his former servitude and dependence, his heart involun- 
tarily swells and glows; this first swell inspires him 
with those new thoughts which constitute an American. 
What love can he entertain for a country where his 
existence was a burthen to him; if he is a generous 
good man, the love of this new adoptive parent will 
sink deep into his heart. He looks around, and sees 
many a prosperous person, who but a few years before 
was as poor as himself. This encourages him much, he 
begins to form some little scheme, the first, alas, he ever 
formed in his life. If he is wise he thus spends two or 
three years, in which time he acquires knowledge, the 
use of tools, the modes of working the lands, felling 
trees, etc. This prepares the foundation of a good name, 
the most useful acquisition he can make. He is en- 
couraged, he has gained friends; he is advised and 
directed, he feels bold, he purchases some land; he 
gives all the money he has brought over, as well as what 
he has earned, and trusts to the God of harvests for the 
discharge of the rest. His good name procures him 
credit. He is now possessed of the deed, conveying to 
him and his posterity the fee simple and absolute pro- 
perty of two hundred acres of land, situated on such a 
river. What an epocha in this man's life I He is 
become a freeholder, from perhaps a German boor he 
is now an American, a Pennsylvanian, an English sub- 
ject. He is naturalised, his name is enrolled with those 



60 Letters from an American Farmer 

of the other citizens of the province. Instead of being 
a vagrant, he has a place of residence; he is called the 
inhabitant of such a county, or of such a district, and 
for the first time in his life counts for something; for 
hitherto he has been a cypher. I only repeat what I 
have heard many say, and no wonder their hearts should 
glow, and be agitated with a multitude of feelings, not 
easy to describe. From nothing to start into being; 
from a servant to the rank of a master; from being the 
slave of some despotic prince, to become a free man, 
invested with lands, to which every municipal blessing 
is annexed! What a change indeed! It is in conse- 
quence of that change that he becomes an American. 
This great metamorphosis has a double effect, it extin- 
guishes all his European prejudices, he forgets that 
mechanism of subordination, that servility of disposition 
which poverty had taught him; and sometimes he is 
apt to forget too much, often passing from one extreme 
to the other. If he is a good man, he forms schemes of 
future prosperity, he proposes to educate his children 
better than he has been educated himself; he thinks of 
future modes of conduct, feels an ardour to labour he 
never felt before. Pride steps in and leads him to 
everything that the laws do not forbid: he respects 
them; with a heart-felt gratitude he looks toward the 
east, toward that insular government from whose wisdom 
all his new felicity is derived, and under whose wings 
and protection he now lives. These reflections con- 
stitute him the good man and the good subject. Ye 
poor Europeans, ye, who sweat, and work for the great 
ye, who are obliged to give so many sheaves to the 
church, so many to your lords, so many to your govern- 
ment, and have hardly any left for yourselves ye, who 
are held in less estimation than favourite hunters or 
useless lap-dogs ye, who only breathe the air of nature, 
because it cannot be withheld from you; it is here that 



What is an American 61 

ye can conceive the possibility of those feelings I have 
been describing; it is here the laws of naturalisation 
invite every one to partake of our great labours and 
felicity, to till unrented, untaxed lands! Many, 
corrupted beyond the power of amendment, have 
brought with them all their vices, and disregarding the 
advantages held to them, have gone on in their former 
career of iniquity, until they have been overtaken and 
punished by our laws. It is not every emigrant who 
succeeds; no, it is only the sober, the honest, and 
industrious: happy those to whom this transition has 
served as a powerful spur to labour, to prosperity, and 
to the good establishment of children, born in the days of 
their poverty; and who had no other portion to expect 
but the rags of their parents, had it not been for their 
happy emigration. Others again, have been led 
astray by this enchanting scene; their new pride, 
instead of leading them to the fields, has kept them in 
idleness ; the idea of possessing lands is all that satisfies 
them though surrounded with fertility, they have 
mouldered away their time in inactivity, misinformed 
husbandry, and ineffectual endeavours. How much 
wiser, in general, the honest Germans than almost all 
other Europeans ; they hire themselves to some of their 
wealthy landsmen, and in that apprenticeship learn 
everything that is necessary. They attentively consider 
the prosperous industry of others, which imprints in 
their minds a strong desire of possessing the same 
advantages. This forcible idea never quits them, they 
launch forth, and by dint of sobriety, rigid parsimony, 
and the most persevering industry, they commonly 
succeed. Their astonishment at their first arrival from 
Germany is very great it is to them a dream; the 
contrast must be powerful indeed; they observe their 
countrymen flourishing in every place; they travel 
through whole counties where not a word of English is 



6 2 Letters from an American Farmer 

spoken; and in the names and the language of the 
people, they retrace Germany. They have been an 
useful acquisition to this continent, and to Pennsyl- 
vania in particular; to them it owes some share of its 
prosperity: to their mechanical knowledge and patience 
it owes the finest mills in all America, the best teams of 
horses, and many other advantages. The recollection of 
their former poverty and slavery never quits them as 
long as they live. 

The Scotch and the Irish might have lived in their 
own country perhaps as poor, but enjoying more civil 
advantages, the effects of their new situation do not 
strike them so forcibly, nor has it so lasting an effect. 
From whence the difference arises I know not, but out of 
twelve families of emigrants of each country, generally 
seven Scotch will succeed, nine German, and four Irish. 
The Scotch are frugal and laborious, but their wives 
cannot work so hard as German women, who on the 
contrary vie with their husbands, and often share with 
them the most severe toils of the field, which they under- 
stand better. They have therefore nothing to struggle 
against, but the common casualties of nature. The 
Irish do not prosper so well; they love to drink and to 
quarrel; they are litigious, and soon take to the gun, 
which is the ruin of everything; they seem beside to 
labour under a greater degree of ignorance in husbandry 
than the others; perhaps it is that their industry had 
less scope, and was less exercised at home. I have heard 
many relate, how the land was parcelled out in that 
kingdom; their ancient conquest has been a great 
detriment to them, by over-setting their landed property. 
The lands possessed by a few, are leased down ad 
infinitum, and the occupiers often pay five guineas an 
acre. The poor are worse lodged there than anywhere 
else in Europe; their potatoes, which are easily raised, 
are perhaps an inducement to laziness: their wages are 
too low, and their whisky too cheap. 



What is an American 63 

There is no tracing observations of this kind, without 
making at the same time very great allowances, as there 
are everywhere to be found, a great many exceptions. 
The Irish themselves, from different parts of that king- 
dom, are very different. It is difficult to account for 
this surprising locality, one would think on so small an 
island an Irishman must be an Irishman: yet it is not so, 
they are different in their aptitude to, and in their love 
of labour. 

The Scotch on the contrary are all industrious and 
saving; they want nothing more than a field to exert 
themselves in, and they are commonly sure of succeed- 
ing. The only difficulty they labour under is, that 
technical American knowledge which requires some time 
to obtain; it is not easy for those who seldom saw a 
tree, to conceive how it is to be felled, cut up, and split 
into rails and posts. 

As I am fond of seeing and talking of prosperous 
families, I intend to finish this letter by relating to you 
the history of an honest Scotch Hebridean, who came 
here in 1774, which will show you in epitome what the 
Scotch can do, wherever they have room for the exertion 
of their industry. Whenever I hear of any new settle- 
ment, I pay it a visit once or twice a year, on purpose to 
observe the different steps each settler takes, the gradual 
improvements, the different tempers of each family, on 
which their prosperity in a great nature depends; their 
different modifications of industry, their ingenuity, and 
contrivance; for being all poor, their life requires 
sagacity and prudence. In the evening I love to hear 
them tell their stories, they furnish me with new ideas ; 
I sit still and listen to their ancient misfortunes, observ- 
ing in many of them a strong degree of gratitude to God, 
and the government. Many a well meant sermon have 
I preached to some of them. When I found laziness 
and inattention to prevail, who could refrain from 



64 Letters from an American Farmer 

wishing well to these new countrymen, after having 
undergone so many fatigues. Who could withhold 
good advice? What a happy change it must be, to 
descend from the high, sterile, bleak lands of Scotland, 
where everything is barren and cold, to rest on some 
fertile farms in these middle provinces ! Such a transi- 
tion must have afforded the most pleasing satisfaction. 

The following dialogue passed at an out-settlement, 
where I lately paid a visit : 

Well, friend, how do you do now; I am come fifty 
odd miles on purpose to see you ; how do you go on witli 
your new cutting and slashing ? Very well, good Sir, we 
learn the use of the axe bravely, we shall make it out; 
we have a belly full of victuals every day, our cows run 
about, and come home full of milk, our hogs get fat of 
themselves in the woods: Oh, this is a good country! 
God bless the king, and William Penn; we shall do 
very well by and by, if we keep our healths. Your log- 
house looks neat and light, where did you get these 
shingles ? One of our neighbours is a New-England man, 
and he showed us how to split them out of chestnut-trees. 
Now for a barn, but all in good time, here are fine trees 
to build with. Who is to frame it, sure you don't 
understand that work yet ? A countryman of ours who 
has been in America these ten years, offers to wait for 
his money until the second crop is lodged in it. What 
did you give for your land? Thirty-five shillings per 
acre, payable in seven years. How many acres have you 
got? An hundred and fifty. That is enough to begin 
with; is not your land pretty hard to clear? Yes, Sir, 
hard enough, but it would be harder still if it were ready 
cleared, for then we should have no timber, and I love 
the woods much; the land is nothing without them. 
Have not you found out any bees yet? No, Sir; and if 
we had we should not know what to do with them. 1 
will tell you by and by. You are very kind. Farewell, 



What is an American 65 

honest man, God prosper you; whenever you travel 

toward , inquire for J . S. He will entertain you kindly, 

provided you bring him good tidings from your family 
and farm. In this manner I often visit them, and care- 
fully examine their houses, their modes of ingenuity, 
their different ways; and make them all relate all they 
know, and describe all they feel. These are scenes 
which I believe you would willingly share with me. I 
well remember your philanthropic turn of mind. Is it 
not better to contemplate under these humble roofs, the 
rudiments of future wealth and population, than to 
behold the accumulated bundles of litigious papers in 
the office of a lawyer? To examine how the world is 
gradually settled, how the howling swamp is converted 
into a pleasing meadow, the rough ridge into a fine field; 
and to hear the cheerful whistling, the rural song, where 
there was no sound heard before, save the yeU of the 
savage, the screech of the owl 01 the hissing of the 
snake? Here an European, fatigued with luxur}-, 
riches, <md pleasures, may find a sweet relaxation in a 
scries of interesting scenes, as affecting as they are new. 
England, which now contains so many domes, so many 
castles, was once like this; a place woody and marshy; 
its inhabitants, now the favourite nation for arts and 
commerce, were once painted like our neighbours. The 
country will flourish in its turn, and the same observa- 
tions will be made which I have just delineated. Pos- 
terity will look back with avidity and pleasure, to trace, 
if possible, the era of this or that particular settlement. 
Pray, what is the reason that the Scots are in general 
more religious, more faithful, more honest, and in- 
dustrious than the Irish? I do not mean to insinuate 
national reflections, God forbid! It ill becomes any 
man, and much less an American; but as I know men 
are nothing of themselves, and that they owe all their 
different modifications either to government or other 



66 Letters from an American Farmer 

local circumstances, there must be some powerful causes 
which constitute this great national difference. 

Agreeable to the account which several Scotchmen 
have given me of the north of Britain, of the Orkneys, 
and the Hebride Islands, they seem, on many accounts, 
to be unfit for the habitation of men; they appear to 
be calculated only for great sheep pastures. Who then 
can blame the inhabitants of these countries for trans- 
porting themselves hither? This great continent must 
in time absorb the poorest part of Europe ; and this will 
happen in proportion as it becomes better known; and 
as war, taxation, oppression, and misery increase there. 
The Hebrides appear to be fit only for the residence of 
malefactors, and it would be much better to send felons 
there than either to Virginia or Maryland. What a 
strange compliment has our mother country paid to 
two of the finest provinces in America! England has 
entertained in that respect very mistaken ideas; what 
was intended as a punishment, is become the good 
fortune of several; many of those who have been trans- 
ported as felons, are now rich, and strangers to the 
stings of those wants that urged them to violations oi 
the law: they are become industrious, exemplary, and 
useful citizens. The English government should pur- 
chase the most northern and barren of those islands; 
it should send over to us the honest, primitive Hebri- 
deans, settle them here on good lands, as a reward for 
their virtue and ancient poverty; and replace them 
with a colony of her wicked sons. The severity of the 
climate, the inclemency of the seasons, the sterility of 
the soil, the tempestuousness of the sea, would afflict 
and punish enough. Could there be found a spot 
better adapted to retaliate the injury it had received 
by their crimes? Some of those islands might be con- 
sidered as the hell of Great Britain, where all evil spirits 
should be sent. Two essential ends would be answered 



What is an American 67 

by this simple operation. The good people, by emigra- 
tion, would be rendered happier; the bad ones would 
be placed where they ought to be. In a few years the 
dread oi being sent to that wintry region would have 
a much stronger effect than that of transportation. 
This is no place of punishment; were I a poor hopeless, 
breadless Englishman, and not restrained by the power 
of shame, I should be very thankful for the passage. 
It is of very little importance how, and in what manner 
an indigent man arrives; for if he is but sober, honest, 
and industrious, he has nothing more to ask of heaven. 
Let him go to work, he will have opportunities enough 
to earn a comfortable support, and even the means of 
procuring some land; which ought to be the utmost 
wish of every person who has health and hands to work. 
I knew a man who came to this country, in the literal 
sense of the expression, stark naked; I think he was 
a Frenchman, and a sailor on board an English man-of- 
war. Being discontented, he had stripped himself and 
swam ashore; where, finding clothes and friends, he 
settled afterwards at Maraneck, in the county of Chester, 
in the province of New York: he married and left a good 
farm to each of his sons. I knew another person who 
was but twelve years old when he was taken on the 
frontiers of Canada, by the Indians; at his arrival at 
Albany he was purchased by a gentleman, who gener- 
ously bound him apprentice to a tailor. He lived to 
the age of ninety, and left behind him a fine estate and 
a numerous family, all well settled; many of them I 
am acquainted with. Where is then the industrious 
European who ought to despair? 

After a foreigner from any part of Europe is arrived, 
and become a citizen; let him devoutly listen to the 
voice of our great parent, which says to him, " Welcome 
to my shores, distressed European; bless the hour in 
which thou didst see my verdant fields, my fair navig- 



68 Letters from an American Farmer 

able rivers, and my green mountains! If thou wilt 
work, I have bread for thee; if thou wilt be honest, 
sober, and industrious, I have greater rewards to confer 
on thee ease and independence. I will give thee fields 
to feed and clothe thee; a comfortable fireside to sit 
by, and tell thy children by what means thou hast 
prospered; and a decent bed to repose on. I shall 
endow thee beside with the immunities of a freeman. 
If thou wilt carefully educate thy children, teach them 
gratitude to God, and reverence to that government, 
that philanthropic government, which has collected 
here so many men and made them happy. I will also 
provide for thy progeny; and to every good man this 
ought to be the most holy, the most powerful, the most 
earnest wish he can possibly form, as well as the most 
consolatory prospect when he dies. Go thou and work 
and till; thou shalt prosper, provided thou be just, 
grateful, and industrious/ 1 



HISTORY OF ANDREW, THE HEBRIDEAN 

Let historians give the detail of our charters, the 
succession of our several governors, and of their adminis- 
trations ; of our political struggles, and of the foundation 
of our towns: let annalists amuse themselves with 
collecting anecdotes of the establishment of our modern 
provinces: eagles soar high I, a feebler bird, cheerfully 
content myself with skipping from bush to bush, and 
living on insignificant insects. I am so habituated to 
draw all my food and pleasure from the surface of the 
earth which I till, that I cannot, nor indeed am I able 
to quit it I therefore present you with the short history 
of a simple Scotchman; though it contain not a single 
remarkable event to amaze the reader; no tragical 
scene to convulse the heart, or pathetic narrative to 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 69 

draw tears from sympathetic eyes. All I wish to 
delineate is, the progressive steps of a poor man, advanc- 
ing from indigence to ease ; from oppression to freedom ; 
from obscurity and contumely to some degree of con- 
sequence not by virtue of any freaks of fortune, but 
by the gradual operation of sobriety, honesty, and 
emigration. These are the limited fields, through which 
I love to wander; sure to find in some parts, the smile 
of new-born happiness, the glad heart, inspiring the 
cheerful song, the glow of manly pride excited by vivid 
hopes and rising independence. I always return from 
my neighbourly excursions extremely happy, because 
there I see good living almost under every roof, and 
prosperous endeavours almost in every field. But you 
may say, why don't you describe some of the more 
ancient, opulent settlements of our country, where even 
the eye of an European has something to admire ? It is 
true, our American fields are in general pleasing to 
behold, adorned and intermixed as they are with so 
many substantial houses, flourishing orchards, and 
copses of woodlands; the pride of our farms, the source 
of every good we possess. But what I might observe 
there is but natural and common; for to draw com- 
fortable subsistence from well fenced cultivated fields, 
is easy to conceive. A father dies and leaves a decent 
house and rich farm to his son; the son modernises the 
one, and carefully tills the other; marries the daughter 
of a friend and neighbour: this is the common prospect; 
but though it is rich and pleasant, yet it is far from 
being so entertaining and instructive as the one now in 
my view. 

I had rather attend on the shore to welcome the poor 
European when he arrives, I observe him in his first 
moments of embarrassment, trace him throughout his 
primary difficulties, follow him step by step, until he 
pitches his tent on some piece of land, and realises that 



70 Letters from an American Farmer 

energetic wish which has made him quit his native land, 
his kindred, and induced him to traverse a boisterous 
ocean. It is there I want to observe his first thoughts 
and feelings, the first essays of an industry, which 
hitherto has been suppressed. I wish to see men cut 
down the first trees, erect their new buildings, till their 
first firlds, reap their first crops, and say for the first 
time in their lives, " This is our own grain, raised from 
American soil on it we shall feed and grow fat, and 
convert the rest into gold and silver/' I want to see 
how the happy effects of their sobriety, honesty, and 
industry are first displayed: and who would not take 
a pleasure in seeing these strangers settling as new 
countrymen, struggling with arduous difficulties, over- 
coming them, and becoming happy. 

Landing on this great continent is like going to sea, 
they must have a compass, some friendly directing 
needle; or else they will uselessly err and wander for 
a long time, even with a fair wind: yet these are the 
struggles through which our forefathers have waded; 
and they have left us no other records of them, but the 
possession of our farms. The reflections I make on 
these new settlers recall to my mind what my grand- 
father did in his days; they fill me with gratitude to 
his memory as well as to that government, which invited 
him to come, and helped him when he arrived, as well 
as many others. Can I pass over these reflections 
without remembering thy name, O Penn! thou best of 
legislators ; who by the wisdom of thy laws hast endowed 
human nature, within the bounds of thy province, with 
every dignity it can possibly enjoy in a civilised state; 
and showed by thy singular establishment, what all 
men might be if they would follow thy example! 

In the year 1770, I purchased some lands in the 

county of , which I intended for one of my sons; 

and was obliged to go there in order to see them properly 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 71 

surveyed and marked out: the soil is good, but the 
country has a very wild aspect. However I observed 
with pleasure, that land sells very fast; and I am in 
hopes when the lad gets a wife, it will be a well-settled 
decent country. Agreeable to our customs, which 
indeed are those of nature, it is our duty to provide 
for our eldest children while we live, in order that our 
homesteads may be left to the youngest, who are the 
most helpless. Some people are apt to regard the 
portions given to daughters as so much lost to the 
family; but this is selfish, and is not agreeable to my 
way of thinking; they cannot work as men do; they 
marry young: I have given an honest European a farm 
to till for himself, rent free, provided he clears an acre 
of swamp every year, and that he quits it whenever my 
daughter shall marry. It will procure her a substantial 
husband, a good farmer and that is all my ambition. 

Whilst I was in the woods I met with a party of 
Indians; I shook hands with them, and I perceived 
they had killed a cub; I had a little Peach brandy, 
they perceived it also, we therefore joined company, 
kindled a large fire, and ate an hearty supper. I made 
their hearts glad, and we all reposed on good beds of 
leaves. Soon after dark, I was surprised to hear a 
prodigious hooting through the woods; the Indians 
laughed heartily. One of them, more skilful than the 
rest, mimicked the owls so exactly, that a very large 
one perched on a high tree over our fire. We soon 
brought him down; he measured five feet seven inches 
from one extremity of the wings to the other. By 

Captain I have sent you the talons, on which I 

have had the heads of small candlesticks fixed. Pray 
keep them on the table of your study for my sake. 

Contiary to my expectation, I found myself under 
the necessity of going to Philadelphia, in order to pay 
the purchase money, and to have the deeds properly 



72 Letters from an American Farmer 

recorded. I thought little of the journey, though it 
was above two hundred miles, because I was well 
acquainted with many friends, at whose houses I in- 
tended to stop. The third night after I left the woods, 

I put up at Mr. 's, the most worthy citizen I know; 

he happened to lodge at my house when you was there. 
He kindly inquired after your welfare, and desired 
I would make a friendly mention of him to you. The 
neatness of these good people is no phenomenon, yet I 
think this excellent family surpasses everything I know. 
No sooner did I lie down to rest than I thought myself 
in a most odoriferous arbour, so sweet and fragrant 
were the sheets. Next morning I found my host in the 
orchard destroying caterpillars. I think, friend B., 
said I, that thee art greatly departed from the good 
rules of the society; thee seemeth to have quitted that 
happy simplicity for which it hath hitherto been so 
remarkable. Thy rebuke, friend James, is a pretty 
heavy one; what motive canst thee have for thus 
accusing us? Thy kind wife made a mistake last 
evening, I said; she put me on a bed of roses, instead 
of a common one; I am not used to such delicacies. 
And is that all, friend James, that thee hast to reproach 
us with? Thee wilt not call it luxury I hope? thee 
canst but know that it is the produce of our garden; 
and friend Pope sayeth, that " to enjoy is to obey." 
This is a most learned excuse indeed, friend B., and 
must be valued because it is founded upon truth. James, 
my wife hath done nothing more to thy bed than what 
is done all the year round to all the beds in the family; 
she sprinkles her linen with rose-water before she puts 
it under the press; it is her fancy, and I have nought 
to say. But thee shalt not escape so, verily I will send 
for her; thee and she must settle the matter, whilst I 
proceed on my work, before the sun gets too high. 
Tom, go thou and call thy mistress Philadelphia. What. 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 73 

said I, is thy wife called by that name ? I did not know 
that before. I'll tell thee, James, how it came to pass: 
her grandmother was the first female child born after 
William Penn landed with the rest of our brethren; 
and in compliment to the city he intended to build, 
she was called after the name he intended to give it; 
and so there is always one of the daughters of her family 
known by the name of Philadelphia. She soon came, 
and after a most friendly altercation, I gave up the 
point; breakfasted, departed, and in four days reached 
the city. 

A week after news came that a vessel was arrived 
with Scotch emigrants. Mr. C. and I went to the dock 
to see them disembark. It was a scene which inspired 
me with a variety of thoughts: here are, said I to my 
friend, a number of people, driven by poverty, and 
other adverse causes, to a foreign land, in which they 
know nobody. The name of a stranger, instead of 
implying relief, assistance, and kindness, on the con- 
trary, conveys very different ideas. They are now 
distressed; their minds are racked by a variety of 
apprehensions, fears, and hopes. It was this last power- 
ful sentiment which has brought them here. If they 
are good people, I pray that heaven may realise them. 
Whoever were to see them thus gathered again in five 
or six years, would behold a more pleasing sight, to 
which this would serve as a very powerful contrast. 
By their honesty, the vigour of their arms, and the 
benignity of government, their condition will be greatly 
improved ; they will be well clad, fat, possessed of that 
manly confidence which property confers; they will 
become useful citizens. Some of the posterity may 
act conspicuous parts in our future American trans- 
actions. Most of them appeared pale and emaciated, 
from the length of the passage, and the jadiS^?3lr 
provision on which they had lived. The/number of 



74 Letters from an American Farmer 

children seemed as great as that of the people; they 
had all paid for being conveyed here. The captain 
told us they were a quiet, peaceable, and harmless 
people, who had never dwelt in cities. This was a 
valuable cargo; they seemed, a few excepted, to be in 
the full vigour of their lives. Several citizens, impelled 
either by spontaneous attachments, or motives of 
humanity, took many of them to their houses; the 
city, agreeable to its usual wisdom and humanity, 
ordered them all to be lodged in the barracks, and 
plenty of provisions to be given them. My friend 
pitched upon one also and led him to his house, with 
his wife, and a son about fourteen years of age. The 
majority of them had contracted for land the year 
before, by means of an agent; the rest depended 
entirely upon chance; and the one who followed us 
was of this last class. Poor man, he smiled on receiving 
the invitation, and gladly accepted it, bidding his wife 
and son do the same, in a language which I did not 
understand. He gazed with uninterrupted attention 
on everything he saw; the houses, the inhabitants, the 
negroes, and carriages: everything appeared equally 
new to him; and we went slow, in order to give him 
time to feed on this pleasing variety. Good God ! said 
he, is this Philadelphia, that blessed city of bread and 
provisions, of which we have heard so much? I am 
told it was founded the same year in which my father 
was born; why, it is finer than Greenock and Glasgow, 
which are ten times as old. It is so, said my friend to 
him, and when thee hast been here a month, thee will 
soon see that it is the capital of a fine province, of which 
thee art going to be a citizen: Greenock enjoys neither 
such a climate nor such a soil. Thus we slowly pro- 
ceeded along, when we met several large Lancaster six- 
horse waggons, just arrived from the country. At this 
stupendous sight he stopped short, and with great diffi- 



History of Andrew, the Hebridcan 75 

dence asked us what was the use of these great moving 
houses, and where those big horses came from? Have 
you none such at home, I asked him? Oh, no; these 
huge animals would eat all the grass of our island! 
We at last reached my friend's house, who in the glow 
of well-meant hospitality, made them all three sit down 
to a good dinner, and gave them as much cider as they 
could drink. God bless this country, and the good 
people it contains, said he; this is the best meal's 
victuals I have made a long time. I thank you kindly. 
What part of Scotland dost thee come from, friend 
Andrew, said Mr. C. ? Some of us come from the main, 
some from the island of Barra, he answered I myself 
am a Barra man. I looked on the map, and by its 
latitude, easily guessed that it must be an inhospitable 
climate. What sort of land have you got there, I asked 
him? Bad enough, said he; we have no such trees 
as I see here, no wheat, no kine, no apples. Then, I 
observed, that it must be hard for the poor to live. 
We have no poor, he answered, we are all alike, except 
our laird; but he cannot help everybody. Pray what 
is the name of your laird? Mr. Neiel, said Andrew; 
the like of him is not to be found in any of the isles; 
his forefathers have lived there thirty generations ago, 
as we are told. Now, gentlemen, you may judge what 
an ancient family estate it must be. But it is cold, the 
land is thin, and there were too many of us, which are 
the reasons that some are come to seek their fortunes 
here. Well, Andrew, what step do you intend to take 
in order to become rich? I do not know, Sir; I am 
but an ignorant man, a stranger besides I must rely 
on the advice of good Christians, they would not deceive 
me, I am sure. I have brought with me a character 
from our Barra minister, can it do me any good here? 
Oh, yes; but your future success will depend entirely 
on your own conduct; if you are a sober man, as the 



j6 Letters from an American Farmer 

certificate says, laborious, and honest, there is no fear 
but that you will do well. Have you brought any 
money with you, Andrew? Yes, Sir, eleven guineas 
and an half. Upon my word it is a considerable sum 
for a Barra man; how came you by so much money? 
Why seven years ago I received a legacy of thirty-seven 
pounds from an uncle, who loved me much; my wife 
brought me two guineas, when the laird gave her to me 
for a wife, which 1 have saved ever since. I have sold 
all I had; I worked in Glasgow for some time. I am 
glad to hear you are so saving and prudent; be so still; 
you must go and hire yourself with some good people; 
what can you do ? I can thresh a little, and handle the 
spade. Can you plough? Yes, Sir, with the little 
breast plough I have brought with me. These won't 
do here, Andrew; you are an able man; if you are 
willing you will soon learn. I'll tell you what I intend 
to do; I'll send you to my house, where you shall stay 
two or three weeks, there }^ou must exercise yourself 
with the axe, that is the principal tool the Americans 
want, and particularly the back-settlers. Can your 
wife spin? Yes, she can. Well then as soon as you 
are able to handle the axe, you shall go and live with 
Mr. P. R., a particular friend of mine, who will give you 
four dollars per month, for the first six, and the usual 
price of five as long as you remain with him. I shall 
place your wife in another house, where she shall receive 
half a dollar a week for spinning; and your son a dollar 
a month to drive the team. You shall have besides 
good victuals to eat, and good beds to lie on; will all 
this satisfy you, Andrew ? He hardly understood what 
I said; the honest tears of gratitude fell from his eyes 
as he looked at me, and its expressions seemed to quiver 
on his lips. Though silent, this was saying a great 
deal; there was besides something extremely moving 
to see a man six feet high thus shed tears; and they 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 77 

did not lessen the good opinion I had entertained of 
him. At last he told me, that my offers were more 
than he deserved, and that he would first begin to work 
for his victuals. No, no, said I, if you are careful and 
sober, and do what you can, you shall receive what I 
told you, after you have served a short apprenticeship 
at my house. May God repay you for all your kind- 
nesses, said Andrew; as long as I live I shall thank you, 
and do what I can for you. A few days after 1 sent 

them all three to , by the return of some waggons, 

that he might have an opportunity of viewing, and 
convincing himself of the utility of those machines 
which he had at first so much admired. 

The further descriptions he gave us of the Hebrides 
in general, and of his native island in particular ; of the 
customs and modes of living of the inhabitants ; greatly 
entertained me. Pray is the sterility of the soil the 
cause that there are no trees, or is it because there are 
none planted? What are the modern families of all 
the kings of the earth, compared to the date of that oi 
Mr. Neiel ? Admitting that each generation should last 
but forty years, this makes a period of 1200; an extra- 
ordinary duration for the uninterrupted descent of any 
family! Agreeably to the description he gave us of 
those countries, they seem to live according to the rules 
of nature, which gives them but bare subsistence; their 
constitutions are uncontaminated by any excess or 
effeminacy, which their soil refuses. If their allowance 
of food is not too scanty, they must all be healthy by 
perpetual temperance and exercise; if so, they are 
amply rewarded for their poverty. Could they have 
obtained but necessary food, they would not have left 
it; for it was not in consequence of oppression, either 
from their patriarch or the government, that they had 
emigrated. I wish we had a colony of these honest 
people settled in some parts of this province; their 



78 Letters from an American Farmer 

morals, their religion, seem to be as simple as their 
manners. This society would present an interesting 
spectacle could they be transported on a richer soil. 
But perhaps that soil would soon alter everything; for 
our opinions, vices, and virtues, are altogether local: 
we are machines fashioned by every circumstance 
around us. 

Andrew arrived at my house a week before I did, and 
1 found my wife, agreeable to my instructions, had 
placed the axe in his hands, as his first task. For some 
time he was very awkward, but he was so docile, so 
willing, and grateful, as well as his wife, that I foresaw 
he would succeed. Agreeably to my promise, I put 
them all with different families, where they were well 
liked, and all parties were pleased. Andrew worked 
hard, lived well, grew fat, and every Sunday came to 
pay me a visit on a good horse, which Mr. P. R. lent 
him. Poor man, it took him a long time ere he could 
sit on the saddle and hold the bridle properly. I be- 
lieve he had never before mounted such a beast, though 
I did not choose to ask him that question, for fear it 
might suggest some mortifying ideas. After having 
been twelve months at Mr. P. R/s, and having received 
his own and his family's wages, which amounted to 
eighty-four dollars; he came to see me on a week-day, 
and told me, that he was a man of middle age, and 
would willingly have land of his own, in order to procure 
him a home, as a shelter against old age: that whenever 
this period should come, his son, to whom he would 
give his land, would then maintain him, and thus 
live altogether; he therefore required my advice and 
assistance. I thought his desire very natural and praise- 
worthy, and told him that I should think of it. but that 
he must remain one month longer with Mr. P. R., who 
had 3000 rails to split. He immediately consented. 
The spring was not far advanced enough yet for Andrew 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 79 

to begin clearing any land even supposing that he had 
made a purchase; as it is always necessary that the 
leaves should be out, in order that this additional 
combustible may serve to burn the heaps of brush more 
readily. 

A few days after, it happened that the whole family 
of Mr. P. R. went to meeting, and left Andrew to take 
care of the house. While he was at the door, attentively 
reading the Bible, nine Indians just come from the 
mountains, suddenly made their appearance, and 
unloaded their packs of furs on the floor of the piazza. 
Conceive, if you can, what was Andrew's consternation 
at this extraordinary sight! From the singular appear- 
ance of these people, the honest Hebridean took them 
lor a lawless band come to rob his master's house. He 
therefore, like a faithful guardian, precipitately withdrew 
and shut the doors, but as most of our houses are with- 
out locks, he was reduced to the necessity of fixing his 
knife over the latch, and then flew upstairs in quest of 
a broadsword he had brought from Scotland. The 
Indians, who were Mr. P. R.'s particular friends, guessed 
at his suspicions and fears; they forcibly lifted the 
door, and suddenly took possession of the house, got 
all the bread and meat they wanted, and sat themselves 
down by the fire. At this instant Andrew, with his 
broadsword in his hand, entered the room ; the Indians 
earnestly looking at him, and attentively watching his 
motions. After a very few reflections, Andrew found 
that his weapon was useless, when opposed to nine 
tomahawks; but this did not diminish his anger, on 
the contrary; it grew greater on observing the calm 
impudence with which they were devouring the family 
provisions. Unable to resist, he called them names 
in broad Scotch, and ordered them to desist and be 
gone; to which the Indians (as they told me afterwards) 
replied in their equally broad idiom. It must have 



80 Letters from an American Farmer 

been a most unintelligible altercation between this 
honest Barra man, and nine Indians who did not much 
care for anything he could say. At last he ventured 
to lay his hands on one of them, in order to turn him 
out of the house. Here Andrew's fidelity got the better 
of his prudence; for the Indian, by his motions, 
threatened to scalp him, while the rest gave the war 
hoop. This horrid noise so effectually frightened poor 
Andrew, that, unmindful of his courage, of his broad- 
sword, and his intentions, he rushed out, left them 
masters of the house, and disappeared. I have heard 
one of the Indians say since, that he never laughed so 
heartily in his life. Andrew at a distance, soon recovered 
from the fears which had been inspired by this infernal 
yell, and thought of no other remedy than to go to the 
meeting-house, which was about two miles distant. 
In the eagerness of his honest intentions, with looks of 
affright still marked on his countenance, he called 
Mr. P. R. out, and told him with great vehemence of 
style, that nine monsters were come to his house 
some blue, some red, and some black; that they had 
little axes in their hands out of which they smoked; 
and that like highlanders, they had no breeches; that 
they were devouring all his victuals, and that God only 
knew what they would do more. Pacify yourself, said 
Mr. P. R., my house is as safe with these people, as if 
I was there myself; as for the victuals, they are heartily 
welcome, honest Andrew; they are not people of much 
ceremony; they help themselves thus whenever they 
are among their friends; I do so too in their wigwams, 
whenever I go to their village: you had better therefore 
step in and hear the remainder of the sermon, and when 
the meeting is over we will all go back in the waggon 
together. 

At their return, Mr. P. R., who speaks the Indian 
language very well, explained the whole matter; the 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 81 

Indians renewed their laugh, and shook hands with 
honest Andrew, whom they made to smoke out of their 
pipes; and thus peace was made, and ratified according 
to the Indian custom, by the calumet. 

vSoon after this adventure, the time approached when 
I had promised Andrew my best assistance to settle 
him; for that purpose I went to Mr. A. V. in the county 

of 1 who, I was informed, had purchased a tract of 

land, contiguous to settlement. I gave him a 

faithful detail of the progress Andrew had made in the 
rural arts; of his honesty, sobriety, and gratitude, and 
pressed him to sell him an hundred acres. This I cannot 
comply with, said Mr. A. V., but at the same time I 
will do better; I love to encourage honest Europeans 
as much as you do, and to see them prosper: you tell 
me he has but one son; I will lease them an hundred 
acres for any term of years you please, arid make it 
more valuable to your Scotchman than if he was pos- 
sessed of the fee simple. By that means he may, with 
what little money he has, buy a plough, a team, and 
some stock; he will not be incumbered with debts and 
mortgages ; what he raises will be his own ; had he two 
or three sons as able as himself, then I should think it 
more eligible for him to purchase the fee simple. I join 
with you in opinion, and will bring Andrew along with 
me in a few days. 

Well, honest Andrew, said Mr. A. V., in consideration 
of your good name, I will let you have an hundred acres 
of good arable land, that shall be laid out along a new 
road ; there is a bridge already erected on the creek that 
passes through the land, and a fine swamp of about 
twenty acres. These are my terms, I cannot sell, but 
I will lease you the quantity that Mr. James, your 
friend, has asked; the first seven years you shall pay 
no rent, whatever you sow and reap, and plant and 
gather, shall be entirely your own; neither the king, 

* n 649 



82 Letters from an American Farmer 

government, nor church, will have any claim on your 
future property: the remaining part of the time you 
must give me twelve dollars and an half a year; and 
that is all you will have to pay me. Within the three 
first years you must plant fifty apple trees, and clear 
seven acres of swamp within the first part of the lease ; 
it will be your own advantage: whatever you do more 
within that time, I will pay you for it, at the common 
rate of the country. The term of the lease shall be 
thirty years; how do you like it, Andrew? Oh, Sir, 
it is very good, but I am afraid, that the king or his 
ministers, or the governor, or some of our great men, 
will come and take the land from me ; your son may say 
to me, by and by, this is my father's land, Andrew, you 
must quit it. No, no, said Mr. A. V., there is no such 
danger; the king and his ministers are too just to take 
the labour of a poor settler; here we have no great men, 
but what are subordinate to our laws; but to calm all 
your fears, I will give you a lease, so that none can 
make you afraid. If ever you are dissatisfied with the 
land, a jury of your own neighbourhood shall value all 
your improvements, and you shall be paid agreeably 
to their verdict. You may sell the lease, or if you die, 
you may previously dispose of it, as if the land was 
your own. Expressive, yet inarticulate joy, was mixed 
in his countenance, which seemed impressed with 
astonishment and confusion. Do you understand me 
well, said Mr. A. V. ? No, Sir, replied Andrew, I know 
nothing of what you mean about lease, improvement, 
will, jury, etc. That is honest, we will explain these 
things to you by and by. It must be confessed that 
those were hard words, which he had never heard in his 
life; for by his own account, the ideas they convey 
would be totally useless in the island of Barra. No 
wonder, therefore, that he was embarrassed; for how 
could the man who had hardly a will of his own since 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 83 

he was born, imagine he could have one after his death ? 
How could the person who never possessed anything, 
conceive that he could extend his new dominion over 
this land, even after he should be laid in his grave? 
For my part, I think Andrew's amazement did not 
imply any extraordinary degree of ignorance; he was 
an actor introduced upon a new scene, it required some 
time ere he could reconcile himself to the part he was 
to perform. However he was soon enlightened, and 
introduced into those mysteries with which we native 
Americans are but too well acquainted. 

Here then is honest Andrew, invested with every 
municipal advantage they confer; become a freeholder, 
possessed of a vote, of a place of residence, a citizen of 
the province of Pennsylvania. Andrew's original hopes 
and the distant prospects he had formed in the island 
of Barra, were at the eve of being realised; we therefore 
can easily forgive him a few spontaneous ejaculations, 
which would be useless to repeat. This short tale is 
easily told; few words are sufficient to describe this 
sudden change of situation; but in his mind it was 
gradual, and took him above a week before he could be 
sure, that without disturbing any money he could 
possess lands. Soon after he prepared himself; I lent 
him a barrel of pork, and 200 Ib. weight of meal, and 
made him purchase what was necessary besides. 

He set out, and hired a room in the house of a settler 
who lived the most contiguous to his own land. His 
first work was to clear some acres of swamp, that he 
might have a supply of hay the following year for his 
two horses and cows. From the first day he began to 
work, he was indefatigable; his honesty procured him 
friends, and his industry the esteem of his new neigh- 
bours. One of them offered him two acres of cleared 
land, whereon he might plant corn, pumpkins, squashes, 
and a few potatoes, that very season. It is astonishing 



84 Letters from an American Farmer 

how quick men will learn when they work for themselves. 
I saw with pleasure two months after, Andrew holding 
a two-horse plough and tracing his furrows quite 
straight; thus the spade man of the island of Barra 
was become the tiller of American soil. Well done, 
said I, Andrew, well done; I see that God speeds and 
directs your works; I see prosperity delineated in all 
your furrows and head lands. Raise this crop of corn 
with attention and care, and then you will be master 
of the art. 

As he had neither mowing nor reaping to do that 
year, I told him that the time was come to build his 
house; and that for the purpose I would myself invite 
the neighbourhood to a frolic; that thus he would have 
a large dwelling erected, and some upland cleared in 
one day. Mr. P. R., his old friend, came at the time 
appointed, with all his hands, and brought victuals in 
plenty: I did the same. About forty people repaired 
to the spot; the songs, and merry stories, went round 
the woods from cluster to cluster, as the people had 
gathered to their different works; trees fell on all sides, 
bushes were cut up and heaped; and while many were 
thus employed, others with their teams hauled the big 
logs to the spot which Andrew had pitched upon for 
the erection of his new dwelling. We all dined in the 
woods; in the afternoon the logs were placed with 
skids, and the usual contrivances: thus the rude house 
was raised, and above two acres of land cut up, cleared, 
and heaped. 

Whilst all these different operations were performing, 
Andrew was absolutely incapable of working; it was 
to him the most solemn holiday he had ever seen; it 
would have been sacrilegious in him to have defiled it 
with menial labour. Poor man, he sanctified it with 
joy and thanksgiving, and honest libations he went 
from one to the other with the bottle in his hand, pressing 



History of Andrew, the Hebridean 85 

everybody to drink, and drinking himself to show the 
example. He spent the whole day in smiling, laughing, 
and uttering monosyllables : his wife and son were there 
also, but as they could not understand the language, 
their pleasure must have been altogether that of the 
imagination. The powerful lord, the wealthy merchant , 
on seeing the superb mansion finished, never can feel 
half the joy and real happiness which was felt and 
enjoyed on that day by this honest Hebridean: though 
this new dwelling, erected in the midst of the woods, 
was nothing more than a square inclosure, composed of 
twenty-four large clumsy logs, let in at the ends. When 
the work was finished, the company made the woods 
resound with the noise of their three cheers, and the 
honest wishes they formed for Andrew's prosperity. 
He could say nothing, but with thankful tears he shook 
hands with them all. Thus from the first day he had 
landed, Andrew marched towards this important event : 
this memorable day made the sun shine on that land on 
which he was to sow wheat and other grain. What 
swamp he had cleared lay before his door; the essence 
of future bread, milk, and meat, were scattered all 
round him. Soon after he hired a carpenter, who put 
on a roof and laid the floors ; in a week more the house 
was properly plastered, and the chimney finished. He 
moved into it, and purchased two cows, which found 
plenty of food in the woods his hogs had the same 
advantage. That very year, he and his son sowed three 
bushels of wheat, from which he reaped ninety-one 
and a half; for I had ordered him to keep an exact 
account of all he should raise. His first crop of other 
corn would have been as good, had it not been for the 
squirrels, which were enemies not to be dispersed by 
the broadsword. The fourth year I took an inventory 
of the wheat this man possessed, which I send you. 
Soon after, further settlements were made on that road, 



86 Letters from an American Farmer 

and Andrew, instead of being the last man towards the 
wilderness, found himself in a few years in the middle 
of a numerous society. He helped others as generously 
as others had helped him ; and I have dined many times 
at his table with several of his neighbours. The second 
year he was made overseer of the road, and served on 
two petty juries, performing as a citizen all the duties 
required of him. The historiographer of some great 
prince or general, does not bring his hero victorious 
to the end of a successful campaign, with one half of 
the heart-felt pleasure with which I have conducted 
Andrew to the situation he now enjoys: he is indepen- 
dent and easy. Triumph and military honours do not 
always imply those two blessings. He is unencumbered 
with debts, services, rents, or any other dues; the 
successes of a campaign, the laurels of war, must be 
purchased at the dearest rate, which makes every cool 
reilecting citizen to tremble and shudder. By the 
literal account hereunto annexed, you will easily be 
made acquainted with the happy effects which con- 
stantly flow, in this country, from sobriety and industry, 
when united with good land and freedom. 

The account of the property he acquired with his 
own hands and those of his son, in four years, is under: 

Dollars 

The value of his improvements and lease . 225 

Six cows, at 13 dollars .... 78 

Two breeding mares ..... 50 

The rest of the stock ..... 100 

Seventy-three bushels of wheat ... 66 

Money due to him on notes ... 43 

Pork and beef in his cellar .... 28 

Wool and flax ...... 19 

Ploughs and other utensils of husbandry . 31 

240 Pennsylvania currency dollars . 640 



LETTER IV 

DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLAND OF NANTUCKET, WITH 
THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS, POLICY, AND TRADE OF 
THE INHABITANTS 

THE greatest compliment that can be paid to the best 
of kings, to the wisest ministers, or the most patriotic 
rulers, is to think, that the reformation of political 
abuses, and the happiness of their people are the primary 
objects of their attention. But alas! how disagreeable 
must the work of reformation be; how dreaded the 
operation; for we hear of no amendment : on the 
contrary, the great number of European emigrants, 
yearly coming over here, informs us, that the severity 
of taxes, the injustice of laws, the tyranny of the rich, 
and the oppressive avarice of the church; are as in- 
tolerable as ever. Will these calamities have no end? 
Are not the great rulers of the earth afraid of losing, 
by degrees, their most useful subjects? This country, 
providentially intended for the general asylum of the 
world, will flourish by the oppression of their people; 
they will every day become better acquainted with the 
happiness we enjoy, and seek for the means of transport- 
ing themselves here, in spite of all obstacles and laws. 
To what purpose then have so many useful books and 
divine maxims been transmitted to us from preceding 
ages? Are they all vain, all useless? Must human 
nature ever be the sport of the few, and its many 
wounds remain unhealed? How happy are we here, 
in having fortunately escaped the miseries which at- 

87 



88 Letters from an American Farmer 

tended our fathers; how thankful ought we to be, that 
they reared us in a land where sobriety and industry 
never fail to meet with the most ample rewards! You 
have, no doubt, read several histories of this continent, 
yet there are a thousand facts, a thousand explanations 
overlooked. Authors will certainly convey to you a 
geographical knowledge of this country; they will 
acquaint you with the eras of the several settlements, 
the foundations of our towns, the spirit of our different 
charters, etc., yet they do not sufficiently disclose the 
genius of the people, their various customs, their modes 
of agriculture, the innumerable resources which the 
industrious have of raising themselves to a comfortable 
and easy situation. Few of these writers have resided 
here, and those who have, had not pervaded every 
part of the country, nor carefully examined the nature 
and principles of our association. It would be a task 
worthy a speculative genius, to enter intimately into 
the situation and characters of the people, from Nova 
Scotia to West Florida; and surely history cannot 
possibly present any subject more pleasing to behold. 
Sensible how unable I am to lead you through so vast 
a maze, let us look attentively for some small unnoticed 
corner; but where shall we go in quest of such a one? 
Numberless settlements, each distinguished by some 
peculiarities, present themselves on every side ; all seem 
to realise the most sanguine wishes that a good man 
could form for the happiness of his race. Here they 
live by fishing on the most plentiful coasts in the world ; 
there they fell trees, by the sides of large rivers, for 
masts and lumber; here others convert innumerable 
logs into the best boards; there again others cultivate 
the land, rear cattle, and clear large fields. Yet I have 
a spot in my view, where none of these occupations are 
performed, which will, I hope, reward us for the trouble 
of inspection; but though it is barren in its soil, insig- 



Description of Nan tucket 89 

mficant in its extent, inconvenient in its situation, 
deprived of materials for building; it seems to have been 
inhabited merely to prove what mankind can do when 
happily governed! Here I can point out to you exer- 
tions of the most successful industry; instances of 
native sagacity unassisted by science ; the happy fruits 
of a well directed perseverance. It is always a refresh- 
ing spectacle to me, when in my review of the various 
component parts of this immense whole, I observe the 
labours of its inhabitants singularly rewarded by 
nature; when I see them emerged out of their first 
difficulties, living with decency and ease, and conveying 
to their posterity that plentiful subsistence, which their 
fathers have so deservedly earned. But when their 
prosperity arises from the goodness of the climate, and 
fertility of the soil; I partake of their happiness, it is 
true; yet stay but a little while with them, as they 
exhibit nothing but what is natural and common. On 
the contrary, when I meet with barren spots fertilised, 
grass growing where none grew before; grain gathered 
from fields which had hitherto produced nothing better 
than brambles; dwellings raised where no building 
materials were to be found; wealth acquired by the 
most uncommon means: there I pause, to dwell on the 
favourite object of my speculative inquiries. Will- 
ingly do I leave the former to enjoy the odoriferous 
furrow, or their rich valleys, with anxiety repairing to 
the spot, where so many difficulties have been overcome; 
where extraordinary exertions have produced extra- 
ordinary effects, and where every natural obstacle has 
been removed by a vigorous industry. 

I want not to record the annals of the island of 
Nantucket its inhabitants have no annals, for they 
are not a race of warriors. My simple wish is to trace 
them throughout their progressive steps, from their 
arrival here to this present hour; to inquire by what 



90 Letters from an American Farmer 

means they have raised themselves from the most 
humble, the most insignificant beginnings, to the ease 
and the wealth they now possess ; and to give you some 
idea of their customs, religion, manners, policy, and 
mode of living. 

This happy settlement was not founded on intrusion, 
forcible entries, or blood, as so many others have been; 
it drew its origin from necessity on the one side, and 
from good will on the other; and ever since, all has 
been a scene of uninterrupted harmony. Neither 
political, nor religious broils; neither disputes with the 
natives, nor any other contentions, have in the least 
agitated or disturbed its detached society. Yet the 
first founders knew nothing either of Lycurgus or Solon ; 
for this settlement has not been the work of eminent 
men or powerful legislators, forcing nature by the 
accumulated labours of art. This singular establish- 
ment has been effected by means of that native industry 
and perseverance common to all men, when they are 
protected by a government which demands but little 
for its protection; when they are permitted to enjoy 
a system of rational laws founded on perfect freedom. 
The mildness and humanity of such a government 
necessarily implies that confidence which is the source 
of the most arduous undertakings and permanent 
success. Would you believe that a sandy spot, of 
about twenty-three thousand acres, affording neither 
stones nor timber, meadows nor arable, yet can boast 
of an handsome town, consisting of more than 500 
houses, should possess above 200 sail of vessels, con- 
stantly employ upwards of 2000 seamen, feed more than 
15,000 sheep, 500 cows, 200 horses; and has several 
citizens worth 20,000 sterling! Yet all these facts 
are uncontroverted. Who would have imagined that 
any people should have abandoned a fruitful and 
extensive continent, filled with the riches which the 



Description of Nantucket 91 

most ample vegetation affords; replete with good soil, 
enamelled meadows, rich pastures, every kind of timber, 
and with all other materials necessary to render life 
happy and comfortable: to come and inhabit a little 
sandbank, to which nature had refused those advantages ; 
to dwell on a spot where there scarcely grew a shrub to 
announce, by the budding of its leaves, the arrival of the 
spring, and to warn by their fall the proximity of winter. 
Had this island been contiguous to the shores of some 
ancient monarchy, it would only have been occupied 
by a few wretched fishermen, who, oppressed by poverty, 
would hardly have been able to purchase or build little 
fishing barks; always dreading the weight of taxes, or 
the servitude of men-of-war. Instead of that boldness 
of speculation for which the inhabitants of this island 
are so remarkable, they would fearfully have confined 
themselves, within the narrow limits of the most trifling 
attempts; timid in their excursions, they never cou]d 
have extricated themselves from their first difficulties. 
This island, on the contrary, contains 5000 hardy people, 
who boldly derive their riches from the element that 
surrounds them, and have been compelled by the 
sterility of the soil to seek abroad for the means of 
subsistence. You must not imagine, from the recital 
of these facts, that they enjoyed any exclusive privileges 
or royal charters, or that they were nursed by particular 
immunities in the infancy of their settlement. No, their 
freedom, their skill, their probity, and perseverance, 
have accomplished everything, and brought them by 
degrees to the rank they now hold. 

From this first sketch, I hope that my partiality to 
this island will be justified. Perhaps you hardly know 
that such an one exists in the neighbourhood of Cape 
Cod. What has happened here, has and will happen 
everywhere else. Give mankind the full rewards of 
their industry, allow them to enjoy the fruit of their 



92 Letters from an American Farmer 

labour under the peaceable shade of their vines and 
fig- trees, leave their native activity unshackled and 
free, like a fair stream without dams or other obstacles; 
the first will fertilise the very sand on which they tread, 
the other exhibit a navigable river, spreading plenty 
and cheerfulness wherever the declivity of the ground 
leads it. If these people are not famous for tracing the 
fragrant furrow on the plain, they plough the rougher 
ocean, they gather from its surface, at an immense 
distance, and with Herculean labours, the riches it 
affords ; they go to hunt and catch that huge fish which 
by its strength and velocity one would imagine ought 
to be beyond the reach of man. This island has nothing 
deserving of notice but its inhabitants; here you meet 
with neither ancient monuments, spacious halls, solemn 
temples, nor elegant dwellings; not a citadel, nor any 
kind of fortification, not even a battery to rend the 
air with its loud peals on any solemn occasion. As for 
their rural improvements, they are many, but all of the 
most simple and useful kind. 

The island of Nantucket lies in latitude 41 10'. 
60 miles S. from Cape Cod; 27 S. from Hyanes or 
Barnstable, a town on the most contiguous part of 
the great peninsula; 21 miles E. by S. from Cape Pog, 
on the vineyard; 50 E. by S. from Wood's Hole, on 
Elizabeth Island; 80 miles S. from Boston; 120 from 
Rhode Island; 800 N. from Bermudas. Sherborn is 
the only town on ^the island, which consists of about 
530 houses, that have been framed on the main; they 
are lathed and plastered within, handsomely painted 
and boarded without; each has a cellar underneath, 
built with stones fetched also from the main: they 
are all of a similar construction and appearance; plain, 
and entirely devoid of exterior or interior ornament. 
I observed but one which was built of bricks, belonging 
to Mr. , but like the rest it is unadorned. The town 



Description of Nantucket 93 

stands on a rising sandbank, on the west side of the 
harbour, which is very safe from all winds. There are 
two places of worship, one for the society of Friends, the 
other for that of Presbyterians; and in the middle of 
the town, near the market-place, stands a simple 
building, which is the county court-house. The town 
regularly ascends toward the country, and in its vicinage 
the} r have several small fields and gardens yearly 
manured with the dung of their cows, and the soil of 
their streets. There are a good many cherry and peach 
trees planted in their streets and in many other places; 
the apple tree does not thrive well, they have therefore 
planted but few. The island contains no mountains, 
yet is very uneven, and the many rising grounds and 
eminences with which it is filled, have formed in the 
several valleys a great variety of swamps, where the 
Indian grass and the blue bent, peculiar to such soils, 
grow with tolerable luxuriancy. Some of the swamps 
abound with peat, which serves the poor instead of 
firewood. There are fourteen ponds on this island, 
all extremely useful, some lying transversely, almost 
across it, which greatly helps to divide it into partitions 
for the use of their cattle; others abound with peculiar 
lish and sea fowls. Their streets are not paved, but 
this is attended with little inconvenience, as it is never 
crowded with country carriages; and those they have 
in the town are seldom made use of but in the time of 
the coming in and before the sailing of their fleets. At 
my first landing I was much surprised at the disagree- 
able smell which struck me in many parts of the town; 
it is caused by the whale oil, and is unavoidable; the 
neatness peculiar to these people can neither remove 
nor prevent it. There are near the wharfs a great many 
storehouses, where their staple commodity is deposited, 
as well as the innumerable materials which are always 
wanted to repair and fit out so many whalemen. They 



94 Letters from an American Farmer 

have three docks, each three hundred feet long, and 
extremely convenient; at the head of which there are 
ten feet of water. These docks are built like those in 
Boston, of logs fetched from the continent, filled with 
stones, and covered with sand. Between these docks 
and the town, there is room sufficient for the landing 
of goods and for the passage of their numerous carts; 
for almost every man here has one: the wharfs to the 
north ami south of the docks, are built of the same 
materials, and give a stranger, at his first landing, an 
high idea of the prosperity of these people; and there 
is room around these three docks for 300 sail of vessels. 
When their fleets have been successful, the bustle and 
hurry of business on this spot for some days after their 
arrival, would make you imagine, that Sherborn is the 
capital of a very opulent and large province. On that 
point of land, which forms the west side of the harbour, 
stands a very neat lighthouse; the opposite peninsula, 
called Coitou, secures it from the most dangerous winds. 
There are but few gardens and arable fields in the 
neighbourhood of the town, for nothing can be more 
sterile and sandy than this part of the island; they 
have, however, with unwearied perseverance, by 
bringing a variety of manure, and by cow-penning, 
enriched several spots where they raise Indian corn, 
potatoes, pumpkins, turnips, etc. On the highest part 
of this sandy eminence, four windmills grind the grain 
they raise or import; and contiguous to them their rope 
walk is to be seen, where full half of their cordage is 
manufactured. Between the shores of the harbour, the 
docks, and the town, there is a most excellent piece of 
meadow, inclosed and manured with such cost and 
pains as show how necessary and precious grass is at 
Nantucket. Towards the point of Shemah, the island 
is more level and the soil better; and there they have 
considerable lots well fenced and richly manured, 



Description of Nan tucket 95 

where they diligently raise their yearly crops. There 
are but very few farms on this island, because there 
are but very few spots that will admit of cultivation 
without the assistance of dung and other manure; 
which is very expensive to fetch from the main. This 
island was patented in the year 1671, by twenty-seven 
proprietors, under the province of New York; which 
then claimed all the islands from the Neway Sink to 
Cape Cod. They found it so universally barren and 
so unfit for cultivation, that they mutually agreed not 
to divide it, as each could neither live on, nor improve 
that lot which might fall to his share. They then cast 
their eyes on the sea, and finding themselves obliged 
to become fishermen, they looked for a harbour, and 
having found one, they determined to build a town in 
its neighbourhood and to dwell together. For that 
purpose they surveyed as much ground as would afford 
to each what is generally called here a home lot. Forty 
acres were thought sufficient to answer this double 
purpose; for to what end should they covet more land 
than they could improve, or even inclose; not being 
possessed of a single tree, in the whole extent of their 
new dominion. This was all the territorial property 
they allotted; the rest they agreed to hold in common, 
and seeing that the scanty grass of the island might 
feed sheep, they agreed that each proprietor should be 
entitled to feed on it if he pleased 560 sheep. By this 
agreement, the national flock was to consist of 15,120; 
that is the undivided part of the island was by such 
means ideally divisible into as many parts or shares; 
to which nevertheless no certain determinate quantity 
of land was affixed: for they knew not how much the 
island contained, nor could the most judicious surveyor 
fix this small quota as to quality and quantity. Further 
they agreed, in case the grass should grow better by 
feeding, that then four sheep should represent a cow, 



96 Letters from an American Farmer 

and two cows a horse: such was the method this wise 
people took to enjoy in common their new settlement ; 
such was the mode of their first establishment, which 
may be truly and literally called a pastoral one. Several 
hundred of sheep-pasture titles have since been divided 
on those different tracts, which are now cultivated; 
the rest by inheritance and intermarriages have been 
so subdivided that it is very common for a girl to have 
no other portion but her outset and four sheep pastures 
or the privilege of feeding a cow. But as this privilege 
is founded on an ideal, though real title to some un- 
known piece of land, which one day or another may be 
ascertained; these sheep-pasture titles should convey to 
your imagination, something more valuable and of 
greater credit than the mere advantage arising from the 
benefit of a cow, which in that case would be no more 
than a right of commonage. Whereas, here as labour 
grows cheaper, as misfortunes from their sea adventures 
may happen, each person possessed of a sufficient 
number of these sheep-pasture titles may one day 
realise them on some peculiar spot, such as shall be 
adjudged by the council of the proprietors to be adequate 
to their value ; and this is the reason that these people 
very unwillingly sell those small rights, and esteem 
them more than you would imagine. They are the 
representation of a future freehold, they cherish in the 
mind of the possessor a latent, though distant, hope, 
that by his success in his next whale season, he may be 
able to pitch on some predilected spot, and there build 
himself a home, to which he may retire, and spend 
the latter end of his days in peace. A council of pro- 
prietors always exists in this island, who decide their 
territorial differences; their titles are recorded in the 
books of the county, which this town represents, as well 
as every conveyance of lands and other sales. 
This island furnishes the naturalist with few or no 



Description of Nantucket 97 

objects worthy observation: it appears to be the uneven 
summit of a sandy submarine mountain, covered here 
and there with sorrel, grass, a few cedar bushes, and 
scrubby oaks; their swamps are much more valuable 
for the peat they contain, than for the trifling pasture 
of their surface; those declining grounds which lead 
to the seashores abound with beach grass, a light fodder 
when cut and cured, but very good when fed green. 
On the east side of the island they have several tracts 
of salt grasses, which being carefully fenced, yield a 
considerable quantity of that wholesome fodder. Among 
the many ponds or lakes with which this island abounds, 
there are some which have been made by the intrusion 
of the sea, such as Wiwidiah, the Long, the Narrow, and 
several others; consequently those are salt and the 
others fresh. The former answer two considerable 
purposes, first by enabling them to fence the island 
with greater facility; at peculiar high tides a great 
number of fish enter into them, where they feed and 
grow large, and at some known seasons of the year the 
inhabitants assemble and cut down the small bars 
which the waves always throw up. By these easy 
means the waters of the pond are let out, and as the 
fish follow their native element, the inhabitants with 
proper nets catch as many as they want, in their way 
out, without any other trouble. Those which are most 
common, are the streaked bass, the blue fish, the torn- 
cod, the mackerel, the tew-tag, the herring, the flounder, 
eel, etc. Fishing is one of the greatest diversions the 
island affords. At the west end lies the harbour of 
Mardiket, formed by Smith Point on the south-west, by 
Eel Point on the north, and Tuckanut Island on the 
north-west; but it is neither so safe nor has it so good 
anchoring ground, as that near which the town stands. 
Three small creeks run into it, which yield the bitterest 
eels I have ever tasted. Between the lots of Palpus 



98 Letters from an American Farmer 

on the east, Barry's Valley and Miacomet pond on the 
south, and the narrow pond on the west, not far from 
Shemah Point, they have a considerable tract of even 
ground, being the least sandy, and the best on the 
island. It is divided into seven fields, one of which is 
planted by that part of the community which are 
entitled to it. This is called the common plantation, 
a simple but useful expedient, for was each holder of 
this track to fence his property, it would require a 
prodigious quantity of posts and rails, which you must 
remember are to be purchased and fetched from the 
main. Instead of those private subdivisions each man's 
allotment of land is thrown into the general field which 
is fenced at the expense of the parties; within it eve^ 
one does with his own portion of the ground whatever 
he pleases. This apparent community saves a very 
material expense, a great deal of labour, and perhaps 
raises a sort of emulation among them, which urges 
every one to fertilise his share with the greatest care 
and attention. Thus every seven years the whole of 
this tract is under cultivation, and enriched by manure 
and ploughing yields afterwards excellent pasture; to 
which the town cows, amounting to 500 are daily led 
by the town shepherd, and as regularly drove back in 
the evening. There each animal easily finds the house 
to which it belongs, where they are sure to be well 
rewarded for the milk they give, by a present of bran, 
grain, or some farinaceous preparation; their economy 
being very great in that respect. These are commonly 
called Ttoukemah lots. You must not imagine that 
every person on the island is either a landholder, or 
concerned in rural operations; no, the greater part are 
at sea; busily employed in their different fisheries; 
others are mere strangers, who come to settle as handi- 
crafts, mechanics, etc., and even among the natives few 
are possessed of determinate shares of land: for engaged 



Description of Nantucket 99 

in sea affairs, or trade, they are satisfied with possessing 
a few sheep pastures, by means of which they may have 
perhaps one or two cows. Many have but one, for the 
great number of children they have, has caused such 
sub-divisions of the original proprietorship as is some- 
times puzzling to trace; and several of the most fortu- 
nate at sea, have purchased and realised a great number 
of these original pasture titles. The best land on the 
island is at Palpus, remarkable for nothing but a house 
of entertainment. Quayes is a small but valuable track, 
long since purchased by Mr. Coffin, where he has erected 
the best house on the island. By long attention, 
proximity of the sea, etc., this fertile spot has been well 
manured, and is now the garden of Nantucket. Adjoin- 
ing to it on the west side there is a small stream, on 
which they have erected a fulling mill; on the east is 
the lot, known by the name of Squam, watered likewise 
by a small rivulet, on which stands another fulling mill. 
Here is fine loamy soil, producing excellent clover, which 
is mowed twice a 3^ear. These mills prepare all the 
cloth which is made here: you may easily suppose that 
having so large a flock of sheep, they abound in wool; 
part of this they export, and the rest is spun by their 
industrious wives and converted into substantial 
garments. To the south-east is a great division of the 
island, fenced by itself, known by the name of Siasconcet 
lot. It is a very uneven track of ground, abounding 
with swamps ; here they turn in their fat cattle, or such 
as they intend to stall-feed, for their winter's provisions. 
It is on the shores of this part of the island, near Pochick 
Rip, where they catch their best fish, such as sea bass, 
tew-tag, or black fish, cod, smelt, perch, shadine, pike, 
etc. They have erected a few fishing houses on this 
shore, as well as at Sankate's Head, and Suffakatch 
Beach, where the fishermen dwell in the fishing season. 
Many red cedar bushes and beach grass grow on the 



ioo Letters from an American Farmer 

peninsula of Coitou; the soil is light and sandy, and 
serves as a receptacle for rabbits. It is here that their 
sheep find shelter in the snow storms of the winter. 
At the north end of Nantucket, there is a long point 
of land, projecting far into the sea, called Sandy Point; 
nothing grows on it but plain grass ; and this is the place 
from whence they often catch porpoises and sharks, by 
a very ingenious method. On this point they commonly 
drive their horses in the spring of the year, in order to 
feed on the grass it bears, which is useless when arrived 
at maturity. Between that point and the main island 
they have a valuable salt meadow, called Croskaty, 
with a pond of the same name famous for black ducks. 
Hence we must return to Squam, which abounds in 
clover and herds grass; those who possess it follow no 
maritime occupation, and therefore neglect nothing 
that can render it fertile and profitable. The rest of 
the undescribed part of the island is open, and serves 
as a common pasture for their sheep. To the west of 
the island is that of Tackanuck, where in the spring 
their young cattle are driven to feed; it has a few oak 
bushes and two fresh-water ponds, abounding with teals, 
brandts, and many other sea fowls, brought to this 
island by the proximity of their sand banks and shal- 
lows; where thousands are seen feeding at low water. 
Here they have neither wolves nor foxes; those in- 
habitants therefore who live out of town, raise with all 
security as much poultry as they want; their turkeys 
are very large and excellent. In summer this climate 
is extremely pleasant; they are not exposed to the 
scorching sun of the continent, the heats being tempered 
by the sea breezes, with which they arc perpetually 
refreshed. In the winter, however, they pay severely 
for those advantages; it is extremely cold; the north- 
west wind, the tyrant of this country, after having 
escaped from our mountains and forests, free from all 



Description of Nantucket 101 

impediment in its short passage, blows with redoubled 
force and renders this island bleak and uncomfortable. 
On the other hand, the goodness of their houses, the 
social hospitality of their firesides, and their good cheer, 
make them ample amends for the severity of the season ; 
nor are the snows so deep as on the main. The necessary 
and unavoidable inactivity of that season, combined 
with the vegetative rest of nature, force mankind to 
suspend their toils: often at this season more than half 
the inhabitants of the island are at sea, fishing in milder 
latitudes. 

This island, as has been already hinted, appears to 
be the summit of some huge sandy mountain, affording 
some acres of dry land for the habitation of man ; other 
submarine ones lie to the southward of this, at different 
depths and different distances. This dangerous region 
is well known to the mariners by the name of Nantucket 
Shoals: these are the bulwarks which so powerfully 
defend this island from the impulse of the mighty ocean, 
and repel the force of its waves; which, but for the 
accumulated barriers, would ere now have dissolved its 
foundations, and torn it in pieces. These are the banks 
which afforded to the first inhabitants of Nantucket 
their daily subsistence, as it was from these shoals that 
they drew the origin of that wealth which they now 
possess; and was the school where they first learned 
how to venture farther, as the fish of their coast receded. 
The shores of this island abound with the soft-shelled, 
the hard-shelled, and the great sea clams, a most 
nutritious shell-fish. Their sands, their shallows are 
covered with them; they multiply so fast, that they 
are a never-failing resource. These and the great variety 
of fish they catch, constitute the principal food of the 
inhabitants. It was likewise that of the aborigines, 
whom the first settlers found here; the posterity of 
whom still live together in decent houses along the 



IO2 Letters from an American Farmer 

shores of Miacomet pond, on the south side of the 
island. They are an industrious, harmless race, as 
expert and as fond of a seafaring life as their fellow 
inhabitants the whites. Long before their arrival they 
had been engaged in petty wars against one another; 
the latter brought them peace, for it was in quest of 
peace that they abandoned the main. This island was 
then supposed to be under the jurisdiction of New York, 
as well as the islands of the Vineyard, Elizabeth's, etc., 
but have been since adjudged to be a part of the province 
of Massachusetts Bay. This change of jurisdiction pro- 
cured them that peace they wanted, and which their 
brethren had so long refused them in the days of their 
religious frenzy: thus have enthusiasm and persecution 
both in Europe as well as here, been the cause of the 
most arduous undertakings, and the means of those 
rapid settlements which have been made along these 
extended sea-shores. This island, having been since 
incorporated with the neighbouring province, is become 
one of its counties, known by the name of Nantucket, 
as well as the island of the Vineyard, by that of Duke's 
County. They enjoy here the same municipal establish- 
ment in common with the rest; and therefore every 
requisite officer, such as sheriff, justice of the peace, 
supervisors, assessors, constables, overseer of the poor, 
etc. Their taxes are proportioned to those of the 
metropolis, they are levied as with us by valuations, 
agreed on and fixed, according to the laws of the pro- 
vince; and by assessments formed by the assessors, 
who are yearly chosen by the people, and whose office 
obliges them to take either an oath or an affirmation. 
Two thirds of the magistrates they have here are of the 
society of Friends. 

Before I enter into the further detail of this people's 
government, industry, mode of living, etc., I think it 
necessary to give you a short sketch of the political 



Description of Nantucket 103 

state the natives had been in, a few years preceding the 
arrival of the whites among them. They are hastening 
towards a total annihilation, and this may be perhaps 
the last compliment that will ever be paid them by any 
traveller. They were not extirpated by fraud, violence, 
or injustice, as hath been the case in so many provinces; 
on the contrary, they have been treated by these people 
as brethren; the peculiar genius of their sect inspiring 
them with the same spirit of moderation which was 
exhibited at Pennsylvania. Before the arrival of the 
Europeans, they lived on the fish of their shores; and 
it was from the same resources the first settlers were 
compelled to draw their first subsistence. It is uncer- 
tain whether the original right of the Earl of Sterling, or 
that of the Duke of York, was founded on a fair purchase 
of the soil or not; whatever injustice might have been 
committed in that respect, cannot be charged to the 
account of those Friends who purchased from others 
who no doubt founded their right on Indian grants: 
and if then* numbers are now so decreased, it must not 
be attributed either to tyranny or violence, but to some 
of those causes, which have uninterruptedly produced 
the same effects from one end of the continent to the 
other, wherever both nations have been mixed. This 
insignificant spot, like the sea-shores of the great penin- 
sula, was filled with these people; the great plenty of 
clams, oysters, and other fish, on which they lived, 
and which they easily catched, had prodigiously in- 
creased their numbers. History does not inform us 
what particular nation the aborigines of Nantucket 
were of; it is however very probable that they anciently 
emigrated from the opposite coast, perhaps from the 
Hyannees, which is but twenty-seven miles distant. 
As they then spoke and still speak the Nattick, it is 
reasonable to suppose that they must have had some 
affinity with that nation; or else that the Nattick, like 



104 Otters from an American Farmer 

the Huron, in the north-western parts of this continent, 
must have been the most prevailing one in this region. 
Mr. Elliot, an eminent New England divine, and one 
of the first founders of that great colony, translated the 
Bible into this language, in the year 1666, which was 
printed soon after at Cambridge, near Boston; he 
translated also the catechism, and many other useful 
books, which are still very common on this island, and 
are daily made use of by those Indians who are taught 
to read. The young Europeans learn it with the same 
facility as their own tongues; and ever after speak it 
both with ease and fluency. Whether the present 
Indians are the decendants of the ancient natives of 
the island, or whether they are the remains of the 
many different nations which once inhabited the 
regions of Mashpe and Nobscusset, in the peninsula 
now known by the name of Cape Cod, no one can 
positively tell, not even themselves. The last opinion 
seems to be that of the most sensible people of the 
island. So prevailing is the disposition of man to 
quarrel, and shed blood; so prone is he to divisions and 
parties; that even the ancient natives of this little spot 
were separated into two communities, inveterately 
waging war against each other, like the more powerful 
tribes of the continent. What do you imagine was the 
cause of this national quarrel? All the coast of their 
island equally abounded with the same quantity of fish 
and clams; in that instance there could be no jealousy, 
no motives to anger; the country afforded them no 
game; one would think this ought to have been the 
country of harmony and peace. But behold the 
singular destiny of the human kind, ever inferior, in 
many instances, to the more certain instinct of animals; 
among which the individuals of the same species are 
always friends, though reared in different climates' 
they understand the same language, they shed not each 



Description of Nantucket 105 

other's blood, they eat not each other's flesh. That 
part of these rude people who lived on the eastern 
shores of the island, had from time immemorial tried 
to destroy those who lived on the west; those latter 
inspired with the same evil genius, had not been behind 
hand in retaliating : thus was a perpetual war subsisting 
between these people, founded on no other reason, but 
the adventitious place of their nativity and residence. 
In process of time both parties became so thin and 
depopulated, that the few who remained, fearing lest 
their race should become totally extinct, fortunately 
thought of an expedient which prevented their entire 
annihilation. Some years before the Europeans came, 
they mutually agreed to settle a partition line which 
should divide the island from north to south ; the people 
of the west agreed not to kill those of the east, except 
they were found transgressing over the western part 
of the line; those of the last entered into a reciprocal 
agreement. By these simple means peace was estab- 
lished among them, and this is the only record which 
seems to entitle them to the denomination of men. 
This happy settlement put a stop to their sanguinary 
depredations, none fell afterward but a few rash impru- 
dent individuals; on the contrary, they multiplied 
greatly. But another misfortune awaited them; when 
the Europeans came they caught the smallpox, and 
their improper treatment of that disorder swept away 
great numbers: this calamity was succeeded by the 
use of rum; and these are the two principal causes 
which so much diminished their numbers, not only here 
but all over the continent. In some places whole 
nations have disappeared. Some years ago three 
Indian canoes, on their return to Detroit from the falls 
of Niagara, unluckily got the smallpox from the 
Europeans with whom they had traded. It broke out 
near the long point on Lake Erie, there they all perished; 



io6 Letters from an American Farmer 

their canoes, and their goods, were afterwards found 
by some travellers journeying the same way; their 
dogs were still alive. Besides the smallpox, and the 
use of spirituous liquors, the two greatest curses they 
have received from us, there is a sort of physical anti- 
pathy, which is equally powerful from one end of the 
continent to the other. Wherever they happen to be 
mixed, or even to live in the neighbourhood of the 
Europeans, they become exposed to a variety of acci- 
dents and misfortunes to which they always fall victims: 
such are particular fevers, to which they were strangers 
before, and sinking into a singular sort of indolence and 
sloth. This has been invariably the case wherever the 
same association has taken place; as at Nattick, Mashp&, 
Soccanoket in the bounds of Falmouth, Nobscusset, 
Houratonick, Monhauset, and the Vineyard. Even 
the Mohawks themselves, who were once so populous, 
and such renowned warriors, are now reduced to less 
than 200 since the European settlements have circum- 
scribed the territories which their ancestors had reserved. 
Three years before the arrival of the Europeans at 
Cape Cod, a frightful distemper had swept away a great 
many along its coasts, which made the landing and 
intrusion of our forefathers much easier than it other- 
wise might have been. In the year 1763, above half of 
the Indians of this island perished by a strange fever, 
which the Europeans who nursed them never caught; 
they appear to be a race doomed to recede and disappear 
before the superior genius of the Europeans. The only 
ancient custom of these people that is remembered is, 
that in their mutual exchanges, forty sun-dried clams, 
strung on a string, passed for the value of what might 
be called a copper. They were strangers to the use and 
value of wampum, so well known to those of the main. 
The few families now remaining are meek and harmless; 
their ancient ferocity is gone: they were early Christian- 



Description of Nantucket 107 

ised by the New England missionaries, as well as those 
of the Vineyard, and of several other parts of Massa- 
chusetts; and to this day they remain strict observers 
of the laws and customs of that religion, being carefully 
taught while young. Their sedentary life has led them 
to this degree of civilisation much more effectually, than 
if they had still remained hunters. They are fond of 
the sea, and expert mariners. They have learned from 
the Quakers the art of catching both the cod and whale, 
in consequence of which, five of them always make part 
of the complement of men requisite to fit out a whale- 
boat. Many have removed hither from the Vineyard, 
on which account they are more numerous on Nantucket, 
than anywhere else. 

It is strange what revolution has happened among 
them in less than two hundred years! What is become 
of those numerous tribes which formerly inhabited the 
extensive shores of the great bay of Massachusetts? 
Even from Numkeag (Salem), Saugus (Lynn), Shawmut 
(Boston), Pataxet, Napouset (Milton), Matapan (Dor- 
chester), Winesimet (Chelsea), Po'iasset, Pokcinoket 
(New Plymouth), Suecanosset (Falmouth), Titicut (Chat- 
ham), Nobscusset (Yarmouth), Naussit (Eastham), 
Ilyannees (Barnstable), etc., and many others who 
lived on sea-shores of above three hundred miles in 
length; without mentioning those powerful tribes 
which once dwelt between the rivers Hudson, Con- 
necticut, Pisk^taqua, and Kennebeck, the Mehikaudret, 
Mohiguine, Pequods, Narragansets, Nianticks, Massa- 
chusetts, Wamponougs, Nipnets, Tarranteens, etc. 
They are gone, and every memorial of them is lost; 
no vestiges whatever are left of those swarms which 
once inhabited this country, and replenished both sides 
of the great peninsula of Cape Cod: not even one of the 
posterity of the famous Masconomeo is left (the sachem 
of Cape Ann); not one of the descendants of Massasoit, 



io8 Letters from an American Farmer 

father of Metacomet (Philip] , and Wamsutta (Alex- 
ander), he who first conveyed some lands to the Plymouth 
Company. They have all disappeared either in the 
wars which the Europeans carried on against them, or 
else they have mouldered away, gathered in some of 
their ancient towns, in contempt and oblivion: nothing 
remains of them all, but one extraordinary monument, 
and even this they owe to the industry and religious 
zeal of the Europeans, I mean the Bible translated into 
the Nattick tongue. Many of these tribes giving way to 
the superior power of the whites, retired to their ancient 
villages, collecting the scattered remains of nations 
once populous; and in their grant of lands reserved to 
themselves and posterity certain portions, which lay 
contiguous to them. There forgetting their ancient 
manners, they dwelt in peace; in a few years their 
territories were surrounded by the improvements of the 
Europeans; in consequence of which they grew lazy, 
inactive, unwilling, and unapt to imitate, or to follow 
any of our trades, and in a few generations, either totally 
perished or else came over to the Vineyard, or to this 
island, to re-unite themselves with such societies of 
their countrymen as would receive them. Such has 
been the fate of many nations, once warlike and in- 
dependent; what we see now on the main, or on those 
islands, may be justly considered as the only remains 
of those ancient tribes. Might I be permitted to pay 
perhaps a very useless compliment to those at least who 
inhabited the great peninsula of Namset, now Cape Cod, 
with whose names and ancient situation I am well 
acquainted. This peninsula was divided into two great 
regions; that on the side of the bay was known by 
the name of Nobscusset, from one of its towns; the 
capital was called Nausit (now Eastham); hence the 
Indians of that region were called Nausit Indians, 
though they dwelt in the villages of Pamet, Nosset, 



Description of Nantuckct 1 09 

Pashee, Potomaket, Soktoowoket, Nobscusset (Yar- 
mouth). 

The region on the Atlantic side was called Mashpee, 
and contained the tribes of Hyannees, Costowet, 
Waquoit, Scootin, Saconasset, Mashpee, and Namset. 
Several of these Indian towns have been since converted 
into flourishing European settlements, known by dif- 
ferent names; for as the natives were excellent judges 
of land, which they had fertilised besides with the shells 
of their fish, etc., the latter could not make a better 
choice; though in general this great peninsula is but 
a sandy pine track, a few good spots excepted. It is 
divided into seven townships, viz. Barnstable, Yar- 
mouth, Harwich, Chatham, Eastham, Pamet, Namset, 
or Province town, at the extremity of the Cape. Yet 
these are very populous, though I am at a loss to con- 
ceive on what the inhabitants live, besides clams, 
oysters, and fish; their piny lands being the most 
ungrateful soil in the world. The minister of Namset 
or Province Town, receives from the government of 
Massachusetts a salary of fifty pounds per annum ; and 
such is the poverty of the inhabitants of that place, that, 
unable to pay him any money, each master of a family 
is obliged to allow him two hundred horse feet (sea spin) 
with which this primitive priest fertilises the land of 
his glebe, which he tills himself: for nothing will grow 
on these hungry soils without the assistance ot this 
extraordinary manure, fourteen bushels of Indian corn 
being looked upon as a good crop. But it is time to 
return from a digression, which I hope you will pardon. 
Nan tucket is a great nursery of seamen, pilots, coasters, 
and bank-fishermen; as a country belonging to the 
province of Massachusetts, it has yearly the benefit of a 
court of Common Pleas, and their appeal lies to the 
supreme court at Boston. I observed before, that the 
Friends compose two-thirds of the magistracy of this 



i 10 Letters from an American Farmer 

island; thus they are the proprietors of its territory, 
and the principal rulers of its inhabitants; but with all 
this apparatus of law, its coercive powers are seldom 
wanted or required. Seldom is it that any individual 
is amerced or punished; their jail conveys no terror; 
no man has lost his life here judicially since the founda- 
tion of this town, which is upwards of an hundred years. 
Solemn tribunals, public executions, humiliating punish- 
ments, are altogether unknown. I saw neither gover- 
nors, nor any pageantry of state; neither ostentatious 
magistrates, nor any individuals clothed with useless 
dignity: no artiiicial phantoms subsist here either civil 
or religious; no gibbets loaded with guilty citizens offer 
themselves to your view; no soldiers are appointed to 
bayonet their compatriots into servile compliance. 
But how is a society composed of 5000 individuals 
preserved in the bonds of peace and tranquillity ? How 
are the weak protected from the strong? I will teh 1 
you. Idleness and poverty, the causes of so many 
crimes, are unknown here; each seeks in the prosecution 
of his lawful business that honest gain which supports 
them ; every period of their time is full, either on shore 
or at sea. A probable expectation of reasonable profits, 
or of kindly assistance, if they fail of success, renders 
them strangers to licentious expedients. The simplicity 
of their manners shortens the catalogues of their wants ; 
the law at a distance is ever ready to exert itself in the 
protection of those -who stand in need of its assistance. 
The greatest part of them are always at sea, pursuing 
the whale or raising the cod from the surface of the 
banks: some cultivate their little farms with the utmost 
diligence; some are employed in exercising various 
trades; others again in providing every necessary 
resource in order to refit their vessels, or repair what 
misfortunes may happen, looking out for future markets, 
etc. Such is the rotation of those different scenes of 



Description of Nantuckct 1 1 1 

business which fill the measure of their days; of that 
part of their lives at least which is enlivened by health, 
spirits, and vigour. It is but seldom that vice grows 
on a barren sand like this, which produces nothing 
without extreme labour. How could the common 
follies of society take root in so despicable a soil; they 
generally thrive on its exuberant juices: here there are 
none but those which administer to the useful, to the 
necessary, and to the indispensable comforts of life. 
This land must necessarily either produce health, 
temperance, and a great equality of conditions, or the 
most abject misery. Could the manners of luxurious 
countries be imported here, like an epidemical disorder 
they would destroy everything; the majority of them 
could not exist a month, they would be obliged to emi- 
grate. As in all societies except that of the natives, 
some difference must necessarily exist between individual 
and individual, for there must be some more exalted 
than the rest either by their riches or their talents; so 
in this, there are what you might call the high, the 
middling, and the low; and this difference will always 
be more remarkable among people who live by sea 
excursions than among those who live by the cultivation 
of their land. The first run greater hazard, and adven- 
ture more: the profits and the misfortunes attending 
this mode of life must necessarily introduce a greater 
disparity than among the latter, where the equal 
divisions of the land offers no short road to superior 
riches. The only difference that may arise among them 
is that of industry, and perhaps of superior goodness 
of soil: the gradations I observed here, are founded on 
nothing more than the good or ill success of their 
maritime enterprises, and do not proceed from educa- 
tion; that is the same throughout every class, simple, 
useful, and unadorned like their dress and their houses. 
This necessary difference in their fortunes does not 



1 1 2 Letters from an American Farmer 

however cause those heart burnings, which in other 
societies generate crimes. The sea which surrounds 
them is equally open to all, and presents to all an equal 
title to the chance of good fortune. A collector from 
Boston is the only king's officer who appears on these 
shores to receive the trifling duties which this com- 
munity owe to those who protect them, and under 
the shadow of whose wings they navigate to all parts 
of the world. 



LETTER V 

CUSTOMARY EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT OF THE 
INHABITANTS OF NANTUCKET 

THE easiest way of becoming acquainted with the 
modes of thinking, the rules of conduct, and the prevail- 
ing manners of any people, is to examine what sort of 
education they give their children ; how they treat them 
at home, and what they are taught in their places of 
public worship. At home their tender minds must be 
early struck with the gravity, the serious though cheer- 
ful deportment of their parents; they are inured to a 
principle of subordination, arising neither from sudden 
passions nor inconsiderate pleasure; they are gently 
held by an uniform silk cord, which unites softness and 
strength. A perfect equanimity prevails in most of 
their families, and bad example hardly ever sows in their 
hearts the seeds of future and similar faults. They are 
corrected with tenderness, nursed with the most affec- 
tionate care, clad with that decent plainness, from 
which they observe their parents never to depart: in 
short, by the force of example, which is superior even 
to the strongest instinct of nature, more than by pre- 
cepts, they learn to follow the steps of their parents, to 
despise ostentatiousness as being sinful. They acquire 
a taste for neatness for which their fathers are so con- 
spicuous; they learn to be prudent and saving; the 
very tone of voice with which they are always addressed, 
establishes in them that softness of diction, which ever 
after becomes habitual. Frugal, sober, orderly parents, 
attached to their business, constantly following some 

* 6 4 u 



1 14 Letters from an American Farmer 

useful occupation, never guilty of riot, dissipation, or 
other irregularities, cannot fail of training up children 
to the same uniformity of life and manners. If they are 
left with fortunes, they are taught how to save them, 
and how to enjoy them with moderation and decency; 
if they have none, they know how to venture, how to 
work and toil as their fathers have done before them. 
If they fail of success, there are always in this island 
(and wherever this society prevails) established resources, 
founded on the most benevolent principles. At their 
meetings they are taught the few, the simple tenets of 
their sect ; tenets as fit to render men sober, industrious, 
just, and merciful, as those delivered in the most 
magnificent churches and cathedrals : they are instructed 
in the most essential duties of Christianity, so as not to 
offend the Divinity by the commission of evil deeds; 
to dread his wrath and the punishments he has de- 
nounced; they are taught at the same time to have a 
proper confidence in his mercy while they deprecate his 
justice. As every sect, from their different modes of 
worship, and their different interpretations of some 
parts of the Scriptures, necessarily have various 
opinions and prejudices, which contribute something 
in forming their characters in society; so those of the 
Friends are well known: obedience to the laws, even 
to non-resistance, justice, goodwill to all, benevolence 
at home, sobriety, meekness, neatness, love of order, 
fondness and appetite for commerce. They are as 
remarkable here tor those virtues as at Philadelphia, 
which is their American cradle, and the boast of that 
society. At schools they learn to read, and to write 
a good hand, until they are twelve years old; they are 
then in general put apprentices to the cooper's trade, 
which is the second essential branch of business followed 
here; at fourteen they are sent to sea, where in their 
leisure hours their companions teach them the art of 



Education at Nantucket 1 15 

navigation, which they have an opportunity of practis- 
ing on the spot. They learn the great and useful art 
of working a ship in all the different situations which 
the sea and wind so often require; and surely there 
cannot be a better or a more useful school of that kind 
in the world. Then they go gradually through every 
station of rowers, steersmen, and harpooners; thus 
they learn to attack, to pursue, to overtake, to cut, to 
dress their huge game: and after having performed 
several such voyages, and perfected themselves in thh 
business, they are fit either for the counting house or 
the chase. 

The first proprietors of this island, or rather the first 
founders of this town, began their career of industry 
with a single whale-boat, with which they went to fish 
for cod; the small distance from their shores at which 
they caught it, enabled thcrn soon to increase their 
business, and those early successes first led them to 
conceive that they might likewise catch the whales, 
which hitherto sported undisturbed on their banks. 
After many trials and several miscarriages, they suc- 
ceeded; thus they proceeded, step by step; the profits 
of one successful enterprise helped them to purchase 
and prepare better materials for a more extensive one: 
as these were attended with little costs, their profits grew 
greater. The south sides of the island from east to 
west, were divided into four equal parts, and each part 
was assigned to a company of six, which though thus 
separated, still carried on their business in common. 
In the middle of this distance, they erected a mast, 
provided with a sufficient number of rounds, and near 
it they built a temporary hut, where five of the asso- 
ciates lived, whilst the sixth from his high station care- 
fully looked toward the sea, in order to observe the 
spouting of the whales. As soon as any were discovered, 
the sentinel d scended, the whale-boat was launched, 



i 1 6 Letters from an American Farmer 

and the company went forth in quest of their game. 
It may appear strange to you, that so slender a vessel 
as an American whale-boat, containing six diminutive 
beings, should dare to pursue and to attack, in its 
native element, the largest and strongest fish that 
nature has created. Yet by the exertions of an admir- 
able dexterity, improved by a long practice, in which 
these people are become superior to any other whale- 
men; by knowing the temper of the whale after her 
first movement, and by many other useful observations; 
they seldom failed to harpoon it, and to bring the huge 
leviathan on the shores. Thus they went on until 
the profits they made, enabled them to purchase larger 
vessels, and to pursue them farther, when the whales 
quitted their coasts; those who failed in their enter- 
prises, returned to the cod-fisheries, which had been 
their first school, and their first resource; they even 
began to visit the banks of Cape Breton, the isle of 
Sable, and all the other fishing places, with which this 
coast of America abounds. By degrees they went 
a-whaling to Newfoundland, to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
to the Straits of Belleisle, the coast of Labrador, Davis's 
Straits, even to Cape Desolation, in 70 of latitude; 
where the Danes carry on some fisheries in spite of the 
perpetual severities of the inhospitable climate. In 
process of time they visited the western islands, the 
latitude of 34 famous for that fish, the Brazils, the coast 
of Guinea. Would .you believe that they have already 
gone to the Falkland Islands, and that I have heard 
several of them talk of going to the South Sea! Their 
confidence is so great, and their knowledge of this 
branch of business so superior to that of any other 
people, that they have acquired a monopoly of this 
commodity. Such were their feeble beginnings, such 
the infancy and the progress of their maritime schemes ; 
such is now the degree of boldness and activity to which 



Education at Nantucket 117 

they are arrived in their manhood. After their ex- 
amples several companies have been formed in many 
of our capitals, where every necessary article of pro- 
visions, implements, and timber, are to be found. But 
the industry exerted by the people of Nantucket, hath 
hitherto enabled them to rival all their competitors; 
consequently this is the greatest mart for oil, whalebone, 
and spermaceti, on the continent. It does not follow 
however that they are always successful, this would be 
an extraordinary field indeed, where the crops should 
never fail; many voyages do not repay the original 
cost of fitting out : they bear such misfortunes like true 
merchants, and as they never venture their all like 
gamesters, they try their fortunes again; the latter 
hope to win by chance alone, the former by industry, 
well judged speculation, and some hazard. I was there 

when Mr. had missed one of his vessels; she had 

been given over for lost by everybody, but happily 
arrived before I came away, after an absence of thirteen 
months. She had met with a variety of disappoint- 
ments on the station she was ordered to, and rather 
than return empty, the people steered for the coast of 
Guinea, where they fortunately fell in with several 
whales, and brought home upward of 600 barrels of oil, 
beside bone. Those returns are sometimes disposed 
of in the towns on the continent, where they are ex- 
changed for such commodities as are wanted ; but they 
are most commonly sent to England, where they always 
sell for cash. When this is intended, a vessel larger 
than the rest is fitted out to be filled with oil on the spot 
where it is found and made, and thence she sails immedi- 
ately for London. This expedient saves time, freight, 
and expense; and from that capital they bring back 
whatever they want. They employ also several vessels 
in transporting lumber to the West Indian Islands, 
from whence they procure in return the various pro- 



1 1 8 Letters from an American Farmer 

ductions of the country, which they afterwards exchange 
wherever they can hear of an advantageous market. 
Being extremely acute they well know how to improve 
all the advantages which the combination of so many 
branches of business constantly affords; the spirit of 
commerce, which is the simple art of a reciprocal supply 
of wants, is well understood here by everybody. They 
possess, like the generality of Americans, a large share 
of native penetration, activity, and good sense, which 
lead them to a variety of other secondary schemes too 
tedious to mention: they are well acquainted with the 
cheapest method of procuring lumber from Kennebeck 
river, Penobscot, etc., pitch and tar, from North Caro- 
lina; flour and biscuit, from Philadelphia; beef and pork, 
from Connecticut. They know how to exchange their 
cod fish and West-Indian produce, for those articles 
which they are continually either bringing to their 
island, or sending off to other places where they are 
wanted. By means of all these commercial negotia- 
tions, they have greatly cheapened the fitting out of 
their whaling fleets, and therefore much improved their 
fisheries. They are indebted for all these advantages 
not only to their national genius but to the poverty of 
their soil ; and as proof of what I have so often advanced, 
look at the Vineyard (their neighbouring island) which 
is inhabited by a set of people as keen and as sagacious 
as themselves. Their soil being in general extremely 
fertile, they have fewer navigators; though they are 
equally well situated for the fishing business. As in 
my way back to Falmouth on the main, I visited this 
sister island, permit me to give you as concisely as I 
can, a short but true description of it; I am not so 
limited in the principal object of this journey, as to 
wish to confine myself to the single spot of Nan tucket. 



LETTER VI 

DESCRIPTION OF THE ISLAND OF MARTHA'S VINEYARD; 
AND OF THE WHALE FISHERY 

THIS island is twenty miles in length, and from seven 
to eight miles in breadth. It lies nine miles from the 
continent, and with the Elizabeth Islands forms one 
of the counties of Massachusetts Bay, known by the 
name of Duke's County. Those latter, which are six in 
number, are about nine miles distant from the Vineyard, 
and are all famous for excellent dairies. A good ferry 
is established between the Edgar Town, and Falmouth 
on the main, the distance being nine miles. Martha's 
Vineyard is divided into three townships, viz. Edgar, 
Chilmark, and Tisbury; the number of inhabitants is 
computed at about 4000, 300 of which are Indians. 
Edgar is the best seaport, and the shire town, and as 
its soil is light and sandy, many of its inhabitants 
follow the example of the people of Nantucket. The 
town of Chilmark has no good harbour, but the land is 
excellent and no way inferior to any on the continent: 
it contains excellent pastures, convenient brooks for 
mills, stone for fencing, etc. The town of Tisbury is 
remarkable for the excellence of its timber, and has a 
harbour where the water is deep enough for ships of the 
line. The stock of the island is 20,000 sheep, 2000 neat 
cattle, beside horses and goats; they have also some 
deer, and abundance oi sea-fowls. This has been from 
the beginning, and is to this day, the principal seminary 
of the Indians; they live on that part of the island 
which is called Chapoquidick, and were very early 

119 



I2O Letters from an American Farmer 

christianised by the respectable family of the Mahews, 
the first proprietors of it. The first settler of that name 
conveyed by will to a favourite daughter a certain 
part of it, on which there grew many wild vines; thence 
it was called Martha's Vineyard, after her name, which 
in process of time extended to the whole island. The 
posterity of the ancient Aborigines remain here to this 
day, on lands which their forefathers reserved for them- 
selves, and which are religiously kept from any encroach- 
ments. The New England people are remarkable for 
the honesty with which they have fulfilled, all over that 
province, those ancient covenants which in many others 
have been disregarded, to the scandal of those govern- 
ments. The Indians there appeared, by the decency 
of their manners, their industry, and neatness, to be 
wholly Europeans, and nowise inferior to many of the 
inhabitants. Like them they are sober, laborious, and 
religious, which are the principal characteristics of the 
four New England provinces. They often go, like the 
young men of the Vineyard, to Nantucket, and hire 
themselves for whalemen or fishermen ; and indeed their 
skill and dexterity in all sea affairs is nothing inferior 
to that of the whites. The latter are divided into two 
classes, the first occupy the land, which they till with 
admirable care and knowledge; the second, who are 
possessed of none, apply themselves to the sea, the 
general resource of mankind in this part of the world. 
This island therefore, like Nantucket, is become a great 
nursery which supplies with pilots and seamen the 
numerous coasters with which this extended part of 
America abounds. Go where you will from Nova 
Scotia to the Mississippi, you will find almost every- 
where some natives of these two islands employed in 
seafaring occupations. Their climate is so favourable 
to population, that marriage is the object of every man's 
earliest wish; and it is a blessing so easily obtained, 



Description of Martha's Vineyard 121 

that great numbers are obliged to quit their native land 
and go to some other countries in quest of subsistence. 
The inhabitants are all Presbyterians, which is the 
established religion of Massachusetts; and here let me 
remember with gratitude the hospitable treatment I 
received from B. Norton, Esq., the colonel of the island, 
as well as from Dr. Mahew, the lineal descendant of the 
first proprietor. Here are to be found the most expert 
pilots, either for the great bay, their sound, Nantucket 
shoals, or the different ports in their neighbourhood. 
In stormy weather they are always at sea, looking out 
for vessels, which they board with singular dexterity, 
and hardly ever fail to bring safe to their intended 
harbour. Gay-Head, the western point of this island, 
abounds with a variety of ochres of different colours, 
with which the inhabitants paint their houses. 

The vessels most proper for whale fishing are brigs 
of about 150 tons burthen, particularly when they are 
intended for distant latitudes; they always man them 
with thirteen hands, in order that they may row two 
whale-boats; the crews of which must necessarily 
consist of six, four at the oars, one standing on the bows 
with the harpoon, and the other at the helm. It is 
also necessary that there should be two of these boats, 
that if one should be destroyed in attacking the whale, 
the other, which is never engaged at the same time, 
may be ready to save the hands. Five of the thirteen 
are always Indians ; the last of the complement remains 
on board to steer the vessel during the action. They 
have no wages; each draws a certain established share 
in partnership with the proprietor of the vessel; by 
which economy they are all proportionately concerned 
in the success of the enterprise, and all equally alert 
and vigilant. None of these whalemen ever exceed the 
age of forty: they look on those who are past that period 
not to be possessed of all that vigour and agility which 



122 Letters from an American Farmer 

so adventurous a business requires. Indeed if you 
attentively consider the immense disproportion between 
the object assailed and the assailants; if you think on 
the diminutive size, and weakness of their frail vehicle ; 
if you recollect the treachery of the element on which 
this scene is transacted; the sudden and unforeseen 
accidents of winds, etc., you will readily acknowledge 
that it must require the most consummate exertion of 
all the strength, agility, and judgment, of which the 
bodies and minds of men are capable, to undertake these 
adventurous encounters. 

As soon as they arrive in those latitudes where they 
expect to meet with whales, a man is sent up to the mast 
head; if he sees one, he immediately cries out AWAITE 
PA WAN A, here is a whale ; they all remain still and 
silent until he repeats PAWANA, a whale, when in less 
than six minutes the two boats are launched, filled with 
every implement necessary for the attack. They row 
toward the whale with astonishing velocity; and as the 
Indians early became their fellow-labourers in this new 
warfare, you can easily conceive how the Nattick 
expressions became familiar on board the whale-boats. 
Formerly it often happened that whale vessels were 
manned with none but Indians and the master ; recollect 
also that the Nantucket people understand the Nattick, 
and that there are always five of these people on board. 
There are various ways of approaching the whale, 
according to their peculiar species; and this previous 
knowledge is of the utmost consequence. When these 
boats are arrived at a reasonable distance, one of them 
rests on its oars and stands off, as a witness of the ap- 
proaching engagement ; near the bows of the other the 
harpooner stands up, and on him principally depends 
the success of the enterprise. He wears a jacket closely 
buttoned, and round his head a handkerchief tightly 
bound : in his hands he holds the dreadful weapon, made 



Description of Martha's Vineyard I2J 

of the best steel, marked sometimes with the name of 
their town, and sometimes with that of their vessel; 
to the shaft of which the end of a cord of due length, 
coiled up with the utmost care in the middle of the boat, 
is firmly tied; the other end is fastened to the bottom 
of the boat. Thus prepared they row in profound 
silence, leaving the whole conduct of the enterprise to 
the harpooner and to the steersman, attentively follow- 
ing their directions. When the former judges himself 
to be near enough to the whale, that is, at the distance 
of about fifteen feet, he bids them stop; perhaps she 
has a calf, whose safety attracts all the attention of the 
dam, which is a favourable circumstance; perhaps she 
is of a dangerous species, and it is safest to retire, though 
their ardour will seldom permit them; perhaps she is 
asleep, in that case he balances high the harpoon, trying 
in this important moment to collect all the energy of 
which he is capable. He launches it forth she is 
struck: from her first movements they judge of her 
temper, as well as of their future success. Sometimes 
in the immediate impulse of rage, she will attack the 
boat and demolish it with one stroke of her tail; in an 
instant the frail vehicle disappears and the assailants 
are immersed in the dreadful element. Were the whale 
armed with the jaws of a shark, and as voracious, they 
never would return home to amuse their listening wives 
with the interesting tale of the adventure. At other 
times she will dive and disappear from human sight; 
and everything must give way to her velocity, or else 
all is lost. Sometimes she will swim away as if un- 
touched, and draw the cord with such swiftness that it 
will set the edge of the boat on fire by the friction. If 
she rises before she has run out the whole length, she is 
looked upon as a sure prey. The blood she has lost in 
her flight, weakens her so much, that if she sinks again, 
it is but for a short time; the boat follows her course 



1 24 Letters from an American Farmer 

with almost equal speed. She soon re-appears; tired 
at last with convulsing the element; which she tinges 
with her blood, she dies, and floats on the surface. At 
other times it may happen that she is not dangerously 
wounded, though she carries the harpoon fast in her 
body; when she will alternately dive and rise, and swim 
on with unabated vigour. She then soon reaches 
beyond the length of the cord, and carries the boat 
along with amazing velocity: this sudden impediment 
sometimes will retard her speed, at other times it only 
serves to rouse her anger, and to accelerate her progress. 
The harpooner, with the axe in his hands, stands ready. 
When he observes that the bows of the boat are greatly 
pulled down by the diving whale, and that it begins to 
sink deep and to take much water, he brings the axe 
almost in contact with the cord; he pauses, still flatter- 
ing himself that she will relax; but the moment grows 
critical, unavoidable danger approaches: sometimes 
men more intent on gain, than on the preservation of 
their lives, will run great risks ; and it is wonderful how 
far these people have carried their daring courage at 
this awful moment ! But it is vain to hope, their lives 
must be saved, the cord is cut, the boat rises again. If 
after thus getting loose, she re-appears, they will attack 
and wound her a second time. She soon dies, and when 
dead she is towed alongside of their vessel, where she 
is fastened. 

The next operation is to cut with axes and spades, 
every part of her body which yields oil; the kettles are 
set a boiling, they fill their barrels as fast as it is made; 
but as this operation is much slower than that of cutting 
up, they fill the hold of their ship with those fragments, 
lest a storm should arise and oblige them to abandon 
their prize. It is astonishing what a quantity of oil 
some of these fish will yield, and what profit it affords 
to those who are fortunate enough to overtake them. 



Description of Martha's Vineyard 125 

The river St. Lawrence whale, which is the only one 1 
am well acquainted with, is seventy-five feet long, 
sixteen deep, twelve in the length of its bone, which 
commonly weighs 3000 Ibs., twenty in the breadth of 
their tails and produces 180 barrels of oil: I once saw 
16 boiled out of the tongue only. After having once 
vanquished this leviathan, there are two enemies to be 
dreaded beside the wind; the first of which is the shark: 
that fierce voracious fish, to which nature has given 
such dreadful offensive weapons, often comes alongside, 
and in spite of the people's endeavours, will share with 
them their prey; at night particularly. They are very 
mischievious, but the second enemy is much more 
terrible and irresistible; it is the killer, sometimes 
called the thrasher, a species of whales about thirty 
feet long. They are possessed of such a degree of 
agility and fierceness, as often to attack the largest 
spermaceti whales, and not seldom to rob the fisher- 
men of their prey; nor is there any means of defence 
against so potent an adversary. When all their barrels 
are full, for everything is done at sea, or when their 
limited time is expired and their stores almost expended, 
they return home, freighted with their valuable cargo; 
unless they have put it on board a vessel for the 
European market. Such are, as briefly as I can relate 
them, the different branches of the economy practised 
by these bold navigators, and the method with which 
they go such distances from their island to catch this 
huge game. 

The following are the names and principal charac- 
teristics of the various species of whales known to these 
people : 

The St. Lawrence whale, just described. 

The disko, or Greenland ditto. 

The right whale, or seven feet bone, common on the 
coasts of this country, about sixty feet long. 



iz6 Letters from an American Farmer 

The spermaceti whale, found all over the world, and 
of all sizes; the longest are sixty feet, and yield about 
100 barrels of oil. 

The hump-backs, on the coast of Newfoundland, 
from forty to seventy feet in length. 

The finn-back, an American whale, never killed, as 
being too swift. 

The sulphur-bottom, river St. Lawrence, ninety foot 
long; they are but seldom killed, as being extremely 
swift. 

The grampus, thirty feet long, never killed on the 
same account. 

The killer or thrasher, about thirty feet; they often 
kill the other whales with which they are at perpetual 
war. 

The black fish whale, twenty feet, yields from eight 
to ten barrels. 

The porpoise, weighing about 160 Ib. 

In 1769 they fitted out 125 whalemen; the first fifty 
that returned brought with them 11,000 barrels of oil. 
In 1770 they fitted out 135 vessels for the fisheries, at 
thirteen hands each; four West-Indiamen, twelve 
hands; twenty-five wood vessels, four hands; eighteen 
coasters, five hands; fifteen London traders, eleven 
hands. All these amount to 2158 hands, employed in 
197 vessels. Trace their progressive steps between the 
possession of a few whale-boats, and that of such a fleet ! 

The moral conduct, prejudices, and customs of a 
people who live two-thirds of their time at sea, must 
naturally be very different from those of their neigh- 
bours, who live by cultivating the earth. That long 
abstemiousness to which the former are exposed, the 
breathing of saline air, the frequent repetitions of danger, 
the boldness acquired in surmounting them, the very 
impulse of the winds, to which they are exposed; all 
these, one would imagine must lead them, when on shore, 



Description of Martha's Vineyard 127 

to no small desire of inebriation, and a more eager 
pursuit of those pleasures, of which they have been so 
long deprived, and which they must soon forego. There 
are many appetites that may be gratified on shore, even 
by the poorest man, but which must remain unsatisfied 
at sea. Yet notwithstanding the powerful effects of all 
these causes, I observed here, at the return of their 
fleets, no material irregularities; no tumultuous drink- 
ing assemblies: whereas in our continental towns, the 
thoughtless seaman indulges himself in the coarsest 
pleasures ; and vainly thinking that a week of debauchery 
can compensate for months of abstinence, foolishly 
lavishes in a few days of intoxication, the fruits of half a 
year's labour. On the contrary all was peace here, and 
a general decency prevailed throughout; the reason I 
believe is, that almost everybody here is married, for 
they get wives very young; and the pleasure of return- 
ing to their families absorbs every other desire. The 
motives that lead them to the sea, are very different 
from those of most other sea-faring men; it is neither 
idleness nor profligacy that sends them to that element; 
it is a settled plan of life, a well founded hope of earning 
a livelihood; it is because their soil is bad, that they 
are early initiated to this profession, and were they to 
stay at home, what could they do? The sea therefore 
becomes to them a kind of patrimony; they go to 
whaling with as much pleasure and tranquil indifference, 
with as strong an expectation of success, as a landsman 
undertakes to clear a piece of swamp. The first is 
obliged to advance his time, and labour, to procure oil 
on the surface of the sea; the second advances the same 
to procure himself grass from grounds that produced 
nothing before but hassocks and bogs. Among those 
who do not use the sea, I observed the same calm appear- 
ance as among the inhabitants on the continent; here 
I found, without gloom, a decorum and reserve, so 



ia8 Letters from an American Farmer 

natural to them, that I thought myself in Philadelphia. 
At my landing I was cordially received by those to 
whom I was recommended, and treated with unaffected 
hospitality by such others with whom I became ac- 
quainted; and I can tell you, that it is impossible for 
any traveller to dwell here one month without knowing 
the heads of the principal families. Wherever I went 
I found a simplicity of diction and manners, rather more 
primitive and rigid than I expected; and I soon per- 
ceived that it proceeded from their secluded situation, 
which has prevented them from mixing with others. It 
is therefore easy to conceive how they have retained 
every degree of peculiarity for which this sect was 
formerly distinguished. Never was a bee-hive more 
faithfully employed in gathering wax, bee-bread, and 
honey, from all the neighbouring fields, than are the 
members of this society; every one in the town follows 
some particular occupation with great diligence, but 
without that servility of labour which I am informed 
prevails in Europe. The mechanic seemed to be 
descended from as good parentage, was as well dressed 
and fed, and held in as much estimation as those who 
employed him; they were once nearly related; their 
different degrees of prosperity is what has caused the 
various shades of their community. But this accidental 
difference has introduced, as yet, neither arrogance nor 
pride on the one part, nor meanness and servility on the 
other. All their houses are neat, convenient, and com- 
fortable; some of them are filled with two families, (or 
when the husbands are at sea, the wives require less 
house-room. They all abound with the most sub- 
stantial furniture, more valuable from its usefulness 
than from any ornamental appearance. Wherever I 
went, I found good cheer, a welcome reception; and 
after the second visit I felt myself as much at my ease as 
if I had been an old acquaintance of the family. They 



Description of Martha's Vineyard 129 

had as great plenty of everything as if their island had 
been part of the golden quarter of Virginia (a valuable 
track of land on Cape Charles) : I could hardly persuade 
myself that I had quitted the adjacent continent, where 
everything abounds, and that I was on a barren sand- 
bank, fertilised with whale oil only. As their rural im- 
provements are but trifling, and only of the useful kind, 
and as the best of them are at a considerable distance 
from the town, I amused myself for several days in con- 
versing with the most intelligent of the inhabitants of 
both sexes, and making myself acquainted with the 
various branches of their industry; the different objects 
of their trade; the nature of that sagacity which, 
deprived as they are of every necessary material, pro- 
duce, etc., yet enables them to flourish, to live well, and 
sometimes to make considerable fortunes. The whole 
is an enigma to be solved only by coming to the spot 
and observing the national genius which the original 
founders brought with them, as well as their unwearied 
patience and perseverance. They have all, from the 
highest to the lowest, a singular keenness of judgment, 
unassisted by any academical light; they all possess a 
large share of good sense, improved upon the experience 
of their fathers ; and this is the surest and best guide to 
lead us through the path of life, because it approaches 
nearest to the infallibility of instinct. Shining talents 
and University knowledge, would be entirely useless 
here, nay, would be dangerous; it would pervert their 
plain judgment, it would lead them out of that useful 
path which is so well adapted to their situation; it 
would make them more adventurous, more presumptu- 
ous, much less cautious, and therefore less successful. 
It is pleasing to hear some of them tracing a father's 
progress and their own, through the different vicissi- 
tudes of good and adverse fortune. I have often, by 
their fire-sides, travelled with them the whole length of 



130 Letters from an American Farmer 

their career, from their earliest steps, from their first 
commercial adventure, from the possession of a single 
whale-boat, up to that of a dozen large vessels! This 
does not imply, however, that every one who began 
with a whale-boat, has ascended to a like pitch of 
fortune; by no means, the same casualty, the same 
combination of good and evil which attends human 
affairs in every other part of the globe, prevails here: 
a great prosperity is not the lot of every man, but there 
are many and various gradations; if they all do not 
attain riches, they all attain an easy subsistence. After 
all, is it not better to be possessed of a single whale- 
boat, or a few sheep pastures; to live free and inde- 
pendent under the mildest governments, in a healthy 
climate, in a land of charity and benevolence; than to 
be wretched as so many are in Europe, possessing nothing 
but their industry: tossed from one rough wave to 
another ; engaged either in the most servile labours for 
the smallest pittance, or fettered with the links of the 
most irksome dependence, even without the hopes of 
rising ? 

The majority of those inferior hands which are 
employed in this fishery, many of the mechanics, such 
as coopers, smiths, caulkers, carpenters, etc., who do not 
belong to the society of Friends, are Presbyterians, and 
originally came from the main. Those who are pos- 
sessed of the greatest fortunes at present belong to the 
former; but they all began as simple whalemen: it is 
even looked upon as honourable and necessary for the 
son of the wealthiest man to serve an apprenticeship 
to the same bold, adventurous business which has 
enriched his father; they go several voyages, and these 
early excursions never fail to harden their constitutions, 
and introduce them to the knowledge of their future 
means of subsistence. 



LETTER VII 

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS AT NANTUCKET 

As I observed before, every man takes a wife as soon as 
he chooses, and that is generally very early; no portion 
is required, none is expected; no marriage articles are 
drawn up among us, by skilful lawyers, to puzzle and 
lead posterity to the bar, or to satisfy the pride of the 
parties. We give nothing with our daughters, their 
education, their health, and the customary out-set, are 
all that the fathers of numerous families can afford: as 
the wife's fortune consists principally in her future 
economy, modesty, and skilful management; so the 
husband's is founded on his abilities to labour, on his 
health, and the knowledge of some trade or business. 
Their mutual endeavours, after a few years of constant 
application, seldom fail of success, and of bringing them 
the means to rear and support the new race which accom- 
panies the nuptial bed. Those children born by the 
sea-side, hear the roaring of its waves as soon as they 
are able to listen; it is the first noise with which they 
become acquainted, and by early plunging in it they 
acquire that boldness, that presence of mind, and 
dexterity, which makes them ever after such expert 
seamen. They often hear their fathers recount the 
adventures of their youth, their combats with the 
whales: and these recitals imprint on their opening 
minds an early curiosity and taste for the same life. 
They often cross the sea to go to the main, and learn 
even in those short voyages how to qualify themselves 
for longer and more dangerous ones ; they are therefore 



132 Letters from an American Farmer 

deservedly conspicuous for their maritime knowledge 
and experience, all over the continent. A man born 
here is distinguishable by his gait from among an 
hundred other men, so remarkable are they for a 
pliability of sinews, and a peculiar agility, which attends 
them even to old age. I have heard some persons 
attribute this to the effects of the whale oil, with which 
they are so copiously anointed in the various operations 
it must undergo ere it is fit either for the European 
market or the candle manufactory. 

But you may perhaps be solicitous to ask, what 
becomes of that exuberancy of population which must 
arise from so much temperance, from healthiness of 
climate, and from early marriage? You may justly 
conclude that their native island and town can contain 
but a limited number. Emigration is both natural and 
easy to a maritime people, and that is the very reason 
why they are always populous, problematical as it may 
appear. They yearly go to different parts of this 
continent, constantly engaged in sea affairs; as our 
internal riches increase, so does our external trade, 
which consequently requires more ships and more men: 
sometimes they have emigrated like bees, in regular and 
connected swarms. Some of the Friends (by which 
word I always mean the people called Quakers) fond of 
a contemplative life, yearly visit the several congrega- 
tions which this * society has formed throughout the 
continent. By their means a sort of correspondence 
is kept up among them all; they are generally good 
preachers, friendly censors, checking vice wherever 
they find it predominating; preventing relaxations in 
any parts of their ancient customs and worship. They 
everywhere carry admonition and useful advice; and 
by thus travelling they unavoidably gather the most 
necessary observations concerning the various situations 
of particular districts, their soils, their produce, their 



Manners and Customs at Nantucket 133 

distance from navigable rivers, the price of land, etc. 
In consequence of informations of this kind, received 
at Nantucket in the year 1766, a considerable number of 
them purchased a large track of land in the county of 
Orange, in North Carolina, situated on the several 
spring heads of Deep River, which is the western branch 
of Cape Fear, or North -West River. The advantage of 
being able to convey themselves by sea, to within forty 
miles of the spot, the richness of the soil, etc., made them 
cheerfully quit an island on which there was no longer 
any room for them. There they have founded a beauti- 
ful settlement, known by the name of New Garden, 
contiguous to the famous one which the Moravians 
have at Bethabara, Bethamia, and Salem, on Yadkin 
River. No spot of earth can be more beautiful; it is 
composed of gentle hills, of easy declivities, excellent 
low lands, accompanied by different brooks which 
traverse this settlement. I never saw a soil that rewards 
men so early for their labours and disbursements ; such 
in general with very few exceptions, are the lands which 
adjoin the innumerable heads of all the large rivers 
which fall into the Chesapeak, or flow through the 
provinces of North and South Carolina, Georgia, etc. 
It is perhaps the most pleasing, the most bewitching 
country which the continent affords; because while it 
preserves an easy communication with the sea-port 
towns, at some seasons of the year, it is perfectly free 
from the contagious air often breathed in those flat 
countries, which are more contiguous to the Atlantic. 
These lands are as rich as those over the Alleghany; the 
people of New Garden are situated at the distance of 
between 200 and 300 miles from Cape Fear; Cape Fear 
is at least 450 from Nantucket: you may judge therefore 
that they have but little correspondence with this their 
little metropolis, except it is by means of the itinerant 
Friends. Others have settled on the famous river 



134 Letters from an American Farmer 

Kennebeck, in that territory of the province of Massa- 
chusetts, which is known by the name of Sagadahock. 
Here they have softened the labours of clearing the 
heaviest timbered land in America, by means of several 
branches of trade which their fair river, and proximity 
to the sea affords them. Instead of entirely consuming 
their timber, as we are obliged to do, some parts of it are 
converted into useful articles for exportation, such as 
staves, scantlings, boards, hoops, poles, etc. For that 
purpose they keep a correspondence with their native 
island, and I know many of the principal inhabitants of 
Sherburn, who, though merchants, and living at Nan- 
tucket, yet possess valuable farms on that river; from 
whence they draw great part of their subsistence, meat, 
grain, fire-wood, etc. The title of these lands is vested 
in the ancient Plymouth Company, under the powers 
of which the Massachusetts was settled ; and that com- 
pany which resides in Boston, are still the granters of 
all the vacant lands within their limits. 

Although this part of the province is so fruitful, and 
so happily situated, yet it has been singularly overlooked 
and neglected: it is surprising that the excellence of that 
soil which lies on the river should not have caused it to be 
filled before now with inhabitants; for the settlements 
from thence to Penobscot are as yet but in their infancy. 
It is true that immense labour is required to make room 
for the plough, but the peculiar strength and quality 
of the soil never fails most amply to reward the indus- 
trious possessor; I know of no soil in this country more 
rich or more fertile. I do not mean that sort of transi- 
tory fertility which evaporates with the sun, and dis- 
appears in a few years ; here on the contrary, even their 
highest grounds are covered with a rich moist swamp 
mould, which bears the most luxuriant grass, and never- 
failing crops of grain. 
If New Gardens exceeds this settlement by the soft- 



Manners and Customs at Nantucket 135 

ness of its climate, the fecundity of its soil, and a greater 
variety of produce from less labour; it does not breed 
men equally hardy, nor capable to encounter dangers 
and fatigues. It leads too much to idleness and effemi- 
nacy ; for great is the luxuriance of that part of America, 
and the ease with which the earth is cultivated. Were 
I to begin life again, I would prefer the country of 
Kennebeck to the other, however bewitching; the 
navigation of the river for above 200 miles, the great 
abundance of fish it contains, the constant healthiness 
of the climate, the happy severities of the winters 
always sheltering the earth with a voluminous coat 
of snow, the equally happy necessity of labour: all these 
reasons would greatly preponderate against the softer 
situations of Carolina; where mankind reap too much, 
do not toil enough, and are liable to enjoy too fast the 
benefits of life. There are many I know who would 
despise my opinion, and think me a bad judge; let those 
go and settle at the Ohio, the Monongahela, Red Stone 
Creek, etc., let them go and inhabit the extended shores 
of that superlative river ; I with equal cheerfulness would 
pitch my tent on the rougher shores of Kennebeck; this 
will always be a country of health, labour, and strong 
activity, and those are characteristics of society which 
I value more than greater opulence and voluptuous ease. 
Thus though this fruitful hive constantly sends out 
swarms, as industrious as themselves, yet it always 
remains full without having any useless drones : on the 
contrary it exhibits constant scenes of business and new 
schemes; the richer an individual grows, the more 
extensive his field of action becomes; he that is near 
ending his career, drudges on as well as he who has 
just begun it; nobody stands still. But is it not 
strange, that after having accumulated riches, they 
should never wish to exchange their barren situation 
for a more sheltered, more pleasant one on the main? 



136 Letters from an American Farmer 

Is it not strange, that after having spent the morning 
and the meridian of their days amidst the jarring waves, 
weary with the toils of a laborious life, they should not 
wish to enjoy the evenings of those days of industry 
in a larger society, on some spots of terra firma, where 
the severity of the winters is balanced by a variety of 
more pleasing scenes, not to be found here? But the 
same magical power of habit and custom which makes 
the Laplander, the Siberian, the Hottentot, prefer their 
climates, their occupations, and their soil, to more 
beneficial situations, leads these good people to think, 
that no other spot on the globe is so analagous to their 
inclinations as Nantucket. Here their connections are 
formed; what would they do at a distance removed 
from them? Live sumptuously, you will say, procure 
themselves new friends, new acquaintances, by their 
splendid tables, by their ostentatious generosity, and by 
affected hospitality. These are thoughts that have 
never entered into their heads; they would be filled 
with horror at the thought of forming wishes and plans 
so different from that simplicity, which is their general 
standard in affluence as well as in poverty. They abhor 
the very idea of expending in useless waste and vain 
luxuries, the fruits of prosperous labour; they are 
employed in establishing their sons and in many other 
useful purposes: strangers to the honours of monarchy 
they do not aspire to the possession of affluent fortunes, 
with which to purchase sounding titles, and frivolous 
names ! 

Yet there are not at Nantucket so many wealth}' 
people as one would imagine after having considered 
their great successes, their industry, and their know- 
ledge. Many die poor, though hardly able to reproach 
Fortune with a frown; others leave not behind them 
that affluence which the circle of their business and of 
their prosperity naturally promised. The reason of this 



Manners and Customs at Nantucket 137 

is, I believe, the peculiar expense necessarily attending 
their tables; for as their island supplies the town with 
little or nothing (a few families excepted) every one 
must procure what they want from the main. The very 
hay their horses consume, and every other article 
necessary to support a family, though cheap in a country 
of so great abundance as Massachusetts; yet the neces- 
sary waste and expenses attending their transport, 
render these commodities dear. A vast number of little 
vessels from the main, and from the Vineyard, are con- 
stantly resorting here, as to a market. Sherburn is 
extremely well supplied with everything, but this very 
constancy of supply, necessarily drains off a great deal 
of money. The first use they make of their oil and bone 
is to exchange it for bread and meat, and whatever 
else they want ; the necessities of a large family are very 
great and numerous, let its economy be what it will; 
they are so often repeated, that they perpetually draw 
off a considerable branch of the profits. If by any 
accidents those profits are interrupted, the capital must 
suffer ; and it very often happens that the greatest part 
of their property is floating on the sea. 

There are but two congregations in this town. They 
assemble every Sunday in meeting houses, as simple 
as the dwelling of the people ; and there is but one priest 
on the whole island. What would a good Portuguese 
observe? But one single priest to instruct a whole 
island, and to direct their consciences! It is even so; 
each individual knows how to guide his own, and is 
content to do it, as well as he can. This lonely clergy- 
man ic a Presbyterian minister, who has a very large 
and respectable congregation; the other is composed 
of Quakers, who you know admit of no particular person, 
who in consequence of being ordained becomes exclu- 
sively entitled to preach, to catechise, and to receive 
certain salaries for his trouble. Among them, every 



138 Letters from an American Farmer 

one may expound the Scriptures, who thinks he is called 
so to do; beside, as they admit of neither sacrament, 
baptism, nor any other outward forms whatever, such 
a man would be useless. Most of these people are 
continually at sea, and have often the most urgent 
reasons to worship the Parent of Nature in the midst 
of the storms which they encounter. These two sects 
live in perfect peace and harmony with each other, 
those ancient times of religious discords are now gum- 
(I hope never to return) when each thought it meri- 
torious, not only to damn the other, which would have 
been nothing, but to persecute and murther one another, 
for the glory of that Being, who requires no more of us, 
than that we should love one another and live! Every 
one goes to that place of worship which he likes best. 
and thinks not that his neighbour does wrong by not 
following him; each busily employed in their temporal 
affairs, is less vehement about spiritual ones, and fortu- 
nately you will find at Nan tucket neither idle drones, 
voluptuous devotees, ranting enthusiasts, nor sour 
demagogues. I wish I had it in my power to send the 

most persecuting bigot I could find in to the 

whale fisheries; in less than three or four years you 
would find him a much more tractable man, and there- 
fore a better Christian. 

Singular as it may appear to you, there are but two 
medical professors on the island; for of what service 
can physic be in a primitive society, where the excesses 
of inebriation are so rare? What need of galenical 
medicines, where fevers, and stomachs loaded by the 
loss of the digestive powers, are so few? Temperance, 
the calm of passions, frugality, and continual exercise, 
keep them healthy, and preserve unimpaired that 
constitution which they have received from parent^ 
as healthy as themselves; who in the unpolluted 
embraces of the earliest and chastest love, conveyed 



Manners and Customs at Nantucket 130 

to them the soundest bodily frame which nature could 
give. But as no habitable part of this globe is exempt 
from some diseases, proceeding either from climate or 
modes of living; here they are sometimes subject to 
consumptions and to fevers. Since the foundation of 
that town no epidemical distempers have appeared, 
which at times cause such depopulations in other 
countries; many of them are extremely well acquainted 
with the Indian methods of curing simple diseases, ami 
practise them with success. You will hardly find any- 
where a community, composed of the same number of 
individuals, possessing such uninterrupted health, and 
exhibiting so many green old men, who show then 
advanced age by the maturity of their wisdom, rather 
than by the wrinkles of their faces; and this is indeet ; 
one of the principal blessings of the island, which richh 
compensates their want of the richer soils of the south; 
where iliac complaints and bilious fevers, grow by tin 
side of the sugar cane, the ambrosial ananas, etc. The 
situation of this island, the purity of the air, the natmv 
of their marine occupations, their virtue and moderation, 
are the causes of that vigour and health which the}' 
possess. The poverty of their soil has placed them, I 
hope, beyond the danger of conquest, or the wanton 
desire of extirpation. Were they to be driven from 
this spot, the only acquisition of the conquerors would 
be a few acres of land, inclosed and cultivated; a few 
houses, and some movables. The genius, the industry 
of the inhabitants would accompany them; and it is 
those alone which constitute the sole wealth of their 
island. Its present fame would perish, and in a few 
years it would return to its pristine state of barrenness 
and poverty: they might perhaps be allowed to trans- 
port themselves in their own vessels to some other spot 
orisland, which they would soon fertilise by the same 
means with which they have fertilised this. 



140 Letters from an American Farmer 

One single lawyer has of late years found means to 
live here, but his best fortune proceeds more from 
having married one of the wealthiest heiresses of the 
island, than from the emoluments of his practice : how- 
ever he is sometimes employed hi recovering money 
lent on the main, or in preventing those accidents to 
which the contentious propensity of its inhabitants 
may sometimes expose them. He is seldom employed 
as the means of self-defence, and much seldomer as the 
channel of attack; to which they are strangers, except 
the fraud is manifest, and the danger imminent. Law- 
yers are so numerous in all our populous towns, that 
I am surprised they never thought before of establishing 
themselves here: they are plants that will grow in any 
soil that is cultivated by the hands of others ; and when 
once they have taken root they will extinguish every 
other vegetable that grows around them. The fortunes 
they daily acquire in every province, from the mis- 
fortunes of their fellow-citizens, are surprising! The 
most ignorant, the most bungling member of that pro- 
fession, will, if placed in the most obscure part of the 
country, promote litigiousness, and amass more wealth 
without labour, than the most opulent farmer, with all 
his toils. They have so dexterously interwoven their 
doctrines and quirks with the laws of the land, or rather 
they are become so necessary an evil in our present 
constitutions, that it seems unavoidable and past all 
remedy. What a pity that our forefathers, who happily 
extinguished so many fatal customs, and expunged 
from their new government so many errors and abuses, 
both religious and civil, did not also prevent the intro- 
duction of a set of men so dangerous ! In some provinces, 
where every inhabitant is constantly employed in tilling 
and cultivating the earth, they are the only members 
of society who have any knowledge ; let these provinces 
attest what iniquitous use they have made of that know- 



Manners and Customs at Nantuckct 141 

ledge. They are here what the clergy were in past 
centuries with you; the reformation which clipped the 
clerical wings, is the boast of that age, and the happiest 
event that could possibly happen ; a reformation equally 
useful is now wanted, to relieve us from the shameful 
shackles and the oppressive burthen under which we 
groan; this perhaps is impossible; but if mankind 
would not become too happy, it were an event most 
devoutly to be wished. 

Here, happily, unoppressed with any civil bondage, 
this society of fishermen and merchants live, without 
any military establishments, without governors or any 
masters but the laws; and their civil code is so light, 
that it is never felt. A man may pass (as many have 
done whom I am acquainted with) through the various 
scenes of a long life, may struggle against a variety of 
adverse fortune, peaceably enjoy the good when it 
comes, and never in that long interval, apply to the 
law either for redress or assistance. The principal 
benefit it confers is the general protection of individuals, 
and this protection is purchased by the most moderate 
taxes, which are cheerfully paid, and by the trifling 
duties incident in the course of their lawful trade (for 
they despise contraband). Nothing can be more simple 
than their municipal regulations, though similar to those 
of the other counties of the same province; because 
they are more detached from the rest, more distinct in 
their manners, as well as in the nature of the business 
they pursue, and more unconnected with the populous 
province to which they belong. The same simplicity 
attends the worship they pay to the Divinity; their 
elders are the only teachers of their congregations, the 
instructors of their youth, and often the example of their 
flock. They visit and comfort the sick; after death, 
the society bury them with their fathers, without pomp, 
prayers, or ceremonies; not a stone or monument is 



142 Letters from an American Farmer 

erected, to tell where any person was buried; their 
memory is preserved by tradition. The only essentia] 
memorial that is left of them, is their former industry, 
their kindness, their charity, or else their most con- 
spicuous faults. 

The Presbyterians live in great chanty with them, 
a.nd with one another; their minister as a true pastor of 
the gospel, inculcates to them the doctrines it contains, 
the rewards it promises, the punishments it holds out 
to those who shall commit injustice. Nothing can be 
more disencumbered likewise from useless ceremonies 
and trifling forms than their mode of worship; it might 
with great propriety have been called a truly primitive 
one, had that of the Quakers never appeared. As fellow 
Christians, obeying the same legislator, they love and 
mutually assist each other in all their wants; as fellow 
labourers they unite with cordiality and without the 
least rancour in all their temporal schemes: no other 
emulation appears among them but in their sea 
excursions, in the art of fitting out their vessels ; in that 
of sailing, in harpooning the whale, and in bringing 
home the greatest harvest. As fellow subjects they 
cheerfully obey the same laws, and pay the same duties: 
but let me not forget another peculiar characteristic of 
this community: there is not a slave I believe on the 
whole island, at least among the Friends ; whilst slavery 
prevails all around them, this society alone, lamenting 
that shocking insult offered to humanity, have given tin- 
world a singular example of moderation, disinterested- 
ness, and Christian charity, in emancipating their 
negroes. I shall explain to you farther, the singular 
virtue and merit to which it is so justly entitled by 
having set before the rest of their fellow-subjects, so 
pleasing, so edifying a reformation. Happy the people 
who are subject to so mild a government; happy the 
government which has to rule over such harmless, and 
such industrious subjects! 



Manners and Customs at Nantucket 143 

While we are clearing forests, making the face of 
nature smile, draining marshes, cultivating wheat, and 
converting it into flour; they yearly skim from the 
surface of the sea riches equally necessary. Thus, had I 
leisure and abilities to lead you through this continent, I 
could show you an astonishing prospect very little known 
in Europe ; one diffusive scene of happiness reaching from 
the sea-shores to the last settlements on the borders of 
the wilderness: an happiness, interrupted only by the 
folly of individuals, by our spirit of litigiousness, and 
by those unforeseen calamities, from which no human 
society can possibly be exempted. May the citizens of 
Nantucket dwell long here in uninterrupted peace, un- 
disturbed either by the waves of the surrounding 
element, or the political commotions which sometimes 
agitate our continent. 



LETTER VIII 

PECULIAR CUSTOMS AT NANTUCKET 

THE manners of the Friends are entirely founded on 
that simplicity which is their boast, and their most 
distinguished characteristic; and those manners have 
acquired the authority of laws. Here they are strongly 
attached to plainness of dress, as well as to that of 
language; insomuch that though some part of it may 
be ungrammatical, yet should any person who was born 
and brought up here, attempt to speak more correctly, 
he would be looked upon as a fop or an innovator. On 
the other hand, should a stranger come here and adopt 
their idiom in all its purity (as they deem it) this accom- 
plishment would immediately procure him the most 
cordial reception; and they would cherish him like an 
ancient member of their society. So many impositions 
have they suffered on this account, that they begin now 
indeed to grow more cautious. They are so tenaciou? 
of their ancient habits of industry and frugality, that if 
any of them were to be seen with a long coat made of 
English cloth, on any other than the first-day (Sunday), 
he would be greatly ridiculed and censured; he would 
be looked upon as a careless spendthrift, whom it would 
be unsafe to trust, and in vain to relieve. A few years 
ago two single-horse chairs were imported from Boston, 
to the great offence of these prudent citizens; nothing 
appeared to them more culpable than the use of such 
gaudy painted vehicles, in contempt of the more 
useful and more simple single-horse carts of their fathers. 
This piece of extravagant and unknown luxury almost 

144 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 145 

caused a schism, and set every tongue a-going; some 
predicted the approaching ruin of those families that 
had imported them; others feared the dangers of 
example; never since the foundation of the town had 
there happened anything which so much alarmed this 
primitive community. One of the possessors of these 
profane chairs, filled with repentance, wisely sent it back 
to the continent ; the other, more obstinate and per- 
verse, in defiance to all remonstrances, persisted in the 
use of his chair until by degrees they became more 
reconciled to it; though I observed that the wealthiest 
and the most respectable people still go to meeting or to 
their farms in a single-horse cart with a decent awning 
fixed over it: indeed, if you consider their sandy soil, 
and the badness of their roads, these appear to be the 
best contrived vehicles for this island. 

Idleness is the most heinous sin that can be committed 
in Nantucket: an idle man would soon be pointed out 
as an object of compassion: for idleness is considered 
as another word for want and hunger. This principle 
is so thoroughly well understood, and is become so 
universal, so prevailing a prejudice, that literally 
speaking, they are never idle. Even if they go to the 
market-place, which is (if I may be allowed the expres- 
sion) the coffee-house of the town, either to transact 
business, or to converse with their friends; they always 
have a piece of cedar in their hands, and while they are 
talking, they will, as it were instinctively, employ them- 
selves in converting it into something useful, either in 
making bungs or spoyls for their oil casks, or other 
useful articles. I must confess, that I have never seen 
more ingenuity in the use of the knife; thus the most 
idle moments of their lives become usefully employed. 
In the many hours of leisure which their long cruises 
afford them, they cut and carve a variety of boxes and 
pretty toys, in wood, adapted to different uses; which 



146 Letters from an American Farmer 

they bring home as testimonies of remembrance to their 
wives or sweethearts. They have showed me a variety 
of little bowls and other implements, executed cooper- 
wise, with the greatest neatness and elegance. You will 
be pleased to remember they are all brought up to the 
trade of coopers, be their future intentions or fortunes 
what they may; therefore almost every man in this 
island has always two knives in his pocket, one much 
larger than the other; and though they hold everything 
that is called fashion in the utmost contempt, yet they 
are as difficult to please, and as extravagant in the choice 
and price of their knives, as any young buck in Boston 
would be about his hat, buckles, or coat. As soon as a 
knife is injured, or superseded by a more convenient 
one, it is carefully laid up in some corner of their desk. 

I once saw upwards of fifty thus preserved at Mr. 's, 

one of the worthiest men on this island; and among 
the whole, there was not one that perfectly resembled 
another. As the sea excursions are often very long, 
their wives in their absence are necessarily obliged to 
transact business, to settle accounts, and in short, to 
rule and provide for their families. These circum- 
stances being often repeated, give women the abilities 
as well as a taste for that kind of superintendency, to 
which, by their prudence and good management, thev 
seem to be in general very equal. This employment 
ripens their judgment, and justly entities them to a rank 
superior to that of other wives ; and this is the principal 
reason why those of Nantucket as well as those of 
Montreal v are so fond of society, so affable, and so 
conversant with the affairs of the world. The men at 

1 Most of the merchants and young men of Montreal 
spend the greatest part of their time in trading with the 
Indians, at an amazing distance from Canada; and it 
often happens that they are three years together absent 
from home. 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 147 

their return, weary with the fatigues of the sea, full of 
confidence and love, cheerfully give their consent to 
every transaction that has happened during their absence, 
and all is joy and peace. " Wife, thee hast done well," 
is the general approbation they receive, for their applica- 
tion and industry. What would the men do without the 
agency of these faithful mates? The absence of so 
many of them at particular seasons, leaves the town quite 
desolate; and this mournful situation disposes the 
women to go to each other's house much oftener than 
when their husbands are at home: hence the custom of 
incessant visiting has infected every one, and even those 
whose husbands do not go abroad. The house is always 
cleaned before they set out, and with peculiar alacrity 
they pursue their intended visit, which consists of a 
social chat, a dish of tea, and an hearty supper. When 
the good man of the house returns from his labour, he 
peaceably goes after his wife and brings her home; 
meanwhile the young fellows, equally vigilant, easily 
find out which is the most convenient house, and there 
they assemble with the girls of the neighbourhood. 
Instead of cards, musical instruments, or songs, they 
relate stories of their whaling voyages, their various sea 
adventures, and talk of the different coasts and people 
they have visited. "The island of Catharine in the 
Brazil," says one, " is a very droll island, it is inhabited 
by none but men ; women are not permitted to come in 
sight of it; not a woman is there on the whole island. 
Who among us is not glad it is not so here? The 
Nantucket girls and boys beat the world. 1 ' At this 
innocent sally the titter goes round, they whisper to one 
another their spontaneous reflections: puddings, pies, 
and custards never fail to be produced on such occasions ; 
for I believe there never were any people in their cir- 
cumstances, who live so well, even to superabundance. 
As inebriation is unknown, and music, singing, and 



148 Letters from an American Farmer 

dancing, are held in equal detestation, they never could 
fill all the vacant hours of their lives without the repast 
of the table. Thus these young people sit and talk, and 
divert themselves as well as they can; if any one has 
lately returned from a cruise, he is generally the speaker 
of the night; they often all laugh and talk together, 
but they are happy, and would not exchange their 
pleasures for those of the most brilliant assemblies in 
Europe. This lasts until the father and mother return ; 
when all retire to their respective homes, the men 
re-conducting the partners of their affections. 

Thus they spend many of the youthful evenings of 
their lives; no wonder therefore, that they marry so 
early. But no sooner have they undergone this cere- 
mony than they cease to appear so cheerful and gay; 
the new rank they hold in the society impresses them 
with more serious ideas than were entertained before. 
The title of master of a family necessarily requires more 
solid behaviour and deportment; the new wife follows 
in the trammels of Custom, which are as powerful as 
the tyranny of fashion; she gradually advises and 
directs ; the new husband soon goes to sea, he leaves her 
to learn and exercise the new government, in which she 
is entered. Those who stay at home are full as passive 
in general, at least with regard to the inferior depart- 
ments of the family. But you must not imagine from 
this account that the Nantucket wives are turbulent, of 
high temper, and difficult to be ruled ; on the contrary, 
the wives of Sherburn in so doing, comply only with the 
prevailing custom of the island: the husbands, equally 
submissive to the ancient and respectable manners of 
their country, submit, without ever suspecting that 
there can be any impropriety. Were they to behave 
otherwise, they would be afraid of subverting the prin- 
ciples of their society by altering its ancient rules ; thus 
both parties are perfectly satisfied, and all is peace and 



Peculiar Customs at Nantuckct 149 

concord. The richest person now in the island owes all 
his present prosperity and success to the ingenuity of 
his wife : this is a known fact which is well recorded ; for 
while he was performing his first cruises, she traded with 
pins and needles, and kept a school. Afterward she 
purchased more considerable articles, which she sold 
with so much judgment, that she laid the foundation of 
a system of business, that she has ever since prosecuted 
with equal dexterity and success. She wrote to London, 
formed connections, and, in short, became the only 
ostensible instrument of that house, both at home and 
abroad. Who is he in this country, and who is a citizt n 
of Nantucket or Boston, who does not know Awt 
Kesiah ? 1 must tell you that she is the wife of Mr. 

C n, a very respectable man, who, well pleased 

with all her schemes, trusts to her judgment, and relies 
on her sagacity, with so entire a confidence, as to be 
altogether passive to the concerns of his family. They 
have the best country seat on the island, at Quayes, 
where they live with hospitality, and in perfect union. 
He seems to be altogether the contemplative man. 

To this dexterity in managing the husband's business 
whilst he is absent, the Nantucket wives unite a great 
deal of industry. They spin, or cause to be spun in 
their houses, abundance of wool and flax; and would 
be for ever disgraced and looked upon as idlers if all the 
family were not clad in good, neat, and sufficient home- 
spun cloth. First Days are the only seasons when it is 
lawful for both sexes to exhibit some garments of English 
manufacture ; even these are of the most moderate price, 
and of the gravest colours : there is no kind of difference 
in their dress, they are all clad alike, and resemble in that 
respect the members of one family. 

A singular custom prevails here among the women, 
at which I was greatly surprised; and am really at a 
loss how to account for the original cause that has 



150 Letters from an American Farmer 

introduced in this primitive society so remarkable a 
fashion, or rather so extraordinary a want. They have 
adopted these many years the Asiatic custom of taking 
a dose of opium every morning; and so deeply rooted 
is it, that they would be at a loss how to live without 
this indulgence; they would rather be deprived of any 
necessary than forego their favourite luxury. This is 
much more prevailing among the women than the men, 
few of the latter having caught the contagion; though 
the sheriff, whom I may call the first person in the 
island, who is an eminent physician beside, and whom 
I had the pleasure of being well acquainted with, has 
for many years submitted to this custom. He takes 
three grains of it every day after breakfast, without 
the effects of which, he often told me, he was not able 
to transact any business. 

It is hard to conceive how a people always happy and 
healthy, in consequence of the exercise and labour they 
undergo, never oppressed with the vapours of idleness, 
yet should want the fictitious effects of opium to preserve 
that cheerfulness to which their temperance, their 
climate, their happy situation so justly entitle them. 
But where is the society perfectly free from error or 
folly; the least imperfect is undoubtedly that where 
the greatest good preponderates; and agreeable to this 
rule, I can truly say ,~ that I never was acquainted with a 
less vicious, or more harmless one. 

The majority of the present inhabitants are the 
descendants of the twenty -seven first proprietors, who 
paten teed the island; of the rest, many others have 
since come over among them, chiefly from the Massa- 
chusetts: here are neither Scotch, Irish, nor French, 
as is the case in most other settlements; they are an 
unmixed English breed. The consequence of this 
extended connection is, that they are all in some degree 
related to each other: you must not be surprised there- 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 151 

fore when I tell you, that they always call each other 
cousin, uncle or aunt; which are become such common 
appellations, that no other are made use of in their 
daily intercourse: you would be deemed stiff and 
affected were you to refuse conforming yourself to this 
ancient custom, which truly depicts the image of a 
large family. The many who reside here that have 
not the least claim of relationship with any one in the 
town, yet by the power of custom make use of no other 
address in their conversation. Were you here yourself 
but a few days, you would be obliged to adopt the same 
phraseology, which is far from being disagreeable, as 
it implies a general acquaintance and friendship, which 
connects them all in unity and peace. 

Their taste for fishing has been so prevailing, that it 
has engrossed all their attention, and even prevented 
them from introducing some higher degree of perfection 
111 their agriculture. There are many useful improve- 
ments which might have meliorated their soil; there are 
many trees which if transplanted here would have 
thriven extremely well, and would have served to shelter 
as well as decorate the favourite spots they have so 
carefully manured. The red cedar, the locust, 1 the 
button wood, I am persuaded would have grown here 
rapidly and to a great size, with many others ; but their 
thoughts are turned altogether toward the sea. The 
Indian corn begins to yield them considerable crops, 
and the wheat sown on its stocks is become a very 
profitable grain; rye will grow with little care; they 
might raise if they would, an immense quantity of 
buck-wheat. 

Such an island inhabited as I have described, is not 
the place where gay travellers should resort, in order 

1 A species of what we call here the two- thorn acacia: it 
yields the most valuable timber we have, and its shade is 
very beneficial to the growth and goodness of the grass. 



152 Letters from an American Farmer 

to enjoy that variety of pleasures the more splendid 
towns of this continent afford. Not that they are wholly 
deprived of what we might call recreations, and innocent 
pastimes ; but opulence, instead of luxuries and extrava- 
gancies, produces nothing more here than an increase 
of business, an additional degree of hospitality, greater 
neatness in the preparation of dishes, and better wines. 
They often walk and converse with each other, as I have 
observed before; and upon extraordinary occasions, 
will take a ride to Palpus, where there is an house of 
entertainment; but these rural amusements are con- 
ducted upon the same plan of moderation, as those in 
town. They are so simple as hardly to be described; 
the pleasure of going and returning together; of chatting 
and walking about, of throwing the bar, heaving stones, 
etc., are the only entertainments they are acquainted 
with. This is all they practise, and all they seem to 
desire. The house at Palpus is the general resort of 
those who possess the luxury of a horse and chaise, as 
well as of those who still retain, as the majority do, a 
predilection for their primitive vehicle. By resorting 
to that place they enjoy a change of air, they taste the 
pleasures of exercise; perhaps an exhilarating bowl, 
not at all improper in this climate, affords the chief 
indulgence known to these people, on the days of their 
greatest festivity. The mounting a horse, must afford 
a most pleasing exercise to those men who are so much 
at sea. I was once invited to that house, and had the 
satisfaction of conducting thither one of the many 
beauties of that island (for it abounds with handsome 
women) dressed in all the bewitching attire of the most 
charming simplicity: like the rest of the company, she 
was cheerful without loud laughs, and smiling without 
affectation. They all appeared gay without levity. 
I had never before in my life seen so much unaffected 
mirth, mixed with so much modesty. The pleasures 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 153 

of the day were enjoyed with the greatest liveliness and 
the most innocent freedom; no disgusting pruderies, 
no coquettish airs tarnished this enlivening assembly: 
they behaved according to their native dispositions, 
the only rules of decorum with which they were ac- 
quainted. What would an European visitor have done 
here without a fiddle, without a dance, without cards? 
He would have called it an insipid assembly, and ranked 
this among the dullest days he had ever spent. This 
rural excursion had a very great affinity to those prac- 
tised in our province, with this difference only, that 
we have no objection to the sportive dance, though 
conducted by the rough accents of some self-taught 
African fiddler. We returned as happy as we went; 
and the brightness of the moon kindly lengthened a 
day which had past, like other agreeable ones, with 
singular rapidity. 

In order to view the island in its longest direction 
from the town, I took a ride to the easternmost parts 
of it, remarkable only for the Pochick Rip, where their 
best fish are caught. I past by the Tetoukemah lots, 
which are the fields of the community; the fences were 
made of cedar posts and rails, and looked perfectly 
straight and neat; the various crops they enclosed 
were flourishing: thence I descended into Barrey's 
Valley, where the blue and the spear grass looked more 
abundant than I had seen on any other part of the island ; 
thence to Gib's Pond; and arrived at last at Siisconcet. 
Several dwellings had been erected on this wild shore, 
for the purpose of sheltering the fishermen in the season 
of fishing ; I found them all empty, except that particular 
one to which I had been directed. It was like the 
others, built on the highest part of the shore, in the 
face of the great ocean; the soil appeared to be com- 
posed of no other stratum but sand, covered with a 
thinly scattered herbage. What rendered this house 



154 Letters from an American Farmer 

still more worthy of notice in my eyes, was, that it had 
tx-en built on the ruins of one of the ancient huts, erected 
by the first settlers, for observing the appearance of the 
whales. Here lived a single family without a neighbour ; 
I had never before seen a spot better calculated to 
cherish contemplative ideas; perfectly unconnected 
with the great world, and far removed from its pertur- 
bations. The ever raging ocean was all that presented 
itself to the view of this family; it irresistibly attracted 
my whole attention: my eyes were involuntarily 
directed to the horizontal line of that watery surface, 
which is ever in motion, and ever threatening destruction 
to these shores. My ears were stunned with the roar 
of its waves rolling one over the other, as if impelled 
by a superior force to overwhelm the spot on which I 
stood. My nostrils involuntarily inhaled the saline 
vapours which arose from the dispersed particles of the 
foaming billows, or from the weeds scattered on the 
shores. My mind suggested a thousand vague reflec- 
tions, pleasing in the hour of their spontaneous birth, 
but now half forgot, and all indistinct: and who is the 
landman that can behold without affright so singular 
an element, which by its impetuosity seems to be the 
destroyer of this poor planet, yet at particular times 
accumulates the scattered fragments and produces 
islands and continents fit for men to dwell on! Who 
can observe the regular vicissitudes of its waters without 
astonishment; now swelling themselves in order to 
penetrate through every river and opening, and thereby 
facilitate navigation; at other times retiring from the 
shores, to permit man to collect that variety of shell fish 
which is the support of the poor? Who can see the 
storms of wind, blowing sometimes with an impetuosity 
sufficiently strong even to move the earth, without 
feeling himself affected beyond the sphere of common 
ideas? Can this wind which but a few days ago re- 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 155 

freshed our American fields, and cooled us in the shade, 
be the same element which now and then so powerfully 
convulses the waters of the sea, dismasts vessels, causes 
so many shipwrecks, and such extensive desolations? 
How diminutive does a man appear to himself when 
filled with these thoughts, and standing as 1 did on the 
verge of the ocean ! This family lived entirely by fishing, 
for the plough has not dared yet to disturb the parched 
surface of the neighbouring plain; and to what purpose 
could this operation be performed! Where is it that 
mankind will not find safety, peace, and abundance, 
with freedom and civil happiness ? Nothing was want- 
ing here to make this a most philosophical retreat, but 
a few ancient trees, to shelter contemplation in its 
beloved solitude. There I saw a numerous family of 
children of various ages the blessings of an early 
marriage; they were ruddy as the cherry, healthy as 
the fish they lived on, hardy as the pine knots: the 
eldest were already able to encounter the boisterous 
waves, and shuddered not at their approach; early 
initiating themselves in the mysteries of that seafaring 
career, for which they were all intended: the younger, 
timid as yet, on the edge of a less agitated pool, were 
teaching themselves with nut-shells and pieces of wood, 
in imitation of boats, how to navigate in a future day 
the larger vessels of their father, through a rougher and 
deeper ocean. I stayed two days there on purpose to 
become acquainted with the different branches of their 
economy, and their manner of living in this singular 
retreat. The clams, the oysters of the shores, with the 
addition of Indian Dumplings, 1 constituted their daily 
and most substantial food. Larger fish were often 
caught on the neighbouring rip; these afforded them 
their greatest dainties; they had likewise plenty of 

1 Indian Dumplings are a peculiar preparation of Indian 
meal, boiled in large lumps. 



156 Letters from an American Farmer 

smoked bacon. The noise of the wheels announced the 
industry of the mother and daughters ; one of them had 
been bred a weaver, and having a loom in the house, 
found means of clothing the whole family; they were 
perfectly at ease, and seemed to want for nothing. I 
found very few books among these people, who have 
very little time for reading; the Bible and a few school 
tracts, both in the Nattick and English languages, con- 
stituted their most numerous libraries. I saw indeed 
several copies of Hudibras, and Josephus; but no one 
knows who first imported them. It is something extra- 
ordinary to see this people, professedly so grave, and 
strangers to every branch of literature, reading with 
pleasure the former work, which should seem to require 
some degree of taste, and antecedent historical know- 
ledge. They all read it much, and can by memory 
repeat many passages; which yet I could not discover 
that they understood the beauties of. Is it not a little 
singular to see these books in the hands of fishermen, 
who are perfect strangers almost to any other? Jo- 
sephus's history is indeed intelligible, and much fitter 
for their modes of education and taste; as it describes 
the history of a people from whom we have received the 
prophecies which we believe, and the religious laws 
which we follow. 

Learned travellers, returned from seeing the paintings 
and antiquities of Rome and Italy, still filled with the 
admiration and reverence they inspire, would hardly 
be persuaded that so contemptible a spot, which con- 
tains nothing remarkable but the genius and the industry 
of its inhabitants, could ever be an object worthy atten- 
tion. But I, having never seen the beauties which 
Europe contains, cheerfully satisfy myself with atten- 
tively examining what my native country exhibits: if 
we have neither ancient amphitheatres, gilded palaces, 
nor elevated spires; we enjoy in our woods a substantial 



Peculiar Customs at Nantucket 157 

happiness which the wonders of art cannot communicate. 
None among us suffer oppression either from govern- 
ment or religion; there are very few poor except the 
idle, and fortunately the force of example, and the most 
ample encouragement, soon create a new principle of 
activity, which had been extinguished perhaps in their 
native country, for want of those opportunities which 
so often compel honest Europeans to seek shelter among 
us. The means of procuring subsistence in Europe are 
limited; the army may be full, the navy may abound 
with seamen, the land perhaps wants no additional 
labourers, the manufacturer is overcharged with super- 
numerary hands; what then must become of the un- 
employed? Here, on the contrary, human industry 
has acquired a boundless field to exert itself in a field 
which will not be fully cultivated in many ages ! 



LETTER IX 

DESCRIPTION OF CHARLES-TOWN ; THOUGHTS ON SLAVERY ; 
ON PHYSICAL EVIL; A MELANCHOLY SCENE 

CHARLES-TOWN is, in the north, what Lima is in the 
south; both are Capitals of the richest provinces of their 
respective hemispheres: you may therefore conjecture, 
that both cities must exhibit the appearances necessarily 
resulting from riches. Peru abounding in gold, Lima is 
filled with inhabitants who enjoy all those gradations of 
pleasure, refinement, and luxury, which proceed from 
wealth. Carolina produces commodities, more valuable 
perhaps than gold, because they are gained by greater 
industry; it exhibits also on our northern stage, a dis- 
play of riches and luxury, inferior indeed to the former, 
but far superior to what are to be seen in our northern 
towns. Its situation is admirable, being built at the 
confluence of two large rivers, which receive in their 
course a great number of inferior streams ; all navigable 
in the spring, for flat boats. Here the produce of this 
extensive territory concentres; here therefore is the 
seat of the most valuable exportation; their wharfs, 
their docks, their magazines, are extremely convenient 
to facilitate this great commercial business. The 
inhabitants are the gayest in America; it is called the 
centre of our beau monde, and is always filled with the 
richest planters of the province, who resort hither in 
quest of health and pleasure. Here are always to be 
seen a great number of valetudinarians from the West 
Indies, seeking for the renovation of health, exhausted 
by the debilitating nature of their sun, air, and modes 

158 



Description of Charles-Town 159 

of living. Many of these West Indians have I seen, at 
thirty, loaded with the infirmities of old age ; for nothing 
is more common in those countries of wealth, than for 
persons to lose the abilities of enjoying the comforts of 
life, at a time when we northern men just begin to taste 
the fruits of our labour and prudence. The round of 
pleasure, and the expenses of those citizens' tables, are 
much superior to what you would imagine: indeed the 
growth of this town and province has been astonishingly 
rapid. It is pity that the narrowness of the neck on 
which it stands prevents it from increasing ; and which 
is the reason why houses are so dear. The heat of the 
climate, which is sometimes very great in the interior 
parts of the country, is always temperate in Charles- 
Town; though sometimes when they have no sea 
breezes the sun is too powerful. The climate renders 
excesses of all kinds very dangerous, particularly those 
of the table; and yet, insensible or fearless of danger, 
they live on, and enjoy a short and a merry life: the 
rays of their sun seem to urge them irresistibly to dis- 
sipation and pleasure : on the contrary, the women, from 
being abstemious, reach to a longer period of life, and 
seldom die without having had several husbands. An 
European at his first arrival must be greatly surprised 
when he sees the elegance of their houses, their sumptu- 
ous furniture, as well as the magnificence of their tables. 
Can he imagine himself in a country, the establishment 
of which is so recent ? 

The three principal classes of inhabitants are, lawyers, 
planters, and merchants ; this is the province which has 
afforded to the first the richest spoils, for nothing can 
exceed their wealth, their power, and their influence. 
They have reached the ne plus ultra of worldly felicity ; no 
plantation is secured, no title is good, no will is valid, 
but what they dictate, regulate, and approve. The 
whole mass of provincial property is become tributary 



160 Letters from an American Farmer 

to this society; which, far above priests and bishops, 
disdain to be satisfied with the poor Mosaical portion 
of the tenth. I appeal to the many inhabitants, who, 
while contending perhaps for their right to a few hundred 
acres, have lost by the mazes of the law their whole 
patrimony. These men are more properly law givers 
than interpreters of the law; and have united here, as 
well as in most other provinces, the skill and dexterity 
of the scribe with the power and ambition of the prince : 
who can tell where this may lead in a future day ? The 
nature of our laws, and the spirit of freedom, which 
often tends to make us litigious, must necessarily throw 
the greatest part of the property of the colonies into the 
hands of these gentlemen. In another century, the law 
will possess in the north, what now the church possesses 
in Peru and Mexico. 

While all is joy, festivity, and happiness in Charles- 
Town, would you imagine that scenes of misery over- 
spread in the country ? Their ears by habit are become 
deaf, their hearts are hardened; they neither see, hear, 
nor feel for the woes of their poor slaves, from whose 
painful labours all their wealth proceeds. Here the 
horrors of slavery, the hardship of incessant toils, are 
unseen; and no one thinks with compassion of those 
showers of sweat and of tears which from the bodies of 
Africans, daily drop, and moisten the ground they till. 
The cracks of the whip urging these miserable beings to 
excessive labour, are far too distant from the gay Capital 
to be heard. The chosen race eat, drink, and live happy, 
while the unfortunate one grubs up the ground, raises 
indigo, or husks the rice; exposed to a sun full as scorch- 
ing as their native one ; without the support of good food, 
without the cordials of any cheering liquor. This great 
contrast has often afforded me subjects of the most con- 
flicting meditation. On the one side, behold a people 
enjoying all that life affords most bewitching and 



Reflections on Negro Slavery 161 

pleasurable, without labour, without fatigue, hardly 
subjected to the trouble of wishing. With gold, dug 
from Peruvian mountains, they order vessels to the 
coasts of Guinea ; by virtue of that gold, wars, murders, 
and devastations are committed in some harmless, 
peaceable African neighbourhood, where dwelt innocent 
people, who even knew not but that all men were black. 
The daughter torn from her weeping mother, the child 
from the wretched parents, the wife from the loving 
husband; whole families swept away and brought 
through storms and tempests to this rich metropolis! 
There, arranged like horses at a fair, they are branded 
like cattle, and then driven to toil, to starve, and to 
languish for a few years on the different plantations ol 
these citizens. And for whom must they work? For 
persons they know not, and who have no other power 
over them than that of violence, no other right than 
what this accursed metal has given them! Strange 
order of things ! Oh, Nature, where art thou ? Are not 
these blacks thy children as well as we ? On the other 
side, nothing is to be seen but the most diffusive misery 
and wretchedness, unrelieved even in thought or wish! 
Day after day they drudge on without any prospect of 
ever reaping for themselves; they are obliged to devote 
their lives, their limbs, their will, and every vital exertion 
to swell the wealth of masters ; who look not upon them 
with half the kindness and affection with which they 
consider their dogs and horses. Kindness and affection 
are not the portion of those who till the earth, who 
carry the burdens, who convert the logs into useful 
boards. This reward, simple and natural as one would 
conceive it, would border on humanity; and planters 
must have none of it ! 

If negroes are permitted to become fathers, this fatal 
indulgence only tends to increase their misery: the 
poor companions of their scanty pleasures are likewise 



1 62 Letters from an American Farmer 

the companions of their labours; and when at some 
critical seasons they could wish to see them relieved, 
with tears in their eyes they behold them perhaps 
doubly oppressed, obliged to bear the burden of nature 
a fatal present as well as that of unabated tasks. 
How many have I seen cursing the irresistible propensity, 
and regretting, that by having tasted of those harmless 
joys, they had become the authors of double misery to 
their wives. Like their masters, they are not permitted 
to partake of those ineffable sensations with which 
nature inspires the hearts of fathers and mothers; they 
must repel them all, and become callous and passive. 
This unnatural state often occasions the most acute, 
the most pungent of their afflictions; they have no time, 
like us, tenderly to rear their helpless off-spring, to 
nurse them on their knees, to enjoy the delight of being 
parents. Their paternal fondness is embittered by 
considering, that if their children live, they must live to 
be slaves like themselves; no time is allowed them to 
exercise their pious office, the mothers must fasten them 
on their backs, and, with this double load, follow their 
husbands in the fields, where they too often hear no 
other sound than that of the voice or whip of the task- 
master, and the cries of their infants, broiling in the 
sun. These unfortunate creatures cry and weep like 
their parents, without a possibility of relief; the very 
instinct of the brute, so laudable, so irresistible, runs 
counter here to their master's interest ; and to that god, 
all the laws of nature must give way. Thus planters 
get rich; so raw, so unexperienced am I in this mode 
of life, that were I to be possessed of a plantation, and 
my slaves treated as in general they are here, never 
could I rest in peace; my sleep would be perpetually 
disturbed by a retrospect of the frauds committed in 
Africa, in order to entrap them; frauds surpassing in 
enormity everything which a common mind can possibly 



Reflections on Negro Slavery 163 

conceive. I should be thinking of the barbarous treat- 
ment they meet with on ship-board; of their anguish, 
of the despair necessarily inspired by their situation, 
when torn from their friends and relations; when 
delivered into the hands of a people differently coloured, 
whom they cannot understand; carried in a strange 
machine over an ever agitated element, which they had 
never seen before; and finally delivered over to the 
severities of the whippers, and the excessive labours of 
the field. Can it be possible that the force of custom 
should ever make me deaf to all these reflections, and as 
insensible to the injustice of that trade, and to their 
miseries, as the rich inhabitants of this town seem to be ? 
What then is man; this being who boasts so much of 
the excellence and dignity of his nature, among that 
variety of unscrutable mysteries, of unsolvable problems, 
with which he is surrounded? The reason why man 
has been thus created, is not the least astonishing! It 
is said, I know that they are much happier here than in 
the West Indies; because land being cheaper upon this 
continent than in those islands, the fields allowed them 
to raise their subsistence from, are in general more 
extensive. The only possible chance of any alleviation 
depends on the humour of the planters, who, bred in the 
midst of slaves, learn from the example of their parents 
to despise them; and seldom conceive either from 
religion or philosophy, any ideas that tend to make their 
fate less calamitous; except some strong native tender- 
ness of heart, some rays of philanthropy, overcome the 
obduracy contracted by habit. 

I ha^e not resided here long enough to become 
insensible of pain for the objects which I every day 
behold. In the choice of my friends and acquaintance, 
I always endeavour to find out those whose dispositions 
are somewhat congenial with my own. We have slaves 
likewise in our northern provinces; I hope the time 



1 64 Letters from an American Farmer 

draws near when they will be all emancipated: but how 
different their lot, how different their situation, in every 
possible respect! They enjoy as much liberty as their 
masters, they are as well clad, and as well fed; in health 
and sickness they are tenderly taken care of; they live 
under the same roof, and are, truly speaking, a part of 
our families. Many of them are taught to read and 
write, and are well instructed in the principles of religion ; 
they are the companions of our labours, and treated as 
such; they enjoy many perquisites, many established 
holidays, and are not obliged to work more than white 
people. They marry where inclination leads them; 
visit their wives every week; are as decently clad as 
the common people; they are indulged in educating, 
cherishing, and chastising their children, who are taught 
subordination to them as to their lawful parents: in 
short, they participate in many of the benefits of our 
society, without being obliged to bear any of its burdens. 
They are fat, healthy, and hearty, and far from repining 
at their fate; they think themselves happier than many 
of the lower class whites : they share with their masters 
the wheat and meat provision they help to raise; many 
of those whom the good Quakers have emancipated 
have received that great benefit with tears of regret, 
and have never quitted, though free, their former 
masters and benefactors. 

But is it really true, as I have heard it asserted here, 
that those blacks are incapable of feeling the spurs of 
emulation, and the cheerful sound of encouragement? 
By no means; there are a thousand proofs existing of 
their gratitude and fidelity: those hearts in which such 
noble dispositions can grow, are then like ours, they are 
susceptible of every generous sentiment, of every useful 
motive of action; they are capable of receiving lights, 
of imbibing ideas that would greatly alleviate the weight 
of their miseries. But what methods have in general 



Reflections on Negro Slavery 165 

been made use of to obtain so desirable an end? None; 
the day in which they arrive and are sold, is the first of 
their labours; labours, which from that hour admit of 
no respite ; for though indulged by law with relaxation 
on Sundays, they are obliged to employ that time which 
is intended for rest, to till their little plantations. What 
can be expected from wretches in such circumstances? 
Forced from their native country, cruelly treated when 
on board, and not less so on the plantations to which 
they are driven; is there anything in this treatment 
but what must kindle all the passions, sow the seeds of 
inveterate resentment, and nourish a wish of perpetual 
revenge ? They are left to the irresistible effects of those 
strong and natural propensities; the blows they receive, 
are they conducive to extinguish them, or to win their 
affections? They are neither soothed by the hopes 
that their slavery will ever terminate but with their 
lives; or yet encouraged by the goodness of their food, 
or the mildness of their treatment. The very hopes 
held out to mankind by religion, that consolatory system, 
so useful to the miserable, are never presented to them; 
neither moral nor physical means are made use of to 
soften their chains; they are left in their original and 
untutored state; that very state wherein the natural 
propensities of revenge and warm passions are so soon 
kindled. Cheered by no one single motive that can 
impel the will, or excite their efforts; nothing but 
terrors and punishments are presented to them; death 
is denounced if they run away; horrid delaceration if 
they speak with their native freedom ; perpetually awed 
by the terrible cracks of whips, or by the fear of capital 
punishments, while even those punishments often fail of 
their purpose. 

A clergyman settled a few years ago at George-Town, 
and feeling as I do now, warmly recommended to the 
planters, from the pulpit, a relaxation of severity; he 



1 66 Letters from an American Farmer 

introduced the benignity of Christianity, and patheti- 
cally made use of the admirable precepts of that system 
to melt the hearts of his congregation into a greater 
degree of compassion toward their slaves than had been 
hitherto customary; " Sir/ 1 said one of his hearers, " we 
pay you a genteel salary to read to us the prayers of the 
liturgy, and to explain to us such parts of the Gospel 
as the rule of the church directs; but we do not want 
you to teach us what we are to do with our blacks. >J 
The clergyman found it prudent to withhold any 
farther admonition. Whence this astonishing right, 
or rather this barbarous custom, for most certainly 
we have no kind of right beyond that of force? We 
are told, it is true, that slavery cannot be so repugnant 
to human nature as we at first imagine, because it ha. 1 - 
been practised in all ages, and in all nations: the 
Lacedemonians themselves, those great assertors of 
liberty, conquered the Helotes with the dei-ign of 
making them their slaves; the Romans, whom wo 
consider as our masters in civil and military policy, 
lived in the exercise of the most horrid oppression ; they 
conquered to plunder and to enslave. What a hideous 
aspect the face of the earth must then have exhibited! 
Provinces, towns, districts, often depopulated! their 
inhabitants driven to Rome, the greatest market in the 
world, and there sold by thousands! The Roman 
dominions were tilled by the hands of unfortunate 
people, who had once been, like their victors, free, rich, 
and possessed of every benefit society can confer; until 
they became subject to the cruel right of war, and to 
lawless force. Is there then no superintending power 
who conducts the moral operations of the world, as well 
as the physical ? The same sublime hand which guides 
the planets round the sun with so much exactness, which 
preserves the arrangement of the whole with such 
exalted wisdom and paternal care, and prevents the 



Reflections on Negro Slavery 167 

vast system from falling into confusion ; doth it abandon 
mankind to all the errors, the follies, and the miseries, 
which their most frantic rage, and their most dangerous 
vires and passions can produce? 

The history of the earth! doth it present anything 
but crimes of the most heinous nature, committed from 
one end of the world to the other? We observe avarice, 
rapine, and murder, equally prevailing in all parts. 
History perpetually tells us of millions of people aban- 
doned to the caprice of the maddest princes, and of 
whole nations devoted to the blind fury of tyrants. 
Countries destroyed; nations alternately buried in 
ruins by other nations ; some parts of the world beauti- 
fully cultivated, returned again to the pristine state; 
the fruits of ages of industry, the toil of thousands in 
a short time destroyed by a few ! If one corner breathes 
in peace for a few years, it is, in turn subjected, torn, 
and levelled; one would almost believe the principles 
of action in man, considered as the first agent of this 
planet, to be poisoned in their most essential parts. 
We certainly are not that class of beings which we 
vainly think ourselves to be; man an animal of prey, 
seems to have rapine and the love of bloodshed implanted 
in his heart ; nay, to hold it the most honourable occu- 
pation in society: we never speak of a hero of mathe- 
matics, a hero of knowledge of humanity; no, this 
illustrious appellation is reserved for the most successful 
butchers of the world. If Nature has given us a fruitful 
soil to inhabit, she has refused us such inclinations and 
propensities as would afford us the full enjoyment of it. 
Extensive as the surface of this planet is, not one half 
of it is yet cultivated, not half replenished; she created 
man, and placed him either in the woods or plains, and 
provided him with passions which must for ever oppose 
his happiness; everything is submitted to the power 
of the strongest; men, like the elements, are always at 



1 68 Letters from an American Farmer 

war; the weakest yield to the most potent; force, 
subtlety, and malice, always triumph over unguarded 
honesty and simplicity. Benignity, moderation, and 
justice, are virtues adapted only to the humble paths 
of life : we love to talk of virtue and to admire its beauty, 
while in the shade of solitude and retirement; but when 
we step forth into active life, if it happen to be in com- 
petition with any passion or desire, do we observe it to 
prevail? Hence so many religious impostors have 
triumphed over the credulity of mankind, and have 
rendered their frauds the creeds of succeeding genera- 
tions, during the course of many ages; until worn away 
by time, they have been replaced by new ones. Hence 
the most unjust war, if supported by the greatest force, 
always succeeds; hence the most just ones, when sup- 
ported only by their justice, as often fail. Such is the 
ascendancy of power; the supreme arbiter of all the 
revolutions which we observe in this planet: so irre- 
sistible is power, that it often thwarts the tendency 
of the most forcible causes, and prevents their subse- 
quent salutary effects, though ordained for the good 
of man by the Governor of the universe. Such is the 
perverseness of human nature; who can describe it in 
all its latitude? 

In the moments, of our philanthropy we often talk 
of an indulgent nature, a kind parent, who for the 
benefit of mankind has taken singular pains to vary the 
genera of plants, fruits, grain, and the different produc- 
tions of the earth; and has spread peculiar blessings 
in each climate. This is undoubtedly an object of 
contemplation which calls forth our wannest gratitude; 
for so singularly benevolent have those parental in- 
tentions been, that where barrenness of soil or severity 
of climate prevail, there she has implanted in the heart 
of man, sentiments which overbalance every misery, 
and supply the place of every want. She has given 



Reflections on Negro Slavery 169 

to the inhabitants of these regions, an attachment tc 
their savage rocks and wild shores, unknown to tho c e 
who inhabit the fertile fields of the temperate zone. 
Yet if we attentively view this globe, will it not appear 
rather a place of punishment, than of delight? And 
what misfortune! that those punishments should fall 
on the innocent, and its few delights be enjoyed by 
the most unworthy. Famine, diseases, elementary con- 
vulsions, human feuds, dissensions, etc., are the produce 
of every climate; each climate produces besides, vices, 
and miseries peculiar to its latitude. View the frigid 
sterility of the north, whose famished inhabitants hardly 
acquainted with the sun, live and fare worse than the 
bears they hunt: and to which they are superior only 
in the faculty of speaking. View the arctic and antarctic- 
regions, those huge voids, where nothing lives; regions 
of eternal snow: where winter in all his horrors has 
established his throne, and arrested every creative 
power of nature. Will you call the miserable stragglers 
.11 these countries by the name of men? Now contrast 
fhis frigid power of the north and south with that of the 
sun; examine the parched lands of the torrid zone, 
replete with sulphureous exhalations; view those 
countries of Asia subject to pestilential infections which 
lay nature waste; view this globe often convulsed both 
from within and without; pouring forth from several 
mouths, rivers of boiling matter, which are impercep- 
tibly leaving immense subterranean graves, wherein 
millions will one day perish! Look at the poisonous 
soil ol the equator, at those putrid slimy tracks, teeming 
with horrid monsters, the enemies of the human race; 
look next at the sandy continent, scorched perhaps by 
the fatal approach of some ancient comet, now the 
abode of desolation. Examine the rains, the convulsive 
storms of those climates, where masses of sulphur, 
bitumen, and electrical fire, combining their dreadful 



170 Letters from an American Farmer 

powers, are incessantly hovering and bursting over a 
globe threatened with dissolution. On this little shell, 
how very few are the spots where man can live and 
flourish? even under those mild climates which seem 
to breathe peace and happiness, the poison of slavery, 
the fury of despotism, and the rage of superstition, are 
all combined against man! There only the few live 
and rule, whilst the many starve and utter ineffectual 
complaints: there, human nature appears more debased, 
perhaps than in the less favoured climates. The fertile 
plains of Asia, the rich low lands of Egypt and of 
Diarbeck, the fruitful fields bordering on the Tigris and 
the Euphrates, the extensive country of the East Indies 
in all its separate districts; all these must to the geo- 
graphical eye, seem as if intended for terrestrial para- 
dises: but though surrounded with the spontaneous 
riches of nature, though her kindest favours seem to be 
shed on those beautiful regions with the most profuse 
hand; yet there in general we find the most wretched 
people in the world. Almost everywhere, liberty so 
natural to mankind is refused, or rather enjoyed but 
by their tyrants; the word slave, is the appellation of 
every rank, who adore as a divinity, a being worse than 
themselves; subject to every caprice, and to every 
lawless rage which unrestrained power can give. Tears 
are shed, perpetual groans are heard, where only the 
accents of peace, alacrity, and gratitude should resound. 
There the very delirium of tyranny tramples on the 
best gifts of nature, and sports with the fate, the happi- 
ness, the lives of millions: there the extreme fertility 
of the ground always indicates the extreme misery of 
the inhabitants! 

Everywhere one part of the human species are taught 
the art of shedding the blood of the other; of setting 
fire to their dwellings; of levelling the works of their 
industry: half of the existence of nations regularly 



Horrid Treatment of a Negro Slave 171 

employed in destroying other nations. What little 
political felicity is to be met with here and there, has 
cost oceans of blood to purchase ; as if good was never 
to be the portion of unhappy man. Republics, king- 
doms, monarchies, founded either on fraud or successful 
violence, increase by pursuing the steps of the same 
policy, until they are destroyed in their turn, either by 
the influence of their own crimes, or by more successful 
but equally criminal enemies. 

If from this general review of human nature, we 
descend to the examination of what is called civilised 
society; there the combination of every natural and 
artificial want, makes us pay very dear for what little 
share of political felicity we enjoy. It is a strange 
heterogeneous assemblage of vices and virtues, and of 
a variety of other principles, for ever at war, for ever 
jarring, for ever producing some dangerous, some dis- 
tressing extreme. Where do you conceive then that 
nature intended we should be happy? Would you 
prefer the state of men in the woods, to that of men 
in a more improved situation? Evil preponderates in 
both ; in the first they often eat each other for want of 
food, and in the other they often starve each other for 
want of room. For my part, I think the vices and 
miseries to be found in the latter, exceed those of the 
former; in which real evil is more scarce, more support- 
able, and less enormous. Yet we wish to see the earth 
peopled; to accomplish the happiness of kingdoms, 
which is said to consist in numbers. Gracious God! 
to what end is the introduction of so many beings into 
a mode of existence in which they must grope amidst 
as many errors, commit as many crimes, and meet with 
as many diseases, wants, and sufferings! 

The following scene will I hope account for these 
melancholy reflections, and apologise for the gloomy 
thoughts with which I have filled this letter: my mind 



172 Letters from an American Farmer 

is, and always has been, oppressed since I became a 
witness to it. I was not long since invited to dine with 

a planter who lived three miles from , where he 

then resided. In order to avoid the heat of the sun, I 

resolved to go on foot, sheltered in a small path, leading 

through a pleasant wood. I was leisurely travelling 

along, attentively examining some peculiar plants 

which I had collected, when all at once I felt the air 

strongly agitated, though the day was perfectly calm 

and sultry. I immediately cast my eyes toward the 

cleared ground, from which I was but at a small distance, 

in order to see whether it was not occasioned by a sudden 

shower ; when at that instant a sound resembling a deep 

rough voice, uttered, as I thought, a few inarticulate 

monosyllables. Alarmed and surprised, I precipitately 

looked all round, when I perceived at about six rods 

distance something resembling a cage, suspended to the 

limbs of a tree; all the branches of which appeared 

covered with large birds of prey, fluttering about, and 

anxiously endeavouring to perch on the cage. Actuated 

by an involuntary motion of rny hands, more than by 

any design of my mind, I fired at them; they all flew 

to a short distance, with a most hideous noise: when, 

horrid to think and painful to repeat, I perceived 

a negro, suspended in the cage, and left there to expire! 

I shudder when I recollect that the birds had already 

picked out his eyes, his cheek bones were bare; his 

arms had been attacked in several places, and his body 

seemed covered with a multitude of wounds. From 

the edges of the hollow sockets and from the lacerations 

with which he was disfigured, the blood slowly dropped, 

and tinged the ground beneath. No sooner were the 

birds flown, than swarms of insects covered the whole 

body of this unfortunate wretch, eager to feed on his 

mangled flesh and to drink his blood. I found myself 

suddenly arrested by the power of affright and terror; 



Horrid Treatment of a Negro Slave 173 

my nerves were convulsed; I trembled, I stood motion- 
less, involuntarily contemplating the fate of this negro, 
in all its dismal latitude. The living spectre, though 
deprived of his eyes, could still distinctly hear, and in 
his uncouth dialect begged me to give him some water 
to allay his thirst. Humanity herself would have 
recoiled back with horror; she would have balanced 
whether to lessen such reliefless distress, or mercifully 
with one blow to end this dreadful scene of agonising 
torture! Had I had a ball in my gun, I certainly should 
have despatched him; but finding myself unable to 
perform so kind an office, I sought, though trembling, 
to relieve him as well as I could. A shell ready fixed 
to a pole, which had been used by some negroes, pre- 
sented itself to me; filled it with water, and with 
trembling hands I guided it to the quivering lips of the 
wretched sufferer. Urged by the irresistible power of 
thirst, he endeavoured to meet it, as he instinctively 
guessed its approach by the noise it made in passing 
through the bars of the cage. " Tanke, you white man, 
tanke you, put some poison and give me." " How 
long have you been hanging there?" I asked him. 
" Two days, and me no die; the birds, the birds; aaah 
me!" Oppressed with the reflections which this 
shocking spectacle afforded me, I mustered strength 
enough to walk away, and soon reached the house at 
which I intended to dine. There 1 heard that the 
reason for this slave being thus punished, was on account 
of his having killed the overseer of the plantation. 
They told me that the laws of self-preservation rendered 
such executions necessary; and supported the doctrine 
of slavery with the arguments generally made use of to 
justify the practice; with the repetition of which 1 shall 
not trouble you at present. Adieu. 



LETTER X 
ON SNAKES; AND ON THE HUMMING BIRD 

WHY would you prescribe this task; you know that 
what we take up ourselves seems always lighter than 
what is imposed on us by others. You insist on my 
saying something about our snakes; and in relating 
what I know concerning them, were it not for two 
singularities, the one of which I saw, and the other I 
received from an eye-witness, I should have but very 
little to observe. The southern provinces are the 
countries where nature has formed the greatest variety 
of alligators, snakes, serpents; and scorpions, from the 
smallest size, up to the pine barren, the largest species 
known here. We have but two, whose stings are mortal, 
which deserve to be mentioned; as for the black one, it 
is remarkable for nothing but its industry, agility, beauty, 
and the art of enticing birds by the power of its eyes. I 
admire it much, and never kill it, though its formidable 
length and appearance often get the better of the philo- 
sophy of some people, particularly of Europeans. The 
most dangerous one is the pilot, or copperhead ; for the 
poison of which no remedy has yet been discovered. It 
bears the first name because it always precedes the 
rattlesnake; that is, quits its state of torpidity in the 
spring a week before the other. It bears the second 
name on account of its head being adorned with 
many copper-coloured spots. It lurks in rocks near the 
water, and is extremely active and dangerous. Let 
man beware of it! I have heard only of one person 
who was stung by a copperhead in this country. The 

174 



On Snakes and the Humming Bird 175 

poor wretch instantly swelled in a most dreadful manner; 
a multitude of spots of different hues alternately 
appeared and vanished, on different parts of his body; 
his eyes were filled with madness and rage, he cast them 
on aU present with the most vindictive looks: he thrust 
out his tongue as the snakes do ; he hissed through his 
teeth with inconceivable strength, and became an object 
of terror to all by-standers. To the lividness of a 
corpse he united the desperate force of a maniac; they 
hardly were able to fasten him, so as to guard them- 
selves from his attacks ; when in the space of two hours 
death relieved the poor wretch from his struggles, and 
the spectators from their apprehensions. The poison 
of the rattlesnake is not mortal in so short a space, and 
hence there is more time to procure relief; we are 
acquainted with several antidotes with which almost 
every family is provided. They are extremely inactive, 
and if not touched, are perfectly inoffensive. I once saw, 
as I was travelling, a great cliff which was full of them; 
I handled several, and they appeared to be dead; they 
were all entwined together, and thus they remain until 
the return of the sun. I found them out, by following 
the track of some wild hogs which had fed on them ; and 
even the Indians often regale on them. When they 
find them asleep, they put a small forked stick over 
their necks, which they keep immovably fixed on the 
ground; giving the snake a piece of leather to bite: 
and this they pull back several times with great force, 
until they observe their two poisonous fangs torn out. 
Then they cut off the head, skin the body, and cook it 
as we do eels; and their flesh is extremely sweet and 
white. I once saw a tamed one, as gentle as you can 
possibly conceive a reptile to be; it took to the water 
and swam whenever it pleased; and when the boys to 
whom it belonged called it back, their summons was 
readily obeyed. It had been deprived of its fangs by 



176 Letters from an American Farmer 

the preceding method; they often stroked it with a 
soft brush, and this friction seemed to cause the most 
pleasing sensations, for it would turn on its back to enjoy 
it, as a cat does before the fire. One of this species was 
the cause, some years ago, of a most deplorable accident 
which 1 shall relate to you, as I had it from the widow 
and mother of the victims. A Dutch farmer of the 
Minisink went to mowing, with his negroes, in his boots, 
a precaution used to prevent being stung. Inad- 
vertently he trod on a snake, which immediately flew 
at his legs; and as it drew back in order to renew its 
blow, one of his negroes cut it in two with his scythe. 
They prosecuted their work, and returned home; at 
night the farmer pulled off his boots and went to bed; 
and was soon after attacked with a strange sickness at 
his stomach ; he swelled, and before a physician could be 
sent for, died. The sudden death of this man did not 
cause much inquiry; the neighbourhood wondered, as is 
usual in such cases, and without any further examina- 
tion the corpse was buried. A few days after, the son 
put on his lather's boots, and went to the meadow; at 
night he pulled them off, went to bed, and was attacked 
with the same symptoms about the same time, and died 
in the morning. A little before he expired the doctor 
came, but was not " able to assign what could be the 
cause of so singular a disorder; however, rather than 
appear wholly at a loss before the country people, ho 
pronounced both father and son to have been bewitched. 
Some weeks after, the widow sold all the movables for 
the benefit of the younger children; and the farm was 
leased. One of the neighbours, who bought the boots, 
presently put them on. and was attacked in the same 
manner as the other two had been ; but this man's wife 
being alarmed by what had happened in the former 
family, despatched one of her negroes for an eminent 
physician, who fortunately having heard something of 



On Snakes and the Humming Bird 177 

the dreadful affair, guessed at the cause, applied oil, etc. 
and recovered the man. The boots which had been so 
fatal, were then carefully examined; and he found that 
the two fangs of the snake had been left in the leather, 
after being wrenched out of their sockets by the strength 
with which the snake had drawn back its head. The 
bladders which contained the poison and several of the 
small nerves were still fresh, and adhered to the boot. 
The unfortunate father and son had been poisoned by 
pulling off these boots, in which action they imper- 
ceptibly scratched their legs with the points of the fang"', 
through the hollow of which, some of this astonishing 
poison was conveyed. You have no doubt heard of 
their rattles, if you have not seen them; the only 
observation I wish to make is, that the rattling is loud 
and distinct when they are angry; and on thr 
contrary, when pleased, it sounds like a distant trepida- 
tion, in which nothing distinct is heard. In the thick 
settlements, they are now become very scarce; for 
wherever they are met with, open war is declared against 
them; so that in a few years there will be none left but 
on our mountains. The black snake on the contrary 
always diverts me because it excites no idea of danger. 
Their swiftness is astonishing; they will sometimes 
equal that of a horse; at other times they will climb 
up trees in quest of our tree toads ; or glide on the ground 
at full length. On some occasions they present them- 
selves half in the reptile state, half erect; their eyes 
and their heads in the erect posture appear to great 
advantage : the former display a fire which I have often 
admired, and it is by these they are enabled to fascinate 
birds and squirrels. When they have fixed their eyes 
on an animal, they become immovable; only turning 
their head sometimes to the right and sometimes to the 
left, but still with their sight invariably directed to the 
object. The distracted victim, instead of flying its 

*r_ 64 



178 Letters from an American Farmer 

enemy, seems to be arrested by some invincible power; 
it screams; now approaches, and then recedes; and 
after skipping about with unaccountable agitation, 
finally rushes into the jaws of the snake, and is swallowed, 
as soon as it is covered with a slime or glue to make it 
slide easily down the throat of the devourer. 

One anecdote I must relate, the circumstances of 
which are as true as they are singular. One of my 
constant walks when I am at leisure, is in my lowlands, 
where I have the pleasure of seeing my cattle, horses, 
and colts. Exuberant grass replenishes all my fields, 
the best representative of our wealth; in the middle of 
that tract I have cut a ditch eight feet wide, the banks 
of which nature adorns every spring with the wild 
salendine, and other flowering weeds, which on these 
luxuriant grounds shoot up to a great height. Over this 
ditch I have erected a bridge, capable of bearing a 
loaded waggon ; on each side I carefully sow every year 
some grains of hemp, which rise to the height of fifteen 
feet, so strong and so full of limbs as to resemble young 
trees: I once ascended one of them four feet above the 
ground. These produce natural arbours, rendered 
often still more compact by the assistance of an annual 
creeping plant which we call a vine, that never fails to 
entwine itself among their branches, and always pro- 
duces a very desirable shade. From this simple grove I 
have amused myself an hundred times in observing the 
great number of humming birds with which our country 
abounds: the wild blossoms everywhere attract the 
attention of these birds, which like bees subsist by 
suction. From this retreat I distinctly watch them in all 
their various attitudes; but their flight is so rapid, that 
you cannot distinguish the motion of their wings. On 
this little bird nature has profusely lavished her most 
splendid colours; the most perfect azure, the most 
beautiful gold, the most dazzling red, are for ever in 



On Snakes and the Humming Bird 179 

contrast, and help to embellish the plumes of his majestic 
head. The richest palette of the most luxuriant painter 
could never invent anything to be compared to the varie- 
gated tints, with which this insect bird is arrayed. Its bill 
is as long and as sharp as a coarse sewing needle ; like the 
bee, nature has taught it to find out in the calix of flowers 
and blossoms, those mellifluous particles that serve it for 
sufficient food ; and yet it seems to leave them untouched, 
undeprived of anything that our eyes can possibly dis- 
tinguish. When it feeds, it appears as if immovable 
though continually on the wing; and sometimes, from 
what motives I know not, it will tear and lacerate 
flowers into a hundred pieces: for, strange to tell, they 
are the most irascible of the feathered tribe. Where do 
passions find room in so diminutive a body ? They often 
fight with the fury of lions, until one of the combatants 
falls a sacrifice and dies. When fatigued, it has often 
perched within a few feet of me, and on such favourable 
opportunities I have surveyed it with the most minute 
attention. Its little eyes appear like diamonds, reflect- 
ing light on every side: most elegantly finished in all 
parts it is a miniature work of our great parent; who 
^cems to have formed it the smallest, and at the same 
time the most beautiful of the winged species. 

As I was one day sitting solitary and pensive in my 
primitive arbour, my attention was engaged by a strange 
sort of rustling noise at some paces distant. I looked all 
around without distinguishing anything, until I climbed 
one of my great hemp stalks ; when to my astonishment, 
I beheld two snakes of considerable length, the one pur- 
suing the other with great celerity through a hemp 
stubble field. The aggressor was of the black kind, six 
feet long; the fugitive was a water snake, nearly of 
equal dimensions. They soon met, and in the fury of 
their first encounter, they appeared in an instant firmly 
twisted together ; and whilst their united tails beat the 



8o Letters from an American Farmer 

Around, they mutually tried with open jaws to lacerate 
each other. What a fell aspect did they present! their 
heads were compressed to a very small size, their eyes 
flashed fire; and after this conflict had lasted about five 
minutes, the second found means to disengage itself 
from the first, and hurried toward the ditch. Its 
antagonist instantly assumed a new posture, and half 
creeping and half erect, with a majestic mien, overtook 
and attacked the other again, which placed itself in the 
same attitude, and prepared to resist. The scene was 
uncommon and beautiful ; for thus opposed they fought 
with their jaws, biting each other with the utmost rage; 
but notwithstanding this appearance of mutual courage 
and fury, the water snake still seemed desirous of re- 
treating toward the ditch, its natural element. This 
was no sooner perceived by the keen-eyed black one, 
than twisting its tail twice round a stalk of hemp, and 
seizing its adversary by the throat, not by means of its 
jaws, but by twisting its own neck twice round that of 
the water snake, pulled it back from the ditch. To 
prevent a defeat the latter took hold likewise of a stalk on 
the bank, and by the acquisition of that point of resist- 
ance became a match for its fierce antagonist. Strange 
was this to behold; two great snakes strongly adhering 
to the ground mutually fastened together by means of 
the writhings which lashed them to each other, and 
stretched at their full length, they pulled but pulled in 
vain; and in the moments of greatest exertions that 
part of their bodies which was entwined, seemed 
extremely small, while the rest appeared inflated, and 
now and then convulsed with strong undulations, 
rapidty following each other. Their eyes seemed on 
fire, and ready to start out of their heads ; at one time 
the conflict seemed decided; the water snake bent itself 
into two great folds, and by that operation rendered the 
other more than commonly outstretched; the next 



On Snakes and the Humming Bird 181 

minute the new struggles of the black one gained an 
unexpected superiority, it acquired two great foldb 
likewise, which necessarily extended the body of its 
adversary in proportion as it had contracted its own. 
These efforts were alternate; victory seemed doubtful, 
inclining sometimes to the one side and sometimes to the 
other; until at last the stalk to which the black snake 
fastened, suddenly gave way, and in consequence of this 
accident they both plunged into the ditch. The water 
did not extinguish their vindictive rage; for by their 
agitations I could trace, though not distinguish, their 
mutual attacks. They soon re-appeared on the surface 
twisted together, as in their first onset; but the black 
snake seemed to retain its wonted superiority, for its 
head was exactly fixed above that of the other, which it 
incessantly pressed down under the water, until it was 
stifled, and sunk. The victor no sooner perceived its 
enemy incapable of farther resistance, than abandoning 
it to the current, it returned on shore and disappeared. 



LETTER XI 

FROM MR. IW N AL Z, A RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN; DE- 
SCRIBING THE VISIT HE PAID AT MY REQUEST TO 
MR. JOHN BERTRAM, THE CELEBRATED PENNSYL- 
VANIAN BOTANIST 

EXAMINE this flourishing province, in whatever light 
you will, the eyes as well as the mind of an European 
traveller are equally delighted; because a diffusive 
happiness appears in every part: happiness which is 
established on the broadest basis. The wisdom of 
Lycurgus and Solon never conferred on man one half 
of the blessings and uninterrupted prosperity which the 
Pennsylvanians now possess: the name of Penn, that 
simple but illustrious citizen, does more honour to the 
English nation than those of many of their kings. 

In order to convince you that I have not bestowed 
undeserved praises in my former letters on this cele- 
brated government; and that either nature or the 
climate seems to be more favourable here to the arts 
and sciences, than to any other American province; 
let us together, agreeable to your desire, pay a visit to 
Mr. John Bertram, the first botanist, in this new hemi- 
sphere: become such by a native impulse of disposition. 
It is to this simple man that America is indebted for 
several useful discoveries, and the knowledge of many 
new plants. I had been greatly prepossessed in his 
favour by the extensive correspondence which I knew 
he held with the most eminent Scotch and French 
botanists; I knew also that he had been honoured with 
that of Queen Ulrica of Sweden. 

182 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 183 

His house is small, but decent; there was something 
peculiar in its first appearance, which seemed to dis- 
tinguish it from those of his neighbours : a small tower 
in the middle of it, not only helped to strengthen it but 
afforded convenient room for a staircase. Every dis- 
position of the fields, fences, and trees, seemed to bear 
the marks of perfect order and regularity, which in 
rural affairs, always indicate a prosperous industry. 

I was received at the door by a woman dressed 
extremely neat and simple, who without courtesying, 
or any other ceremonial, asked me, with an air of 
benignity, who I wanted? I answered, I should be 
glad to see Mr. Bertram. If thee wilt step in and take 
a chair, I will send for him. No, I said, I had rather 
have the pleasure of walking through his farm, I shall 
easily find him out, with your directions. After a little 
time I perceived the Schuylkill, winding through delight- 
ful meadows, and soon cast my eyes on a new-made 
bank, which seemed greatly to confine its stream. After 
having walked on its top a considerable way I at last 
reached the place where ten men were at work. I 
asked, if any of them could tell me where Mr. Bertram 
was? An elderly looking man, with wide trousers and 
a large leather apron on, looking at me said, " My name 
is Bertram, dost thee want me? " Sir, I am come on 
purpose to converse with you, if you can be spared 
from your labour. " Very easily," he answered, " I 
direct and advise more than I work." We walked 
toward the house, where he made me take a chair 
while he went to put on clean clothes, after which he 
returned and sat down by me. The fame of your 
knowledge, said I, in American botany, and your 
well-known hospitality, have induced me to pay you 
a visit, which I hope you will not think troublesome: 
I should be glad to spend a few hours in your garden. 
" The greatest advantage," replied he, " which I receive 



184 Letters from an American Farmer 

from what thee callest my botanical fame, is the pleasure 
which it often procureth me in receiving the visits of 
friends and foreigners: but our jaunt into the garden 
must be postponed for the present, as the bell is ringing 
for dinner. " We entered into a large hall, where there 
was a long table full of victuals ; at the lowest part sat 
his negroes, his hired men were next, then the family 
and myself; and at the head, the venerable father and 
his wife presided. Each reclined his head and said his 
prayers, divested of the tedious cant of some, and of 
the ostentatious style of others. " After the luxuries 
of our cities/' observed he, " this plain fare must appear 
to thee a severe fast." By no means, Mr. Bertram, 
this honest country dinner convinces me, that you re- 
ceive me as a friend and an old acquaintance. " I am 
glad of it, for thee art heartily welcome. I never knew 
how to use ceremonies; they are insufficient proofs of 
sincerity; our society, besides, are utterly strangers to 
what the world calleth polite expressions. We treat 
others as we treat ourselves. I received yesterday a 
letter from Philadelphia, by which I understand thee 
art a Russian ; what motives can possibly have induced 
thee to quit thy native country and to come so far in 
quest of knowledge or pleasure? Verily it is a great 
compliment thee payest to this our young province, to 
think that anything it exhibiteth may be worthy thy 
attention." I have been most amply repaid for the 
trouble of the passage. I view the present Americans 
as the seed of future nations, which will replenish this 
boundless continent; the Russians may be in some 
respects compared to you ; we likewise are a new people, 
new I mean in knowledge, arts, and improvements. 
Who knows what revolutions Russia and America may 
one day bring about ; we are perhaps nearer neighbours 
than we imagine. I view with peculiar attention all 
your towns, I examine their situation and the police, 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 185 

for which many are already famous. Though their 
foundations are now so recent, and so well remembered, 
yet their origin will puzzle posterity as much as we are 
now puzzled to ascertain the beginning of those which 
time has in some measure destroyed. Your new build- 
ings, your streets, put me in mind of those of the city of 
Pompeia, where I was a few years ago; I attentively 
examined everything there, particularly the foot-path 
which runs along the houses. They appeared to have 
been considerably worn by the great number of people 
which had once travelled over them. But now how 
distant; neither builders nor proprietors remain; 
nothing is known! <k Why thee hast been a great 
traveller for a man of thy years/ 1 Few years, Sir, will 
enable anybody to journey over a great tract of country; 
but it requires a superior degree of knowledge to gather 
harvests as we go. Pray, Mr. Bertram, what banks 
are those which you are making: to what purpose is so 
much expense and so much labour bestowed? " Friend 
I wan, no branch of industry was ever more profitable 
to any country, as well as to the proprietors; the 
Schuylkill in its many windings once covered a great 
extent of ground, though its waters were but shallow 
even in our highest tides : and though some parts were 
always dry, yet the whole of this great tract presented 
to the eye nothing but a putrid swampy soil, useless 
either for the plough or for the scythe. The proprietors 
of these grounds are now incorporated; we yearly pay 
to the treasurer of the company a certain sum, which 
makes an aggregate, superior to the casualties that 
generally happen either by inundations or the musk 
squash. It is owing to this happy contrivance that so 
many thousand acres of meadows have been rescued 
from the Schuylkill, which now both enricheth and 
embellisheth so much of the neighbourhood of our city. 
Our brethren of Salem in New Jersey have carried the 



i36 Letters from an American Farmer 

art of banking to a still higher degree of perfection." 
It is really an admirable contrivance, which greatly 
redounds to the honour of the parties concerned; and 
shows a spirit of discernment and perseverance which 
is highly praiseworthy: if the Virginians would imitate 
your example, the state of their husbandry would 
greatly improve. I have not heard of any such associa- 
tion in any other parts of the continent; Pennsylvania 
hitherto seems to reign the unrivalled queen of these 
fair provinces. Pray, Sir, what expense are you at 
< 'er these grounds be fit for the scythe ? " The expenses 
are very considerable, particularly when we have land, 
brooks, trees, and brush to clear away. But such is the 
excellence of these bottoms and the goodness of the 
grass for fattening of cattle, that the produce of three 
years pays all advances." Happy the country where 
nature has bestowed such rich treasures, treasures 
superior to mines, said I: if all this fair province is thus 
cultivated, no wonder it has acquired such reputation 
for the prosperity and the industry of its inhabitants. 

By this time the working part of the family had 
finished their dinner, and had retired with a decency 
and silence which pleased me much. Soon after I 
heard, as I thought, a distant concert of instruments. 
However simple and pastoral your fare was, Mr. Bert- 
ram, this is the dessert of a prince; pray what is this I 
hear? "Thee must not be alarmed, it is of a piece 
with the rest of thy treatment, friend Iwan." Anxious 
I followed the sound, and by ascending the staircase, 
found that it was the effect of the wind through the 
strings of an Eolian harp; an instrument which I had 
never before seen. After dinner we quaffed an honest 
bottle of Madeira wine, without the irksome labour of 
toasts, healths, or sentiments; and then retired into 
ftis study. 

I was no sooner entered, than I observed a coat of 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 187 

arms in a gilt frame with the name of John Bertram. 
The novelty of such a decoration, in such a place, struck 
me; I could not avoid asking, Does the society of 
Friends take any pride in those armorial bearings, 
which sometimes serve as marks of distinction between 
families, and much oftener as food for pride and osten- 
tation? " Thee must know/' said he, " that my father 
was a Frenchman, he brought this piece of painting 
over with him; I keep it as a piece of family furniture, 
and as a memorial of his removal hither/' From his 
study we went into the garden, which contained a great 
variety of curious plants and shrubs; some grew in 
a greenhouse, over the door of which were written these 
lines : 

" Slave to no sect, who takes no private road, 
But looks through nature, up to nature's God! " 

He informed me that he had often followed General 
Bouquet to Pittsburgh, with the view of herbalising; 
that he had made useful collections in Virginia, and 
that he had been employed by the king of England 
to visit the two Floridas. 

Our walks and botanical observations engrossed so 
much of our time, that the sun was almost down ere I 
thought of returning to Philadelphia; I regretted that 
the day had been so short, as I had not spent so rational 
a one for a long time before. I wanted to stay, yet 
was doubtful whether it would not appear improper, 
being an utter stranger. Knowing, however, that 1 
was visiting the least ceremonious people in the world, 
I bluntly informed him of the pleasure I had enjoyed, 
and with the desire I had of staying a few days with 
him. " Thee art as welcome as if I was thy father; thee 
art no stranger; thy desire of knowledge, thy being 
a foreigner besides, entitleth thee to consider my house 
as thine own, as long as thee pleaseth: use thy time 



1 88 Letters from an American Farmer 

with the most perfect freedom ; I too shall do so myself." 
I thankfully accepted the kind invitation. 

We went to view his favourite bank; he showed me 
the principles and method on which it was erected; 
and we walked over the grounds which had been already 
drained. The whole store of nature's kind luxuriance 
seemed to have been exhausted on these beautiful 
meadows; he made me count the amazing number of 
cattle and horses now feeding on solid bottoms, which 
but a few years before had been covered with water. 
Thence we rambled through his fields, where the right- 
angular fences, the heaps of pitched stones, the flourish- 
ing clover, announced the best husbandry, as well as 
the most assiduous attention. His cows were then 
returning home, deep bellied, short legged, having udders 
ready to burst ; seeking with seeming toil to be delivered 
from the great exuberance they contained: he next 
showed me his orchard, formerly planted on a barren 
sandy soil, but long since converted into one of the 
richest spots in that vicinage. 

" This," said he, " is altogether the fruit of my own 
contrivance; I purchased some years ago the privilege 
of a small spring, about a mile and a half from hence, 
which at a considerable expense I have brought to this 
reservoir; therein^ throw old lime, ashes, horse-dung, 
etc., and twice a week I let it run, thus impregnated; 
I regularly spread on this ground in the fall, old hay, 
straw, and whatever damaged fodder I have about my 
barn. By these simple means I mow, one year with 
another, fifty-three hundreds of excellent hay per acre, 
from a soil, which scarcely produced five-fingers [a small 
plant resembling strawberries] some years before." This 
is, Sir, a miracle in husbandry; happy the country 
which is cultivated by a society of men, whose applica- 
tion and taste lead them to prosecute and accomplish 
useful works. " I am not the only person who do these 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 189 

things/' he said, " wherever water can be had it is always 
turned to that important use; wherever a farmer can 
water his meadows, the greatest crops of the best hay 
and excellent after-grass, are the sure rewards of his 
labours. With the banks of my meadow ditches, I have 
greatly enriched my upland fields, those which I intend 
to rest for a few years, I constantly sow with red clover, 
which is the greatest meliorator of our lands. For 
three years after, they yield abundant pasture; when 
I want to break up my clover fields, I give them a good 
coat of mud, which hath been exposed to the severities 
of three or four of our winters. This is the reason that 
1 commonly reap from twenty-eight to thirty-six bushels 
of wheat an acre; my flax, oats, and Indian corn, 1 raise 
in the same proportion. Wouldst thee inform me 
whether the inhabitants of thy country follow the same 
methods of husbandry?" No, Sir; in the neighbour- 
hood of our towns, there are indeed some intelligent 
farmers, who prosecute their rural schemes with atten- 
tion; but we should be too numerous, too happy, too 
powerful a people, if it were possible for the whole 
Russian Empire to be cultivated like the province of 
Pennsylvania. Our lands are so unequally divided, 
and so few of our farmers are possessors of the soil they 
till, that they cannot execute plans of husbandry with 
the same vigour as you do, who hold yours, as it were 
from the Master of nature, unencumbered and free. 
Oh, America! exclaimed I, thou knowest not as yet 
the whole extent of thy happiness: the foundation of 
thy civil polity must lead thee in a few years to a degree 
of population and power which Europe little thinks of! 
" Long before this happen/' answered the good man, 
" we shall rest beneath the turf; it is vain for mortals 
to be presumptuous in their conjectures: our country, 
is, no doubt, the cradle of an extensive future popula- 
tion ; the old world is growing weary of its inhabitants, 



190 Letters from an American Farmer 

they must come here to flee from the tyranny of the 
great. But doth not thee imagine, that the great will, 
in the course of years, come over here also ; for it is the 
misfortune of all societies everywhere to hear of great 
men, great rulers, and of great tyrants." My dear Sir, 
I replied, tyranny never can take a strong hold in this 
country, the land is too widely distributed: it is poverty 
in Europe that makes slaves. " Friend I wan, as I 
make no doubt that thee understandest the Latin 
tongue, read this kind epistle which the good Queen of 
Sweden, Ulrica, sent me a few years ago. Good woman ! 
that she should think in her palace at Stockholm of poor 
John Bertram, on the banks of the Schuylkill, appeareth 
to me very strange." Not in the least, dear Sir; you 
are the first man whose name as a botanist hath done 
honour to America; it is very natural at the same time 
to imagine, that so extensive a continent must contain 
many curious plants and trees: is it then surprising 
to see a princess, fond of useful knowledge, descend 
sometimes from the throne, to walk in the gardens of 
Linnaeus ? " Tis to the directions of that learned man," 
said Mr. Bertram, " that I am indebted for the method 
which has led me to the knowledge I now possess; the 
science of botany is so diffusive, that a proper thread 
is absolutely wanted to conduct the beginner." Pray, 
Mr. Bertram, when did you imbibe the first wish to 
cultivate the science of botany; was you regularly 
bred to it in Philadelphia ? "I have never received 
any other education than barely reading and writing; 
this small farm was all the patrimony my father left 
me, certain debts and the want of meadows kept me 
rather low in the beginning of my life; my wife brought 
me nothing in money, all her riches consisted in her 
good temper and great knowledge of housewifery. I 
scarcely know how to trace my steps in the botanical 
career; they appear to me now like unto a dream: 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 191 

but thee mayest rely on what I shall relate, though I 
know that some of our friends have laughed at it." I 
am not one of those people, Mr. Bertram, who aim at 
finding out the ridiculous in what is sincerely and 
honestly averred. "Well, then, I'll tell thee: One 
day I was very busy in holding my plough (for thee 
seest that I am but a ploughman) and being weary I 
ran under the shade of a tree to repose myself. I cast 
my eyes on a daisy, I plucked it mechanically and 
viewed it with more curiosity than common country 
farmers are wont to do; and observed therein very 
many distinct parts, some perpendicular, some hori- 
zontal. What a shame, said my mind, or something that 
inspired my mind, that thee shouldest have employed so 
many years in tilling the earth and destroying so many 
flowers and plants, without being acquainted with their 
structures and their uses ! This seeming inspiration 
suddenly awakened my curiosity, for these were not 
thoughts to which I had been accustomed. I returned 
to my team, but this new desire did not quit my mind; 
I mentioned it to my wife, who greatly discouraged me 
from prosecuting my new scheme, as she called it; I 
was not opulent enough, she said, to dedicate much of 
my time to studies and labours which might rob me of 
that portion of it which is the only wealth of the 
American farmer. However her prudent caution did 
not discourage me; I thought about it continually, 
at supper, in bed, and wherever I went. At last I 
could not resist the impulse; for on the fourth day of 
the following week, I hired a man to plough for me, and 
went to Philadelphia. Though I knew not what book 
to call for, I ingeniously told the bookseller my errand, 
who provided me with such as he thought best, and 
a Latin grammar beside. Next I applied to a neigh- 
bouring schoolmaster, who in three months taught me 
Latin enough to understand Linnaeus, which I purchased 



1 92 Letters from an American Farmer 

afterward. Then I began to botanise all over my farm ; 
in a little time I became acquainted with every vege- 
table that grew in my neighbourhood; .and next ventured 
into Maryland, living among the Friends: in proportion 
as I thought myself more learned I proceeded farther, 
and by a steady application of several years I have 
acquired a pretty general knowledge of every plant and 
tree to be found in our continent. In process of time 
I was applied to from the old countries, whither I every 
year send many collections. Being now made easy 
in my circumstances, I have ceased to labour, and am 
never so happy as when I see and converse with my 
friends. If among the many plants or shrubs I am 
acquainted with, there are any thee wantest to send 
to thy native country, I will cheerfully procure them, 
and give thee moreover whatever directions thee mayest 
want." 

Thus I passed several days in ease, improvement, and 
pleasure; I observed in all the operations of his farm, 
as well as in the mutual correspondence between the 
master and the inferior members of his family, the 
greatest ease and decorum; not a word like command 
seemed to exceed the tone of a simple wish. The very 
negroes themselves appeared to partake of such a 
decency of behaviour, and modesty of countenance, 
as I had never before observed. By what means, said 
I, Mr. Bertram, do you rule your slaves so well, that they 
seem to do their work with all the cheerfulness of white 
men? " Though our erroneous prejudices and opinions 
once induced us to look upon them as fit only for slavery, 
though ancient custom had very unfortunately taught 
us to keep them in bondage ; yet of late, in consequence 
of the remonstrances of several Friends, and of the good 
books they have published on that subject, our society 
treats them very differently. With us they are now 
free. I give those whom thee didst see at my table, 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 193 

eighteen pounds a year, with victuals and clothes, and 
all other privileges which white men enjoy. Our society 
treats them now as the companions of our labours ; and 
by this management, as well as by means of the educa- 
tion we have given them, they are in general become 
a new set of beings. Those whom I admit to my table, 
1 have found to be good, trusty, moral men ; when they 
do not what we think they should do, we dismiss them, 
which is all the punishment we inflict. Other societies 
of Christians keep them still as slaves, without teaching 
them any kind of religious principles: what motive 
beside fear can they have to behave well ? In the first 
settlement of this province, we employed them as slaves, 
I acknowledge; but when we found that good example, 
gentle admonition, and religious principles could lead 
them to subordination and sobriety, we relinquished 
a method so contrary to the profession of Christianity. 
We gave them freedom, and yet few have quitted their 
ancient masters. The women breed in our families 
and we become attached to one another. I taught mine 
to read and write; they love God, and fear his judg- 
ments. The oldest person among them transacts my 
business in Philadelphia, with a punctuality, from 
which he has never deviated. They constantly attend 
our meetings, they participate in health and sickness, 
infancy and old age, in the advantages our society 
affords. Such are the means we have made use of, to 
relieve them from that bondage and ignorance in which 
they were kept before. Thee perhaps hast been sur- 
prised to see them at my table, but by elevating them 
to the rank of freemen, they necessarily acquire that 
emulation without which we ourselves should fall into 
debasement and profligate ways/ 1 Mr. Bertram, this 
is the most philosophical treatment of negroes that 1 
have heard of; happy would it be for America would 
other denominations of Christians imbibe the same 



194 Letters from an American Farmer 

principles, and follow the same admirable rules. A 
great number of men would be relieved from those cruel 
shackles, under which they now groan; and under this 
impression, I cannot endure to spend more time in the 
southern provinces. The method with which they are 
treated there, the meanness of their food, the severity 
of their tasks, are spectacles I have not patience to be- 
hold. " I am glad to see that thee hast so much com- 
passion; are there any slaves in thy country? " Yes, 
unfortunately, but they are more properly civil than 
domestic slaves ; they are attached to the soil on which 
they live; it is the remains of ancient barbarous customs, 
established in the days of the greatest ignorance and 
savageness of manners! and preserved notwithstanding 
the repeated tears of humanity, the loud calls of policy, 
and the commands of religion. The pride of great men, 
with the avarice of landholders, make them look on this 
class as necessary tools of husbandry; as if freemen 
could not cultivate the ground. " And is it really so, 
Friend Iwan ? To be poor, to be wretched, to be a slave, 
are hard indeed; existence is not worth enjoying on 
those terms. I am afraid thy country can never flourish 
under such impolitic government." I am very much 
of your opinion, Mr. Bertram, though I am in hopes that 
the present reign, illustrious by so many acts of the 
soundest policy, will not expire without this salutary, 
this necessary emancipation; which would fill the 
Russian empire with tears of gratitude. " How long 
hast thee been in this country?" Four years, Sir. 
" Why thee speakest English almost like a native; 
what a toil a traveller must undergo to learn various 
languages, to divest himself of his native prejudices, 
and to accommodate himself to the customs of all those 
among whom he chooseth to reside." 

Thus I spent my time with this enlightened botanist 
this worthy citizen; who united all the simplicity 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist 195 

of rustic manners to the most useful learning. Various 
and extensive were the conversations that filled the 
measure of my visit. I accompanied him to his fields, 
to his barn, to his bank, to his garden, to his study, 
and at last to the meeting of the society on the Sunday 
following. It was at the town of Chester, whither the 
whole family went in two waggons ; Mr. Bertram and I 
on horseback. When I entered the house where the 
friends were assembled, who might be about two 
hundred men and women, the involuntary impulse of 
ancient custom made me pull off my hat; but soon 
recovering myself, I sat with it on, at the end of a bench. 
The meeting-house was a square building devoid of any 
ornament whatever; the whiteness of the walls, the 
conveniency of seats, that of a large stove, which in cold 
weather keeps the whole house warm, were the only 
essential things which I observed. Neither pulpit nor 
desk, fount nor altar, tabernacle nor organ, were there 
to be seen ; it is merely a spacious room, in which these 
good people meet every Sunday. A profound silence 
ensued, which lasted about half an hour; every one had 
his head reclined, and seemed absorbed in profound 
meditation, when a female friend arose, and declared 
with a most engaging modesty, that the spirit moved 
her to entertain them on the subject she had chosen. 
She treated it with great propriety, as a moral useful 
discourse, and delivered it without theological parade 
or the ostentation of learning. Either she must have 
been a great adept in public speaking, or had studiously 
prepared herself; a circumstance that cannot well be 
supposed, as it is a point, in their profession, to utter 
nothing but what arises from spontaneous impulse: 
or else the great spirit of the world, the patronage and 
influence of which they all came to invoke, must have 
inspired her with the soundest morality. Her discourse 
lasted three quarters of an hour. I did not observe one 



i 96 Letters from an American Farmer 

single face turned toward her; never before had I seen 
a congregation listening with so much attention to a 
public oration. I observed neither contortions of body, 
nor any kind of affectation in her face, style, or manner 
of utterance; everything was natural, and therefore 
pleasing, and shall I tell you more, she was very hand- 
some, although upward of forty. As soon as she had 
finished, every one seemed to return to their former 
meditation for about a quarter of an hour; when they 
rose up by common consent, and after some general 
conversation, departed. 

How simple their precepts, how unadorned their 
religious system: how few the ceremonies through 
which they pass during the course of their lives! At 
their deaths they are interred by the fraternity, without 
pomp, without prayers; thinking it then too late to 
alter the course of God's eternal decrees: and as you 
well know, without either monument or tombstone. 
Thus after having lived under the mildest government, 
after having been guided by the mildest doctrine, they 
die just as peaceably as those who being educated in 
more pompous religions, pass through a variety of sacra- 
ments, subscribe to complicated creeds, and enjoy the 
benefits of a church establishment. These good people 
flatter themselves, with following the doctrines of Jesus 
Christ, in that simplicity with which they were delivered : 
an happier system could not have been devised for the 
use of mankind. It appears to be entirely free from 
those ornaments and political additions which each 
country and each government hath fashioned after 
its own manners. 

At the door of this meeting house, I had been invited 
to spend some days at the houses of some respectable 
farmers in the neighbourhood. The reception 1 met with 
everywhere insensibly led me to spend two months 
among these good people; and I must say they were 



Visit to Mr. Bertram, the Botanist i 97 

the golden days of my riper years. I never shall forget 
the gratitude I owe them for the innumerable kind- 
nesses they heaped on me ; it was to the letter you gave 
me that I am indebted for the extensive acquaintance 
I now have throughout Pennsylvania. I must defer 
thanking you as I ought, until I see you again. Before 
that time comes, I may perhaps entertain you with 
more curious anecdotes than this letter affords. 
Farewell. I N AL Z 



LETTER XII 

DISTRESSES OF A FRONTIER MAN 

I WISH for a change of place; the hour is come at last, 
that I must fly from my house and abandon my farm! 
But what course shall I steer, inclosed as I am? The 
climate best adapted to my present situation and humour 
would be the polar regions, where six months day and 
six months night divide the dull year: nay, a simple 
Aurora Borealis would suffice me, and greatly refresh 
my eyes, fatigued now by so many disagreeable objects. 
The severity of those climates, that great gloom, where 
melancholy dwells, would be perfectly analogous to the 
turn of my mind. Oh, could I remove my plantation to 
the shores of the Oby, willingly would I dwell in the hut 
of a Samoyede ; with cheerfulness would I go and bury 
myself in the cavern of a Laplander. Could I but carry 
my family along with me, I would winter at Pello, or 
Tobolsky, in order to enjoy the peace and innocence of 
that country. But let me arrive under the pole, or 
reach the antipodes, I never can leave behind me the 
remembrance of the dreadful scenes to which I have 
been a witness ; therefore never can I be happy ! Happy, 
why would I mention that sweet, that enchanting word ? 
Once happiness was our portion; now it is gone from 
us, and I am afraid not to be enjoyed again by the 
present generation! Whichever way I look, nothing 
but the most frightful precipices present themselves to 
my view, in which hundreds of my friends and acquaint- 
ances have already perished: of all animals that live on 
the surface of this planet, what is man when no longer 

198 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 199 

connected with society; or when he finds himself sur- 
rounded by a convulsed and a half dissolved one ? He 
cannot live in solitude, he must belong to some com- 
munity bound by some ties, however imperfect. Men 
mutually support and add to the boldness and confidence 
of each other; the weakness of each is strengthened 
by the force of the whole. I had never before these 
calamitous times formed any such ideas; I lived on, 
laboured and prospered, without having ever studied on 
what the security of my life and the foundation of my 
prosperity were established: I perceived them just as 
they left me. Never was a situation so singularly 
terrible as mine, in every possible respect, as a member of 
an extensive society, as a citizen of an inferior division 
of the same society, as a husband, as a father, as a man 
who exquisitely feels for the miseries of others as well 
as for his own! But alas! so much is everything now 
subverted among us, that the very word misery, with 
which we were hardly acquainted before, no longer 
conveys the same ideas ; or rather tired with feeling for 
the miseries of others, every one feels now for himself 
alone. When I consider myself as connected in all 
these characters, as bound by so many cords, all uniting 
in my heart, I am seized with a fever of the mind, I am 
transported beyond that degree of calmness which is 
necessary to delineate our thoughts. I feel as if my 
reason wanted to leave me, as if it would burst its poor 
weak tenement: again I try to compose myself, I grow 
cool, and preconceiving the dreadful loss, I endeavour 
to retain the useful guest. 

You know the position of our settlement ; I need not 
therefore describe it. To the west it is inclosed by a 

chain of mountains, reaching to ; to the east, the 

country is as yet but thinly inhabited; we are almost 
insulated, and the houses are at a considerable distance 
from each other. From the mountains we have but 



2oo Letters from an American Farmer 

too much reason to expect our dreadful enemy; the 
wilderness is a harbour where it is impossible to find 
them. It is a door through which they can enter our 
country whenever they please; and, as they seem 
determined to destroy the whole chain of frontiers, our 
fate cannot be far distant: from Lake Champlain, 
almost all has been conflagrated one after another. 
What renders these incursions still more terrible is, 
that they most commonly take place in the dead of the 
uight; we never go to our fields but we are seized with 
an involuntary fear, which lessens our strength and 
weakens our labour. No other subject of conversation 
intervenes between the different accounts, which spread 
through the country, of successive acts of devastation; 
and these told in chimney-corners, swell themselves in 
our affrighted imaginations into the most terrific ideas! 
We never sit down either to dinner or supper, but the 
least noise immediately spreads a general alarm and 
prevents us from enjoying the comfort of our meals. 
The very appetite proceeding from labour and peace of 
mind is gone; we eat just enough to keep us alive: our 
sleep is disturbed by the most frightful dreams; some- 
times I start awake, as if the great hour of danger was 
come; at other times the howling of our dogs seems to 
announce the arrival of the enemy: we leap out of bed 
and run to arms; my poor wife with panting bosom and 
silent tears, takes leave of me, as if we were to see each 
other no more; she snatches the youngest children from 
their beds, who, suddenly awakened, increase by their 
innocent questions the horror of the dreadful moment. 
She tries to hide them in the cellar, as if our cellar was 
inaccessible to the fire. I place all my servants at the 
windows, and myself at the door, where I am determined 
to perish. Fear industriously increases every sound; 
we all listen ; each communicates to the other his ideas 
and conjectures. We remain thus sometimes for whole 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 201 

hours, our hearts and our minds racked by the most 
anxious suspense: what a dreadful situation, a thousand 
times worse than that of a soldier engaged in the midst 
of the most severe conflict! Sometimes feeling the 
spontaneous courage of a man, I seem to wish for the 
decisive minute; the next instant a message from my 
wife, sent by one of the children, puzzling me beside with 
their little questions, unmans me : away goes nry courage, 
and I descend again into the deepest despondency. At 
last finding that it was a false alarm, we return once 
more to our beds; but what good can the kind sleep of 
nature do to us when interrupted by such scenes! 
Securely placed as you are, you can have no idea of our 
agitations, but by hear-say; no relation can be equal 
to what we suffer and to what we feel. Every morning 
my youngest children are sure to have frightful dreams 
to relate: in vain I exert my authority to keep them 
silent, it is not in my power; and these images of their 
disturbed imagination, instead of being frivolously 
looked upon as in the days of our happiness, are on the 
contrary considered as warnings and sure prognostics 
of our future fate. I am not a superstitious man, but 
since our misfortunes, I am grown more timid, and less 
disposed to treat the doctrine of omens with contempt. 
Though these evils have been gradual, yet they do not 
become habitual like other incidental evils. The nearer 
I view the end of this catastrophe, the more I shudder. 
But why should I trouble you with such unconnected 
accounts; men secure and out of danger are soon 
fatigued with mournful details: can you enter with me 
into fellowship with all these afflictive sensations; 
have you a tear ready to shed over the approaching ruin 
of a once opulent and substantial family? Read this I 
pray with the eyes of sympathy; with a tender sorrow, 
pity the lot of those whom you once called your friends ; 
who were once surrounded with plenty, ease, and perfect 

TT 640 



2O2 Letters from an American Farmer 

security; but who now expect every night to be their 
last, and who are as wretched as criminals under an 
impending sentence of the law. 

As a member of a large society which extends to many 
parts of the world, my connection with it is too distant 
to be as strong as that which binds me to the inferior 
division in the midst of which I live. I am told that the 
great nation, of which we are a part, is just, wise, and 
free, beyond any other on earth, within its own insulai 
boundaries; but not always so to its distant conquests: 
I shall not repeat all I have heard, because I cannot 
believe half of it. As a citizen of a smaller society, I 
find that any kind of opposition to its now prevailing 
sentiments, immediately begets hatred: how easily do 
men pass from loving, to hating and cursing one another! 
I am a lover of peace, what must I do ? I am divided 
between the respect I feel for the ancient connection, and 
the fear of innovations, with the consequence of which I 
am not well acquainted; as they are embraced by my 
own countrymen. I am conscious that I was happy 
before this unfortunate Revolution. I feel that I am 
no longer so; therefore I regret the change. This is the 
only mode of reasoning adapted to persons in my situa- 
tion. If I attach myself to the Mother Country, which 
is 3000 miles from me, I become what is called an enemy 
to my own region ; if I follow the rest of my countrymen, 
I become opposed to our ancient masters: both extremes 
appear equally dangerous to a person of so little weight 
and consequence as I am, whose energy and example 
are of no avail. As to the argument on which the dispute 
is founded, I know little about it. Much has been said 
and written on both sides, but who has a judgment 
capacious and clear enough to decide? The great 
moving principles which actuate both parties are much 
hid from vulgar eyes, like mine; nothing but the 
plausible and the probable are offered to our contem- 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 203 

plation. The innocent class are a]ways the victim oi 
the few; they are in all countries and at all times the 
inferior agents, on which the popular phantom is erected; 
they clamour, and must toil, and bleed, and are always 
sure of meeting with oppression and rebuke. Tt is for 
the sake of the great leaders on both sides, that so much 
blood must be spilt; that of the people is counted as 
nothing. Great events are not achieved for us, though 
it is by us that they are principally accomplished; by 
the arms, the sweat, the lives of the people. Book? 
tell me so much that they inform me of nothing. 
Sophistry, the bane of freemen, launches forth in all her 
deceiving attire! After all, most men reason 1ron< 
passions ; and shall such an ignorant individual as I am 
decide, and say this side is right, that side is wrong? 
Sentiment and feeling are the only guides I know. Alas, 
how should I unravel an argument, in which reason 
herself hath given way to brutality and bloodshed 1 
What then must I do? I ask the wisest lawyers, the 
ablest casuists, the wannest patriots; for I mean 
honestly. Great vSource of wisdom 1 inspire me with 
light sufficient to guide my benighted steps out of this 
intricate maze ! Shall I discard all my ancient principles, 
shall I renounce that name, that nation which I held once 
so respectable? I feel the powerful attraction; the 
sentiments they inspired grew with my earliest know- 
ledge, and were grafted upon the iirst rudiments of my 
education. On the other hand, shall I arm myself 
against that country where I first drew breath, against 
the play-mates of my youth, my bosom friends, my 
acquaintance? the idea makes me shudder! Must I 
be called a parricide, a traitor, a villain, lose the esteem 
of all those whom I love, to preserve my own; be 
shunned like a rattlesnake, or be pointed at like a bear ? 
I have neither heroism not magnanimity enough to 
make so great a sacrifice. Here I am tied, I am fastened 



204 Letters from an American Farmer 

by numerous strings, nor do I repine at the pressure they 
cause; ignorant as I am, I can pervade the utmost 
extent of the calamities which have already overtaken 
our poor afflicted country. I can see the great and 
accumulated ruin yet extending itself as far as the 
theatre of war has reached; I hear the groans of thou- 
sands of families now ruined and desolated by our 
aggressors. I cannot count the multitude of orphans 
this war has made ; nor ascertain the immensity of blood 
we have lost. Some have asked, whether it was a crime 
to resist ; to repel some parts of this evil. Others have 
asserted, that a resistance so general makes pardon 
unattainable, and repentance useless; and dividing the 
crime among so many, renders it imperceptible. What 
one party calls meritorious, the other denominates 
flagitious. These opinions vary, contract, or expand, 
like the events of the war on which they are founded. 
What can an insignificant man do in the midst of these 
jarring contradictory parties, equally hostile to persons 
situated as I am? And after all who will be the really 
guilty? Those most certainly who fail of success. 
Our fate, the fate of thousands, is then necessarily 
involved in the dark wheel of fortune. Why then so 
many useless reasonings; we are the sport of fate. 
Farewell education, principles, love of our country, 
farewell ; all are become useless to the generality of us : 
he who governs himself according to what he calls his 
principles, may be punished either by one party or the 
other, for those very principles. He who proceeds with- 
out principle, as chance, timidity, or self-preservation 
directs, will not perhaps fare better; but he will be less 
blamed. What are we in the great scale of events, we 
poor defenceless frontier inhabitants ? What is it to the 
gazing world, whether we breathe or whether we die? 
Whatever virtue, whatever merit and disinterestedness 
we may exhibit in our secluded retreats, of what avail ? 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 205 

We are like the pismires destroyed by the plough ; whose 
destruction prevents not the future crop. Self-preserva- 
tion, therefore, the rule of nature, seems to be the best 
rule of conduct ; what good can we do by vain resistance, 
by useless efforts? The cool, the distant spectator, 
placed in safety, may arraign me for ingratitude, may 
bring forth the principles of Solon or Montesquieu; he 
may look on me as wilfully guilty; he may call me by 
the most opprobrious names. Secure from personal 
danger, his warm imagination, undisturbed by the least 
agitation of the heart, will expatiate freely on this grand 
question; and will consider this extended field, but as 
exhibiting the double scene of attack and defence. To 
him the object becomes abstracted, the intermediate 
glares, the perspective distance and a variety of opinions 
unimpaired by affections, presents to his mind but one 
set of ideas. Here he proclaims the high guilt of the 
one, and there the right of the other; but let him come 
and reside with us one single month, let him pass with 
us through all the successive hours of necessary toil, 
terror and affright, let him watch with us, his musket in 
his hand, through tedious, sleepless nights, his imagina- 
tion furrowed by the keen chisel of every passion; let 
his wife and his children become exposed to the most 
dreadful hazards of death ; let the existence of his pro- 
perty depend on a single spark, blown by the breath of 
an enemy; let him tremble with us in our fields, shudder 
at the rustling of every leaf; let his heart, the seat of the 
most affecting passions, be powerfully wrung by hearing 
the melancholy end of his relations and friends ; let him 
trace on the map the progress of these desolations; let 
his alarmed imagination predict to him the night, the 
dreadful night when it may be his turn to perish, as so 
many have perished before. Observe then, whether the 
man will not get the better of the citizen, whether his 
political maxims will not vanish ! Yes, he will cease to 



2o6 Letters from an American Farmer 

glow so warmly with the glory of the metropolis ; all his 
wishes will be turned toward the preservation of his 
family! Oh, were he situated where 1 am, were his 
house perpetually filled, as mine is, with miserable victims 
just escaped from the flames and the scalping knife, 
telling of barbarities and murders that make human 
lature tremble; his situation would suspend every 
political reflection, and expel every abstract idea. My 
heart is full and involuntarily takes hold of any notion 
from whence it can receive ideal ease or relief. I am in- 
formed that the king has the most numerous, as well as 
the fairest, progeny of children, of any potentate now in 
the world: he may be a great king, but he must feel as 
we common mortals do, in the good wishes he forms for 
their lives and prosperity. His mind no doubt often 
springs forward on the wings of anticipation, and con- 
templates us as happily settled in the world. If a poor 
frontier inhabitant may be allowed to suppose this great 
personage the first in our system, to be exposed but for 
one hour, to the exquisite pangs we so often feel, would 
not the preservation of so numerous a family engross all 
his thoughts ; would not the ideas of dominion and other 
felicities attendant on royalty all vanish in the hour of 
danger? The regal character, however sacred, would 
be superseded by the stronger, because more natural 
one of man and father. Oh! did he but know the cir- 
cumstances of this horrid war, I am sure he would put a 
stop to that long destruction of parents and children. 1 
am sure that while he turned his ears to state policy, 
he would attentively listen also to the dictates of nature, 
that great parent ; for, as a good king, he no doubt wishes 
to create, to spare, and to protect, as she does. Must I 
then, in order to be called a faithful subject, coolly, and 
philosophically say, it is necessary for the good of 
Britain, that my children's brains should be dashed 
against the walls of the house in which they were reared ; 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 207 

that my wife should be stabbed and scalped before my 
face; that I should be either murdered or captivated; 
or that for greater expedition we should all be locked up 

and burnt to ashes as the family of the B n was ? 

Must I with meekness wait for that last pitch of desola- 
tion, and receive with perfect resignation so hard a fate, 
from ruffians, acting at such a distance from the eyes of 
any superior; monsters, left to the wild impulses of the 
wildest nature. Could the lions of Africa be transported 
here and let loose, they would no doubt kill us in order 
to prey upon our carcasses! but their appetites would 
not require so many victims. Shall I wait to be 
punished with death, or else to be stripped of all food 
and raiment, reduced to despair without redress and 
without hope. Shall those who may escape, see every- 
thing they hold dear destroyed and gone. Shall those 
few survivors, lurking in some obscure corner, deplore 
in vain the fate of their families, mourn over parents 
either captivated, butchered, or burnt; roam among 
our wilds, and wait for death at the foot of some tree, 
without a murmur, or without a sigh, for the guod of the 
cause? No, it is impossible! so astonishing a sacrifice 
is not to be expected from human nature, it must belong 
to beings of an inferior or superior order, actuated by 
less, or by more refined principles. Even those great 
personages who are so far elevated above the common 
ranks of men, those, I mean, who wield and direct so 
many thunders; those who have let loose against us 
these demons of war, could they be transported here, 
and metamorphosed into simple planters as we are, they 
would, from being the arbiters of human destiny, sink 
into miserable victims; they would feel and exclaim as 
we do, and be as much at a loss what line of conduct to 
prosecute. Do you well comprehend the difficulties of 
our situation? If we stay we are sure to perish at one 
time or another ; no vigilance on our part can save us ; 



208 Letters from an American Farmer 

if we retire, we know not where to go; every house is 
filled with refugees as wretched as ourselves; and if we 
remove we become beggars. The property of farmers 
is not like that of merchants; and absolute poverty is 
worse than death. If we take up arms to defend our- 
selves, we are denominated rebels; should we not be 
rebels against nature, could we be shamefully passive? 
Shall we then, like martyrs, glory in an allegiance, now 
become useless, and voluntarily expose ourselves to a 
species of desolation which, though it ruin us entirely, 
yet enriches not our ancient masters. By this inflexible 
and sullen attachment, we shall be despised by our 
countrymen, and destroyed by our ancient friends; 
whatever we may say, whatever merit we may claim, 
will not shelter us from those indiscriminate blows, 
given by hired banditti, animated by all those passions 
which urge men to shed the blood of others ; how bitter 
the thought! On the contrary, blows received by the 
hands of those from whom we expected protection, 
extinguish ancient respect, and urge us to self-delence 
perhaps to revenge ; this is the path which nature herself 
points out, as well to the civilised as to the uncivilised. 
The Creator of hearts has himself stamped on them those 
propensities at their first formation; and must we then 
daily receive this treatment from a power once so loved ? 
The Fox flies or deceives the hounds that pursue him; 
the bear, when overtaken, boldly resists and attacks 
them; the hen, the very timid hen, fig! its for the pre- 
servation of her chickens, nor does she decline to attack, 
and to meet on the wing even the swift kite. Shall man, 
then, provided both with instinct and reason, unmoved, 
unconcerned, and passive, see his subsistence consumed, 
and his progeny either ravished from him or murdered ? 
Shall fictitious reason extinguish the unerring impulse 
of instinct? No; my former respect, my former 
attachment vanishes with my safety; that respect 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 209 

and attachment was purchased by protection, and 
it has ceased. Could not the great nation we belong 
to have accomplished her designs by means of her 
numerous armies, by means of those fleets which cover 
the ocean? Must those who are masters of two thirds 
of the trade of the world; who have in their hands the 
power which almighty gold can give; who possess a 
species of wealth that increases with their desires; must 
they establish their conquest with our insignificant 
innocent blood! 

Must I then bid farewell to Britain, to that renowned 
country? Must I renounce a name so ancient and so 
venerable? Alas, she herself, that once indulgeni 
parent, forces me to take up arms against her. She 
herself, first inspired the most unhappy citizens of our 
remote districts, with the thoughts of shedding the 
blood of those whom they used to call by the name of 
friends and brethren. That great nation which now 
convulses the world; which hardly knows the extent oi 
her Indian kingdoms ; which looks toward the universal 
monarchy of trade, of industry, of riches, of power: why 
must she strew our poor frontiers with the carcasses of 
her friends, with the wrecks of our insignificant villages, 
in which there is no gold? When, oppressed by painful 
recollection, I revolve all these scattered ideas in my 
mind, when I contemplate my situation, and the thou- 
sand streams of evil with which I am surrounded; when 
I descend into the particular tendency even of the 
remedy I have proposed, I am convulsed convulsed 
sometimes to that degree, as to be tempted to exclaim 
Why has the master of the world permitted so much 
indiscriminate evil throughout every part of this poor 
planet, at all times, and among all kinds of people? 
It ought surely to be the punishment of the wicked only. 
I bring that cup to my lips, of which I must soon taste, 

and shudder at its bitterness. What then is life, I ask 

*u 640 



2io Letters from an American Farmer 

my^'lf, is it a gracious gift? No, it is too bitter; a gift 
means something valuable conferred, but life appears to 
be a mere accident, and of the worst kind: we are born 
to be victims of diseases and passions, of mischances 
and death: better not to be than to be miserable. 
Thus impiously I roam, I fly from one erratic thought 
to another, and my mind, irritated by these acrimonious 
reflections, is ready sometimes to lead me to dangerous 
extremes of violence. When I recollect that I am a 
father, and a husband, the return of these endearing 
ideas strikes deep into my heart. Alas! they once 
made it to glow with pleasure and with every ravishing 
exultation; but now they fill it with sorrow. At other 
times, my wife industriously rouses me out of these 
dreadful meditations, and soothes me by all the reasoning 
she is mistress of; but her endeavours only serve to 
make me more miserable, by reflecting that she must 
share with all these calamities, the bare apprehensions 
of which I am afraid will subvert her reason. Nor can 1 
with patience think that a beloved wife, my faithful help- 
mate, throughout all my rural schemes, the principal 
hand which has assisted me in rearing the prosperous 
fabric of ease and independence I lately possessed, as 
well as my children, those tenants of my heart, should 
daily and nightly be exposed to such a cruel fate. Self- 
preservation is above all political precepts and rules, 
and even superior to the dearest opinions of our minds ; 
a reasonable accommodation of ourselves to the various 
exigencies of the time in which we live, is the most 
irresistible precept. To this great evil I must seek some 
sortof remedy adapted to remove or topalliate it ; situated 
as I am, what steps should I take that will neither injure 
nor insult any of the parties, and at the same time save 
iny family from that certain destruction which awaits it, 
if I remain here much longer. Could I insure them 
bread, safety, and subsistence, not the bread of idleness, 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 211 

but that earned by proper labour as heretofore; could 
this be accomplished by the sacrifice of my life, I would 
willingly give it up. I attest before heaven, that it is 
only for these I would wish to live and to toil: for these 
whom I have brought into this miserable existence. I 
resemble, rnethinks, one of the stones of a ruined arch, 
still retaining that pristine form that anciently fitted the 
place 1 occupied, but the centre is tumbled down; I can 
be nothing until I am replaced, either in the former 
circle, or in some stronger one. I see one on a smaller 
scale, and at a considerable distance, but it is within 
my power to reach it: and since I have ceased to con- 
sider myself as a member of the ancient state now 
convulsed, I willingly descend into an inferior one. I 
will revert into a state approaching nearer to that of 
nature, unencumbered either with voluminous laws, or 
contradictory codes, often galling the very necks oi 
those whom they protect; and at the same time suffi- 
ciently remote from the brutality of unconnected savage 
nature. Do you, my friend, perceive the path I have 
found out? it is that which leads to the tenants of the 

great village of , where, far removed from 

the accursed neighbourhood of Europeans, its in- 
habitants live with more ease, decency, and peace, than 
you imagine: where, though governed by no laws, yet 
find, in uncontaminated simple manners all that laws 
can afford. Their system is sufficiently complete to 
answer all the primary wants of man, and to constitute 
him a social being, such as he ought to be in the great 
iorest of nature. There it is that I have resolved at 
any rate to transport myself and family: an eccentric 
thought, you may say, thus to cut asunder all former 
connections, and to form new ones with a people whom 
nature has stamped with such different characteristics! 
But as the happiness of my family is the only object of 
my wishes, I care very little where we be, or where we go, 



2 1 2 Letters from an American Farmer 

provided that we are safe, and all united together. Our 
new calamities being shared equally by all, will become 
lighter; our mutual affection for each other, will in this 
great transmutation become the strongest link of our 
new society, will afford us every joy we can receive on 
a foreign soil, and preserve us in unity, as the gravity and 
coherency of matter prevents the world from dissolution. 
Blame me not, it would be cruel in you, it would beside 
be entirely useless ; for when you receive this we shall be 
on the wing. When we think all hopes are gone, must 
we, like poor pusillanimous wretches, despair and die? 
No; I perceive beiore me a few resources, though 
through many dangers, which I will explain to you 
hereaiter. It is not, believe me, a disappointed ambition 
which leads me to take this step, it is the bitterness of my 
situation, it is the impossibility of knowing what better 
measure to adopt: my education fitted me for nothing 
more than the most simple occupations of life; I am but 
a feller of trees, a cultivator of land, the most honour- 
able title an American can have. I have no exploits, no 
discoveries, no inventions to boast of; I have cleared 
about 370 acres of land, some for the plough, some for 
the scythe ; and this has occupied many years of my life. 
I have never possessed, or wish to possess anything more 
than what could be earned or produced by the united 
industry of my family. I wanted nothing more than to 
live at home independent and tranquil, and to teach my 
children how to provide the means of a future ample 
subsistence, founded on labour, like that of their father. 
This is the career of life I have pursued, and that which 
I had marked out for them and for which they seemed 
to be so well calculated by their inclinations, and by 
their constitutions. But now these pleasing expecta- 
tions are gone, we must abandon the accumulated 
industry of nineteen years, we must fly we hardly know 
whither, through the most impervious paths, and 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 213 

become members of a new and strange community. 
Oh, virtue! is this all the reward thou hast to confer on 
thy votaries ? Either thou art only a chimera, or thou 
art a timid useless being; soon affrighted, when ambition, 
thy great adversary, dictates, when war re-echoes the 
dreadful sounds, and poor helpless individuals are mowed 
down by its cruel reapers like useless grass. I have at 
all times generously relieved what few distressed people 
I have met with ; I have encouraged the industrious ; my 
house has always been opened to travellers; I have not 
lost a month in illness since I have been a man; I have 
caused upwards of an hundred and twenty families to 
remove hither. Many of them I have led by the hand in 
the days of their first trial; distant as I am from any 
places of worship or school of education, I have been 
the pastor of my family, and the teacher of many of my 
neighbours. I have learnt them as well as I could, the 
gratitude they owe to God, the father of harvests; and 
their duties to man: I have been as useful a subject; 
ever obedient to the laws, ever vigilant to see them 
respected and observed. My wife hath faithfully 
followed the same line within her province; no woman 
was ever a better economist, or spun or wove better 
linen; yet we must perish, perish like wild beasts, 
included within a ring of fire ! 

Yes, I will cheerfully embrace that resource, it is an 
holy inspiration: by night and by day, it presents itself 
to my mind: I have carefully revolved the scheme; I 
have considered in all its future effects and tendencies, 
the new mode of living we must pursue, without salt, 
without spices, without linen and with little other 
clothing; the art of hunting, we must acquire, the new 
manners we must adopt, the new language we must 
speak; the dangers attending the education of my 
children we must endure. These changes may appear 
more terrific at a distance perhaps than when grown 



214 Letters from an American Farmer 

familiar by practice : what is it to us, whether we eat well 
made pastry, or pounded alagricheV, well roasted beef, 
or smoked venison; cabbages, or squashes? Whether 
we wear neat home-spun or good beaver; whether we 
sleep on feather-beds, or on bear-skins? The differ- 
ence is not worth attending to. The difficulty of the 
language, fear of some great intoxication among the 
Indians; finally, the apprehension lest my younger 
children should be caught by that singular charm, so 
dangerous at their tender years ; are the only considera- 
tions that startle me. By what power does it come to 
pass, that children who have been adopted when young 
among these people, can never be prevailed on to re- 
adopt European manners? Many an anxious parent 
I have seen last war, who at the return of the peace, went 
to the Indian villages where they knew their children 
had been carried in captivity; when to their inexpres- 
sible sorrow, they found them so perfectly Indianised, 
that many knew them no longer, and those whose more 
advanced ages permitted them to recollect their fathers 
and mothers, absolutely refused to follow them, and 
ran to their adopted parents for protection against the 
effusions of love their unhappy real parents lavished on 
them! Incredible as this may appear, I have heard it 
asserted in a thousand instances, among persons of 

credit. In the village of , where I purpose to go, 

there lived, about fifteen years ago, an Englishman and 
a Swede, whose history would appear moving, had I 
time to relate it. They were grown to the age of men 
when they were taken; they happily escaped the great 
punishmentof war captives, and were obliged to marry the 
Squaws who had saved their lives by adoption. By the 
force of habit, they became at last thoroughly naturalised 
to this wild course of life. While I was there, their 
friends sent them a considerable sum of money to ransom 
themselves with. The Indians, their old masters, gave 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 215 

them their choice, and without requiring any considera- 
tion, told them, that they had been long as free as them- 
selves. They chose to remain; and the reasons they 
gave me would greatly surprise you: the most perfect 
freedom, the ease of living, the absence of those cares 
and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us ; 
the peculiar goodness of the soil they cultivated, for the}^ 
did not trust altogether to hunting; all these, and many 
more motives, which I have forgot, made them prefer 
that life, of which we entertain such dreadful opinions. 
It cannot be, therefore, so bad as we generally conceive 
it to be; there must be in their social bond something 
singularly captivating, and far superior to anything to 
be boasted of among us; for thousands of Europeans 
are Indians, and we have no examples of even one of 
those Aborigines having from choice become Europeans ! 
There must be something more congenial to our native 
dispositions, than the fictitious society in which we live; 
or else why should children, and even grown persons, 
become in a short time so invincibly attached to it? 
There must be something very bewitching in their 
manners, something very indelible and marked by the 
very hands of nature. For, take a young Indian lad, 
give him the best education you possibly can, load him 
with your bounty, with presents, nay with riches; yet 
he will secretly long for his native woods, which you 
would imagine he must have long since forgot; and on 
the first opportunity he can possibly find, you will see 
him voluntarily leave behind him all you have given him, 
and return with inexpressible joy to lie on the mats of 

his fathers. Mr. , some years ago, received from a 

good old Indian, who died in his house, a young lad, of 
nine years of age, his grandson. He kindly educated 
him with his children, and bestowed on him the same 
care and attention in respect to the memory of his 
venerable grandfather, who was a worthy man. He 



216 Letters from an American Farmer 

intended to give him a genteel trade, but in the spring 
season when all the family went to the woods to make 
their maple sugar, he suddenly disappeared ; and it was 
not until seventeen months after, that his benefactor 
heard he had reached the village of Bald Eagle, where 
he still dwelt. Let us say what we will of them, of their 
inferior organs, of their want of bread, etc., they are as 
stout and wellmade as the Europeans. Without temples, 
without priests, without kings, and without laws, they 
are in many instances superior to us; and the proofs of 
what I advance, are, that they live without care, sleep 
without inquietude, take life as it comes, bearing all its 
asperities with unparalleled patience, and die without 
any kind of apprehension for what they have done, or 
tor what they expect to meet with hereafter. What 
system of philosophy can give us so many necessary 
qualifications for happiness? They most certainly arc 
much more closely connected with nature than we arc ; 
they are her immediate children, the inhabitants of the 
woods are her undefiled off-spring: those of the plains are 
her degenerated breed, far, very far removed from her 
primitive laws, from her original design. It is therefore 
resolved on. I will either die in the attempt or succeed ; 
better perish all together in one fatal hour, than to suffer 
what we daily endure. I do not expect to enjoy in the 

village of an uninterrupted happiness; it cannot 

be our lot, let us live where we will; I am not founding 
my future prosperity on golden dreams. Place man- 
kind where you will, they must always have adverse 
circumstances to struggle with; from nature, accidents, 
constitution; from seasons, from that great combination 
of mischances which perpetually lead us to new diseases, 
to poverty, etc. Who knows but I may meet in this 
new situation, some accident from whence may spring 
up new sources of unexpected prosperity? Who can 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 2 1 7 

be presumptuous enough to predict all the good ? Who 
can foresee all the evils, which strew the paths of our 
lives? But after all, I cannot but recollect what 
sacrifice I am going to make, what amputation I am 
going to suffer, what transition I am going to experience. 
Pardon my repetitions, my wild, my trifling reflections, 
they proceed from the agitations of my mind, and the 
fulness of my heart; the action of thus retracing them 
seems to lighten the burden, and to exhilarate my 
spirits; this is besides the last letter you will receive 
from me; I would fain tell you all, though I hardly know 
how. Oh! in the hours, in the moments of my greatest 
anguish, could I intuitively represent to you that variety 
of thought which crowds on my mind, you would have 
reason to be surprised, and to doubt of their possibility. 
Shall we ever meet again ? If we should, where will it 

be ? On the wild shores of . If it be my doom to 

end my days there, 1 will greatly improve them; and 
perhaps make room for a few more families, who will 
choose to retire from the fury of a storm, the agitated 
billows of which will yet roar for many years on our 
extended shores. Perhaps I may repossess my house, 
if it be not burnt down ; but how will my improvements 
look? why, half defaced, bearing the strong marks of 
abandonment, and of the ravages of war. However, 
at present I give everything over for lost; I will bid a 
long farewell to what I leave behind. If ever I repossess 
it, I shall receive it as a gift, as a reward for my conduct 
and fortitude. Do not imagine, however, that I am a 
stoic by no means : I must, on the contrary, confess to 
you, that I feel the keenest regret, at abandoning an 
house which I have in some measure reared with my 
own hands. Yes, perhaps I may never revisit those 
fields which I have cleared, those trees which I have 
planted, those meadows which, in my youth, were a 
hideous wilderness, now converted by my industry into 



2i 8 Letters from an American Farmer 

rich pastures and pleasant lawns. If in Europe it is 
praise-worthy to be attached to paternal inheritances, 
how much more natural, how much more powerful 
must the tie be with us, who, if I may be permitted the 
expression, are the founders, the creators of our own 
farms! When I see my table surrounded with my 
1 looming offspring, all united in the bonds of the strongest 
affection, it kindles in my paternal heart a variety of 
tumultuous sentiments, which none but a father and a 
husband in my situation can feel or describe. Perhaps 
I ma}* see my wife, my children, often distressed, in- 
voluntarily recalling to their minds the ease and 
abundance which they enjoyed under the paternal roof. 
Perhaps I may see them want that bread which I now 
leave behind; overtaken by diseases and penury, 
rendered more bitter by the recoUection of former days of 
opulence and plenty. Perhaps I may be assailed on 
every side by unforeseen accidents, which I shall not 
be able to prevent or to alleviate. Can I contemplate 
such images without the most unutterable emotions? 
My fate is determined; but I have not determined it, 
you may assure yourself, without having undergone the 
most painful conflicts of a variety of passions; interest, 
love of ease, disappointed views, and pleasing expecta- 
tions frustrated; I shuddered at the review! Would 
to God I was master of the stoical tranquillity of that 
magnanimous sect; oh, that I were possessed of those 
sublime lessons \vhich Appollonius of Chalcis gave to 
the Emperor Antoninus ! I could then with much more 
propriety guide the helm of my little bark, which is soon 
to be freighted with all that I possess most dear on 
earth, through this stormy passage to a safe harbour; 
and when there, become to my fellow passengers, a surer 
guide, a brighter example, a pattern more worthy of 
imitation, throughout all the new scenes they must pass, 
and the new career they must traverse. I have observed 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 219 

notwithstanding, the means hitherto made use of, to arm 
the principal nations against our frontiers. Yet they 
have not, they will not take up the hatchet against a 
people who have done them no harm. The passions 
necessary to urge these people to war, cannot be routed 
they cannot feel the stings of vengeance, the thirst of 
which alone can compel them to shed blood : far superior 
in their motives of action to the Europeans, who for 
sixpence per day, may be engaged to shed that of any 
people on earth. They know nothing of the nature oi 
our disputes, they have no ideas of such revolutions as 
this; a civil division of a village or tribe, are events 
which have never been recorded in their traditions: 
many of them know very well that they have too long 
been the dupes and the victims of both parties ; f oolishly 
arming for our sakes, sometimes against each other, 
sometimes against our white enemies. They consider 
us as born on the same land, and, though they have no 
reasons to love us, yet they seem carefully to avoid 
entering into this quarrel, from whatever motives. I 
am speaking of those nations with which I am best 
acquainted, a few hundreds of the worst kind mixed 
with whites, worse than themselves, are now hired by 
Great Britain, to perpetuate those dreadful incursions. 

In my youth I traded with the , under the conduct 

of my uncle, and always traded justly and equitably; 
some of them remember it to this day. Happily their 
village is far removed from the dangerous neighbour- 
hood of the whites; I sent a man last spring to it, who 
understands the woods extremely well, and who speaks 
their language; he is just returned, after several weeks 
absence, and has brought me, as I had flattered myself, 
a string of thirty purple wampum, as a token that their 
honest chief will spare us half of his wigwam until we 
have time to erect one. He has sent me word that they 
have land in plenty, of which they are not so covetous as 



Z2o Letters from an American Farmer 

:he whites; that we may plant for ourselves, and that 
in the meantime he will procure for us some corn and 
meat; that fish is plenty in the waters of 



and that the village to which he had laid open my 
proposals, have no objection to our becoming dwellers 
with them. I have not yet communicated these glad 
tidings to my wife, nor do I know how to do it ; I tremble 
lest she should refuse to follow me ; lest the sudden idea 
of this removal rushing on her mind, might be too power- 
ful. I flatter myself I shall be able to accomplish it, 
and to prevail on her; I fear nothing but the effects of 
her strong attachment to her relations. I will willingly 
let you know how I purpose to remove my family to so 
great a distance, but it would become unintelligible to 
you, because you are not acquainted with the geographi- 
cal situation of this part of the country. Suffice it for 
you to know, that with about twenty-three miles land 
carriage, I am enabled to perform the rest by water; 
and when once afloat, I care not whether it be two or 
three hundred miles. 1 propose to send all our pro- 
visions, furniture, and clothes to my wife's father, who 
approves of the scheme, and to reserve nothing but a 
few necessary articles of covering; trusting to the furs 
of the chase for our future apparel. Were we im- 
prudently to encumber ourselves too much with baggage, 
we should never reach to the waters of - , which is 
the most dangerous as well as the most difficult part of 
our journey; and yet but a trifle in point of distance. I 
intend to say to my negroes In the name of God, be 
free, my honest lads, I thank you for your past services ; 
go, from henceforth, and work for yourselves; look on 
me as your old friend, and fellow labourer; be sober, 
frugal, and industrious, and you need not fear earning a 
comfortable subsistence. Lest my countrymen should 
think that I am gone to join the incendiaries of our 
frontiers, I intend to write a letter to Mr. - , to 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 22 i 

inform him of our retreat, and of the reasons that have 

urged me to it. The man whom I sent to village, 

is to accompany us also, and a very useful companion 
he will be on every account. 

You may therefore, by means of anticipation, behold 
me under the Wigwam; I am so well acquainted with 
the principal manners of these people, that I entertain 
not the least apprehension from them. I rely more 
securely on their strong hospitality, than on the wit- 
nessed compacts of many Europeans. As soon as 
possible after my arrival, I design to build myself a 
wigwam, after the same manner and size with the 
rest, in order to avoid being thought singular, or giving 
occasion for any railleries; though these people are 
seldom guilty of such European follies. I shall erect 
it hard by the lands which they propose to allot me, 
and will endeavour that my wife, my children, and 
myself may be adopted soon after our arrival. Thus 
becoming truly inhabitants of their village, we shall 
immediately occupy that rank within the pale of their 
society, which will afford us all the amends we can 
possibly expect for the loss we have met with by the 
convulsions of our own. According to their customs 
we shall likewise receive names from them, by which 
we shall always be known. My youngest children 
shall learn to swim, and to shoot with the bow, that they 
may acquire such talents as will necessarily raise them 
into some degree of esteem among the Indian lads of their 
own age; the rest of us must hunt with the hunters. 
I have been for several years an expert marksman ; but 
I dread lest the imperceptible charm of Indian educa- 
tion, may seize my younger children, and give them 
such a propensity to that mode of life, as may preclude 
their returning to the manners and customs of their 
parents. I have but one remedy to prevent this great 
evil; and that is, to employ them in the labour of the 



222 Letters from an American Farmer 

fields, as much as I can; I am even resolved to make 
their daily subsistence depend altogether on it. As long 
as we keep ourselves busy in tilling the earth, there i? 
no i-'iir of any of us becoming wild; it is the chase and 
the food it procures, that have this strange effect. 
Excuse a simile those hogs which range in the woods, 
and to whom grain is given once a week, preserve their 
former degree of tameness ; but if, on the contrary, they 
are reduced to live on ground nuts, and on what they 
can get, they soon become wild and fierce. For my 
part, I can plough, sow, and hunt, as occasion may- 
require; but my wife, deprived of wool and flax, will 
have no room for industry; what is she then to do? 
like the other squaws, she must cook for us the nasaump, 
the ninchicke, and such other preparations of corn as 
are customary among these people. She must lean: 
to bake squashes and pumpkins under the ashes; to 
slice and smoke the meat of our own killing, in order to 
preserve it; she must cheerfully adopt the manners and 
customs of her neighbours, in their dress, deportment, 
conduct, and internal economy, in all respects. Surely 
if we can have fortitude enough to quit all we have, to 
remove so far, and to associate with people so different 
from us; these necessary compliances are but part of 
the scheme. The change of garments, when those they 
carry with them are worn out, will not be the least of 
my wife's and daughter's concerns: though I am in 
hopes that self-love will invent some sort of reparation. 
Perhaps you would not believe that there are in the 
woods looking-glasses, and paint of every colour; and 
that the inhabitants take as much pains to adorn their 
faces and their bodies, to fix their bracelets of silver, 
and plait their hair, as our forefathers the Picts used 
to do in the time of the Romans. Not that I would 
wish to see either my wife or daughter adopt those savage 
customs; we can live in great peace and harmony with 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 223 

them without descending to every article; the inter- 
ruption of trade hath, I hope, suspended this mode of 
dress. My wife understands inoculation perfectly well, 
she inoculated all our children one after another, and 
has successfully performed the operation on several 
scores of people, who, scattered here and there through 
our woods, were too far removed from all medical 
assistance. If we can persuade but one family to sub- 
mit to it, and it succeeds, we shall then be as happy 
as our situation will admit of; it will raise her into some 
degree of consideration, for whoever is useful in an)* 
society will always be respected. If we are so fortunate 
as to carry one family through a disorder, which is the 
plague among these people, I trust to the force of 
example, we shall then become truly necessary, valued, 
and beloved; we indeed owe every kind office to a 
society of men who so readily offer to assist us into their 
social partnership, and to extend to my family the 
shelter of their village, the strength of their adoption, 
and even the dignity of their names. God grant us 
a prosperous beginning, we may then hope to be of more 
service to them than even missionaries who have been 
sent to preach to them a Gospel they cannot under- 
stand. 

As to religion, our mode of worship will not suffer 
much by this removal from a cultivated country, into 
the bosom of the woods ; for it cannot be much simpler 
than that which we have followed here these many 
years: and I will with as much care as I can, redouble 
my attention, and twice a week, retrace to them the 
great outlines of their duty to God and to man. I will 
read and expound to them some part of the decalogue, 
which is the method I have pursued ever since I married. 

Half a dozen of acres on the shores of , the soil 

of which I know well, will yield us a great abundance 
of all we want; I will make it a point to give the over- 



224 Letters from an American Farmer 

plus to such Indians as shall be most unfortunate in 
th<'ir huntings; I will persuade them, if I can, to till 
a little more land than they do, and not to trust so much 
to the produce of the chase. To encourage them still 
farther, I will give a quirn to every six families ; I have 
built many for our poor back settlers, it being often 
the want of mills which prevents them from raising 
grain. As I am a carpenter, I can build my own plough, 
and can be of great service to many of them; my 
example alone, may rouse the industry of some, and 
serve to direct others in their labours. The difficulties 
of the language will soon be removed; in my evening 
conversations, I will endeavour to make them regulate 
the trade of their village in such a manner as that those 
pests of the continent, those Indian traders, may not 
come within a certain distance ; and there they shall be 
obliged to transact their business before the old people. 
I am in hopes that the constant respect which is paid 
to the elders, and shame, may prevent the young hunters 

from infringing this regulation. The son of will 

soon be made acquainted with our schemes, and I trust 
that the power of love, and the strong attachment he 
professes for my daughter, may bring him along with 
us: he will make an excellent hunter; young and 
vigorous, he will equal in dexterity the stoutest man 
in the village. Had it not been for this fortunate cir- 
cumstance, there would have been the greatest danger ; 
for however I respect the simple, the inoffensive society 
of these people iri their villages, the strongest prejudices 
would make me abhor any alliance with them in blood : 
disagreeable no doubt, to nature's intentions which 
have strongly divided us by so many indelible characters. 
In the days of our sickness, we shall have recourse to 
their medical knowledge, which is well calculated for 
the simple diseases to which they are subject. Thus 
shall we metamorphose ourselves, from neat, decent, 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 225 

opulent planters, surrounded with every conveniency 
which our external labour and internal industry could 
give, into a still simpler people divested of everything 
beside hope, food, and the raiment of the woods: 
abandoning the large framed house, to dwell under the 
wigwam; and the featherbed, to lie on the mat, or 
bear's skin. There shall we sleep undisturbed by fruit- 
ful dreams and apprehensions; rest and peace of mind 
will make us the most ample amends for what we shal 1 
leave behind. These blessings cannot be purchased 
too dear; too long have we been deprived of them. I 
would cheerfully go even to the Mississippi, to find that 
repose to which we have been so long strangers. My 
heart sometimes seems tired with beating, it wants- 
rest like my eye-lids, which feel oppressed with so manv 
watchings. 

These are the component parts of my scheme, the 
success of each of which appears feasible ; from whence 
I flatter myself with the probable success of the whole. 
Still the danger of Indian education returns to my mind, 
and alarms me much; then again I contrast it with 
the education of the times; both appear to be equally 
pregnant with evils. Reason points out the necessity 
of choosing the least dangerous, which I must consider 
as the only good within my reach; I persuade myself 
that industry and labour will be a sovereign preservative 
against the dangers of the former; but I consider, at 
the same time, that the share of labour and industry 
which is intended to procure but a simple subsistence, 
with hardly any superfluity, cannot have the same 
restrictive effects on our minds as when we tilled the 
earth on a more extensive scale. The surplus could be 
then realised into solid wealth, and at the same time 
that this realisation rewarded our past labours, it 
engrossed and fixed the attention of the labourer, and 
cherished in his mind the hope of future riches. In 



226 Letters from an American Farmer 

order to supply this great deficiency of industrious 
motives, and to hold out to them a real object to prevent 
the fatal consequences of this sort of apathy; I will 
keep an exact account of all that shall be gathered, and 
give each of them a regular credit for the amount of it 
to be paid them in real property at the return of peace. 
Thus, though seemingly toiling for bare subsistence on 
a foreign land, they shall entertain the pleasing prospect 
of seeing the sum of their labours one day realised either 
in legacies or gifts, equal if not superior to it. The 
yearly expense of the clothes which they would have 
received at home, and of which they will then be de- 
prived, shall likewise be added to their credit; thus 
I flatter myself that they will more cheerfully wear the 
blanket, the matchcoat, and the Moccasins. Whatever 
success they may meet with in hunting or fishing, shall 
only be considered as recreation and pastime; I shall 
thereby prevent them from estimating their skill in the 
chase as an important and necessary accomplishment. 
I mean to say to them: " You shall hunt and fish merely 
to show your new companions that you are not inferior 
to them in point of sagacity and dexterity." Were 1 
to send them to such schools as the interior parts of our 
settlements afford at present, what can they learn there ? 
How could I support them there ? What must become 
of me ; am I to proceed on my voyage, and leave them ? 
That I never could submit to. Instead of the perpetual 
discordant noise of disputes so common among us, 
instead of those scolding scenes, frequent in every house, 
they will observe nothing but silence at home and 
abroad: a singular appearance of peace and concord are 
the first characteristics which strike you in the villages 
of these people. Nothing can be more pleasing, nothing 
surprises an European so much as the silence and 
harmony which prevails among them, and in each 
family; except when disturbed by that accursed spirit 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 227 

given them by the wood rangers in exchange for their 
furs. If my children learn nothing of geometrical 
rules, the use of the compass, or of the Latin tongue, 
the}' will learn and practise sobriety, for rum can no 
longer be sent to these people; they will learn that 
modesty and diffidence for which the young Indians 
are so remarkable; they will consider labour as the 
most essential qualification; hunting as the second. 
They will prepare themselves in the prosecution oi our 
small rural schemes, carried on for the benefit of our 
little community, to extend them further when each 
shall receive his inheritance. Their tender minds will 
cease to be agitated by perpetual alarms; to be made 
cowards by continual terrors: if they acquire in the 

village of , such an awkwardness of deportment 

and appearance as would render them ridiculous in our 
^ay capitals, they will imbibe, I hope, a confirmed taste 
ior that simplicity, which so well becomes the cultivators 
of the land. If I cannot teach them any of those 
professions which sometimes embellish and support our 
society, I will show them how to hew wood, how to 
construct their own ploughs; and with a few tools how 
to supply themselves with every necessary implement, 
both in the house and in the field. If they are hereafter 
obliged to confess, that they belong to no one particular 
church, I shall have the consolation of teaching them 
that great, that primary worship which is the foundation 
of all others. If they do not fear God according to the 
tenets of any one seminary, they shall learn to worship 
him upon the broad scale of nature. The Supreme 
Being does not reside in peculiar cl lurches or communi- 
ties; he is equally the great Manitou of the woods and 
of the plains; and even in the gloom, the obscurity of 
those vtry woods, his justice may be as well understood 
and felt as in the most sumptuous temples. Each 
worship with us, hath, you know, its peculiar political 



228 Letters from an American Farmer 

tendency; there it has none but to inspire gratitude 
and truth: their tender minds shall receive no other 
idea of the Supreme Being, than that of the father of 
all men, who requires nothing more of us than what 
tends to make each other happy. We shall say with 
them, Soungwaneha, esa caurounkyawcrn, nughwon- 
shauza neattewek, nesalanga. Our father, be thy will 
done in earth as it is in great heaven. 

Perhaps my imagination gilds too strongly this distant 
prospect; yet it appears founded on so few, and simple 
principles, that there is not the same probability of 
adverse incidents as in more complex schemes. These 
vague rambling contemplations which I here faithfully 
retrace, carry me sometimes to a great distance; I am 
lost hi the anticipation of the various circumstance^ 
attending this proposed metamorphosis! Many un- 
foreseen accidents may doubtless arise. Alas! it is 
easier for me in all the glow of paternal anxiety, reclined 
on my bed, to form the theory of my future conduct, 
than to reduce my schemes into practice. But when 
once secluded from the great society to which we now 
belong, we shall unite closer together; and there will 
be less room for jealousies or contentions. As I intend 
my children neither for the law nor the church, but for 
the cultivation of the land, I wish them no literary 
accomplishments ; I pray heaven that they may be one 
day nothing more than expert scholars in husbandry: 
this is the science which made our continent to flourish 
more rapidly than any other. Were they to grow up 
where I am now situated, even admitting that we were 
in safety; two of them are verging toward that period 
in their lives, when they must necessarily take up the 
musket, and learn, in that new school, all the vices 
which are so common in armies. Great God ! close my 
eyes for ever, rather than I should live to see this 
calamity! May they rather become inhabitants of the 
woods. 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 229 

Thus then in the village of , in the bosom of that 

peace it has enjoyed ever since I have known it, con- 
nected with mild hospitable people, strangers to our 
political disputes, and having none among themselves; 
on the shores of a fine river, surrounded with woods, 
abounding with game; our little society united in 
perfect harmony with the new adoptive one, in which 
we shall be incorporated, shall rest I hope from all 
fatigues, from all apprehensions, from our perfect 
terrors, and from our long watchings. Not a word oi 
politics shall cloud our simple conversation; tired 
either with the chase or the labour of the field, we shall 
sleep on our mats without any distressing want, having 
learnt to retrench every superfluous one: we shall have 
but two prayers to make to the Supreme Being, that he 
may shed his fertilising dew on our little crops, and 
that he will be pleased to restore peace to our unhappy 
country. These shall be the only subject of our nightly 
prayers, and of our daily ejaculations : and if the labour, 
the industry, the frugality, the union of men, can be 
an agreeable offering to him, we shall not fail to receive 
his paternal blessings. There I shall contemplate 
nature in her most wild and ample extent ; I shall care- 
fully study a species of society, of which I have at 
present but very imperfect ideas; I will endeavour to 
occupy with propriety that place which will enable me 
to enjoy the few and sufficient benefits it confers. The 
solitary and unconnected mode of life I have lived in 
my youth must fit me for this trial, I am not the first 
who has attempted it; Europeans did not, it is true, 
carry to the wilderness numerous families; they went 
there as mere speculators; I, as a man seeking a refuge 
from the desolation of war. They went there to study 
the manner of the aborigines; I to conform to them, 
whatever they are; some went as visitors, as travellers; 
I as a sojourner, as a fellow hunter and labourer, go 



230 Letters from an American Farmer 

determined industriously to work up among them such 
a system of happiness as may be adequate to my future 
situation, and may be a sufficient compensation for all 
my fatigues and for the misfortunes I have borne: I 
have always found it at home, I may hope likewise to 
find it under the humble roof of my wigwam. 

O Supreme Being! if among the immense variety of 
planets, inhabited by thy creative power, thy paternal 
and omnipotent care deigns to extend to all the in- 
dividuals they contain ; if it be not beneath thy infinite 
dignity to cast thy eye on us wretched mortals; if my 
future felicity is not contrary to the necessary effects 
of those secret causes which thou hast appointed, 
receive the supplications of a man, to whom in thy 
kindness thou hast given a wife and an offspring: View 
us all with benignity, sanctify this strong conflict of 
regrets, wishes, and other natural passions; guide our 
steps through these unknown paths, and bless our 
future mode of life. If it is good and well meant, it must 
proceed from thee; thou knowest, Lord, our enter- 
prise contains neither fraud, nor malice, nor revenge. 
Bestow on me that energy of conduct now become so 
necessary, that it may be in my power to carry the 
young family thou hast given me through this great 
trial with safety and in thy peace. Inspire me with 
such intentions and such rules of conduct as may be 
most acceptable to thee. Preserve, God, preserve the 
companion of my bosom, the best gift thou hast given 
me: endue her with courage and strength sufficient to 
accomplish this perilous journey. Bless the children 
of our love, those portions of our hearts; I implore thy 
divine assistance, speak to their tender minds, and 
inspire them with the love of that virtue which alone 
can serve as the basis of their conduct in this world, 
and of their happiness with thee. Restore peace and 
concord to our poor afiiicted country; assuage the fierce 



Distresses of a Frontier Man 231 

storm which has so long ravaged it. Permit, I beseech 
thee, Father of nature, th;,t our ancient virtues, and 
our industry, may not be totally lost: and that as a 
reward for the great toils we have made on this new 
land, we may be restored to our ancient tranquillity, 
and enabled to fill it with successive generations, that 
will constantly thank thee for the ample subsistence 
thou hast given them. 

The unreserved manner in which I have written 
must give you a convincing proof of that friendship and 
esteem, of which I am sure you never yet doubted. As 
members of the same society, as mutually bound by 
the ties of affection and old acquaintance, you certainly 
cannot avoid feeling for my distresses; you cannot 
avoid mourning with me over that load of physical and 
moral evil with which we are all oppressed. My own 
-,hare of it I often overlook when I minutely contemplate 
all that hath befallen our native country. 



NOTES 

NOTE I. The Title-page, Advertisements, and Dedication. 
The author's use of the name " J. Hector St. John " is dis- 
cussed in our Introduction and in Note III. The title-page 
of the first French edition (two volumes) is as follows: 
LETTRES d'un CULTIVATEUR Americain, ECRITES 
A. W. S. ECUYER, Depuis VAnnee 1770, jusqu'd 1781. 
Traduites de 1'Anglois par * * * A Paris, chez Cuchet, 
Libraire, rue & hotel Serpente. MDCCLXXXIV. The 
second edition of this French paraphrase runs to three 
volumes, with maps and engravings, and is dated 1787. 
There is an English motto Keen feelings inspire resistless 
thoughts as well as a Latin one ; the Lettres are not ecrites but 
addresees to " W. S. Ecuyer " who now appears as " Wm. 
S. . .on. Esqr." Crevecceur's loyalist friend at New York, 
William Seaton, is thus indicated. 

The " advertisements " which appear in the English edition 
of the Letters are omitted in the French. The dedication to 
the Abbe Raynal (1713-1796) is replaced by a dedication to 
the Marquis de Lafayette the generous young friend of 
Washington, whose fame in America was never dimmed by 
the failures of his later years. Raynal was an indefatigable 
hack-writer of liberal sentiments ; he had talent, but scarcely 
deserved Crevecceur's eulogy. His Histoire Philosophique et 
politique des etablissemens et du commerce des Europeens dans 
les deux Indes (1770), referred to (page 5), and his subsequent 
Tableau de la Revolution des colonies Anglaises de V Amerique 
Septentrionale , have little value as history (see Note V.). 

NOTE II. Hazlitt and Grimm on Crevec&ur. William 
Hazlitt's remarks on the American Farmer, referred to in 
the Intrcduction, are found in his essay on " American 
Literature: Dr. Charming," in the Edinburgh Review of 
October 1829. They are reproduced in the tenth volume of 
his Collected Works, ed. Waller and Glover ( J. M. Dent & Co., 
i M 233 



234 Letters from an American Farmer 

1904). A French translation of this essay was published in 
the Revue Britannique of January 1832, and the essay is 
quoted by Philarete Chasles in his Etudes sur la Litterature ct 
les M&urs des Anglo- Americains (Paris, 1851). 

It would be easy to collect such French criticism as the 
book received, but Grimm's remarks (Correspondance, ed. 
Tourneaux, xiv. 88), made in January 1785, must suffice: 

" This book, written without method and without art, but 
with a high degree of interest and sensibility, perfectly fulfils the 
object that the author seerns to have proposed: that of making 
America loved. There are to be found in it minute details, very 
common truths, repetitions, and lengthy passages; but it 
attracts by its simple and true pictures, and by its expression 
of an honest soul." 

NOTE III. Crevecceur 's Name, Faith) and Offspring. In a 
letter to Franklin (see Note IX.) Crvecoeur explains how he 
came to call himself St. John. The life of the American 
Farmer by his great-grandson, Robert de Crevecceur (Saint- 
Jean de Crevecceur : Sa Vie et ses Ouvrages, Paris, 1883) 
informs us that his descendants possess his marriage cer- 
tificate, dated September 30, 1769. Herein our author is 
named Michel-Guillaume Saint- Jean; in the act of baptism, 
one of his children is " Michel-Guillaume Saint- John de 
Crevecoeur, otherwise named Saint- John." {t If," writes 
Robert de Crevecceur, " the name of Saint- John was to him 
but a kind of pseudonym, it became the legal name of his 
children all three of them born in America." Crevecceur's 
marriage to Mehetable (Mahetable) Tippet, daughter of 
Isaac Tippet, high sheriff of Westchester County, New York, 
said to have sprung of Huguenot stock, 1 was performed by 
Rev. J. P. Tetard, a clergyman of the French Reformed 
Church, formerly of Charleston, S.C., later of New York 
City. Crevecceur had been brought up by the Jesuits, but 
his Catholicism was lukewarm, as might be suspected from 
the fact that he established such cordial relations with 
Madame d'Houdetot, who was, besides, a friend of his father 
before him (see Notes IX. and X.). Prof. Moses Coit Taylor, 
in his Literary History of the American Revolution (New York, 
1897; ii. 348), regards it as probable that Crevecceur became 
a member of the Society of Friends, as does Professor Trent 

1 Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, xxx., p. 257. 



Notes 235 

in tiie work already cited. There is no evidence of this, 
unless we accept his high regard for Quakers and Quakerism 
as such. Crevecceur's two sons seem to have been brought 
up as Catholics; his daughter alone, to whom was given 
the high-sounding name Frances-America (1770-1823), was 
educated as a Protestant, and married a Protestant Count 
Louis Otto, born in P>aden in 1754, and christened Ludwig 
Wilhelm Otto. This gentleman was a member of the French 
Legation in the United States from 1779. Of the sons, the 
elder, William Alexander "Ally" died without issue; 1 
the younger, Philippe-Louis, had one son, Guillaume- 
Alexandre Saint-John de Crevecceur, whose son, Robert 
Saint- John de Crevecceur, was born in 1833, was an auditor 
of the French Council of State, and wrote the biography of 
his great-grandfather cited in these notes. A son of M. 
Robert de Crdvecceur is still living at Paris. 

NOTE IV. On the Situation, etc., of an American Farmer. 
One drawback of this situation, suggested by an English 
traveller see Travels in America 100 Years Ago, by Thomas 
Twining, in the reprint (New York, 1894; pp. 65, 98) was 
the scarcity of such labour as the blacksmith's or baker's. 
Neither trade was represented in the stretch of country 
one day's ride between Baltimore and Georgetown: this in 
1796. "And as for medical assistance in case of sickness 
or accident amongst the scattered inhabitants, there was 
apparently none whatever." Twining comments: 

" The lew farm-houses visible were also formed by bars or 
logs of wood, covered with laths and plaster. The situation 

1 From Paris, in 1791, Crevecceur addressed to " Monsieur Short, 
charg6 d* Affaires of ye Congress " (see Note IX.), a letter dated 
December 17, much too long to be reproduced, though it shows a 
touching interest in advancing " Ally's " fortunes. Crevecoeur desires 
Short to apply to the French Minister of the Interior, M. Cahier de 
Gerville, petitioning for the boy's admission to the Ecole des Fonts et 
Chaussees at Paris, " for many years past one of the best in Europe." 
There are but two ways of being admitted, Crdvecoour writes, " the 
first is that of Elfoes Intended to serve in that usefull corps; ye Second 
is that of young Foreigners recommended by their Ministers." His 
son is, he adds, " tho' the son of a Frenchman, yet in true and legal 
sense of ye word a native of the State of New York; and subject 
therefore of ve United States of America." Crevecceur encloses a 
form to be followed by Short in making the application: it was given 
to him by the Administrator of the School, M. de la Mill tore. These 
documents are found at the Library of Congress, in Washington. 



236 Letters from an American Farmer 

of the inhabitants of these sequestered dwellings did not appear 
very enviable, though it doubtless had its charms, or its recom- 
penses at least. Every first settler in a new country labours 
less for the present than for the future, for himself than for 
his posterity, and it is this honourable consciousness that 
invigorates his toil, cheers his solitude, and alleviates his 
privations." 

This is so fair a statement that it deserves extended 
quotation. Professor W. P. Trent of Columbia University, 
in his History of American Literature (New York, 1903), 
suggests that Crvecceur may have been responsible for the 
evil fortunes of 500 Norman families that emigrated to Ohio 
and founded the town of Gallipolis. This familiar charge 
may be traced to Volney in his Tableau des Etats-Unis (Paris, 
1803). As early as 1783 an Englishman, Rev. Samuel 
Ayscough, attacked Cr^vecceur in a pamphlet which expressed 
alarm lest his book should encourage emigration from Eng- 
land. The pamphlet bears the impressive title: Remarks on 
the Letters from an American Farmer ; or a Detection of the 
Errors of Mr. J . Hector Saint John ; Pointing out the Per 
nicious Tendency of These Letters to Great Britain (London : 
John Fielding). 

True, Crevecceur boasts in the last of his Letters that he 
has " caused upwards of an hundred and twenty families to 
remove thither; " true, he writes that American laws are 

" Simple and just, we are a race of cultivators, our cultivation 
is unrestrained, and therefore everything is prosperous and 
flourishing." 

Crevecceur makes notable reservations, none the less, and in 
his later book, Voyage dans la Haute Pensylvanie (sic), he 
adds: 

" They are mistaken, who believe that they will enrich them- 
selves by agriculture; they will not enrich themselves in these 
northern states. The seasons are too rapid, the winters too 
long, and labour still too costly; it procures to those who are 
industrious ease and abundance. ... It is indispensable to 
know the nature and quality of the soils." (I. 62-63; see also 
II. I97-) 

Benjamin Franklin, in a sprightly pamphlet, probably 
written in September 1782, sought to correct ''Ambitious 
Ideas or Expectations of what was to be found in America." 



Notes 237 

" He finds it is imagined by Numbers that the inhabitants 
of North America are rich, capable of rewarding and disposed 
to reward all sorts of Ingenuity; that they are at the same 
time ignorant of all the sciences and, consequently, that Strangers, 
possessing Talents in the Belles-lettres, fine arts, &c., must be 
highly esteemed, and so well paid, as to be easily rich themselves. 
. . . That the Governments too, to encourage Emigration from 
Europe, not only pay the Expence of personal Transportation 
but give Land gratis to Strangers with Negroes to work for them, 
Utensils of Husbandry and Stocks of Cattle. These are all 
Imaginations." 

Instead, happy mediocrity prevails, rather than extreme 
poverty or wealth. The only " gentlemen " in America are 
those described in the following " Observation of a Negro ": 

" Boccarorra (meaning the white men) make de black man 
workee, make de Horse workee, make de Ox warkee, make 
eberyting workee: only de Hog. He, de hog, no workee; he 
eat, he drink, he walk about, he go to sleep when he pleases, 
he libb like a gentleman." 

In short, America is the land of labour, and by no means, 
according to Franklin, " the French Pays de Cocagne, where 
the streets are said to be paved with half-baked loaves, the 
houses til'd with Pancakes, and where the Fowls fly about, 
ready roasted, crying, Come, eat me ! " 

The author of this satire on the would-be lotus-eaters of 
the West wrote to Crevecoeur in 1788 that the 

" favourable Light in which you have so kindly plac'd our 
country will I am persuaded have the good Effect of inducing 
many worthy European characters to remove and settle among 
us, the Acquisition of whom will be greatly advantageous 
to us." 

To a " prospective emigrant " Franklin wrote in recom- 
mendation of the Letters from an American Farmer : 

" As I know the author to be an observing, intelligent man 
I suppose the information to be good so far as it goes," 

But the book was not a guide or piece of propaganda, and it 
would be a mistake so to consider it. It doubtless had more 
to do with the Pantisocracy scheme of Southey and Coleridge 
than with European emigration. Southey 's letters to 
Grosvenor C. Bedford (Bath, December 14, 1793, and August 



238 Letters from an American Farmer 

i, 1794) are worth reading in this connection (Life and 
Correspondence, London, 1849; l - J 96, 216); so to Coleridge's 
letter to Southey, written from London, September 6, 1794: 

" 2000 will do ... twelve men may easily clear 300 acres 
in 4 or 5 mos . . . every possible assistance will be given us; 
we may get credit for the land for 10 yrs. or more, as we settle 
upon." 

This is the letter in which Coleridge writes that a schoolboy- 
friend who had spent five years in America " never saw a bison 
in his life, but had heard of them; they are quite backwards. 
The mosquitoes are not so bad as our gnats." 

NOTE V. What is an American. It would be diverting 
to contrast Cre"vecceur's remarks on the religious sects of 
America with Voltaire's on the English sects, in his Lcttres 
philosophiques ; but perhaps it is more profitable to refer to 
the Memoire sur les relations commerciales des Etats-unis 
avec V Angleterre, drawn up by Talleyrand, and quoted by 
Air. Bernard de Lacombe in Talleyrand the Man (London, 
1911; pp. 83-84). Talleyrand's American exile occurred in 
1794. He exclaimed at the " perfect calm " in which the 
sects existed side by side: " In the same house, father, 
mother, and children peacefully follow without opposition 
the form of worship which each one prefers ! " The ex- 
Archbishop-Duke of Rheims, the future Cardinal-Archbishop 
of Paris, concludes : 

" The liberty, and above all the equality of all forms of 
worship, is one of the strongest guarantees of social tranquillity ; 
for where consciences are respected, other rights cannot fail to 
be respected likewise." 

Crevecceur writes, in this chapter " What is an American " 
(p. 43), that in Nova Scotia the population is very thin, 
though 

" some parts of it flourished once, and it contained a mild harm- 
less set of people. But for the fault of a few leaders, the whole 
were banished. The greatest political error committed in 
America was to cut off men from a country which wanted 
nothing but men! " 

The story of the " French Neutrals " of Nova Scotia has 
been often told: generally from a prejudiced standpoint. 



Notes 239 

Some of the materials for the historian of their misfortunes 
are found in Galerm's Relation of the Misfortunes of the French 
Neutrals as laid before the Assembly of the Province of Penn- 
sylvania (Philadelphia, 1756). The author was one of the 
Acadian exiles, and describes the plight of those sent to 
Philadelphia. Francis Parkman's Pioneers of France in the 
New World, part one (Boston, 1899), gives some of the facts 
as to their deportation. Judge Haliburton's History of Nova 
Scotia (1829) states the British side of the case. Crdvecceur's 
friend, the unfrocked Jesuit Raynal, sentimentalises the 
political issues and hardships involved in volume five of his 
History of Settlements and Trade in the East and West Indies 
(London, 1798), a mere compilation. See Archibald 
MacMechan's instructive essay, " Evangeline and the Real 
Acadians," in the Atlantic Monthly (Boston), February 1907. 

NOTE VI. The Island of Nantucket, etc. In the eighteenth- 
century editions of the Letters, maps of Nantucket and 
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, are included. In this 
edition, since the maps are omitted, we omit also the following 
sentence: " A table of references to the map is added below " 
and the table itself (page 102 of the London, 1782, edition; 
corresponding to page 92 of the present volume). One other 
change we have made in our text: we have amended the 
indications of the position of Nantucket, whicli Cr^vecceur 
would have his readers believe to lie north of Boston! 
Though certain changes are made in the second edition of 
the Letters (London, 1783), Crvecceur failed to correct 
these curious errors. 

Crvecceur's statements about the opium eating of Nan- 
tucket Islanders are curious indeed. There is no evidence 
to substantiate them. In the ' ' Proceedings of the Nantucket 
Historical Association/' Eleventh Annual Meeting, July 18, 
1905, page 43, there is an article entitled " An American 
Farmer's Letters from Nantucket." The anonymous con- 
tributor of this article says that a copy of the first edition of 
Cr^vecoeur's book is found in the Nantucket Library, and 
that there are annotations by various hands, among them, 
and principally, that of the late F. C. Sanfprd, who protests 
against the opium statement. " He believes it to have 
grown out of a magnified story of a man well known as a 



240 Letters from an American Farmer 

gossip and who was an opium eater by his own admission, the 
only one so known on the island." " A lie without a shade 
of foundation " is the strong statement of another annotator. 
A third, thought to be Mr. Sanford again, says : " Dr. Tucker 
or Tupper had told the author Cr^vecoeur that the custom 
prevailed/' while it is unmistakably Mr. Sanford who writes: 
" It was only an old man's whim, and none other on the 
island." 

NOTE VII. On snakes, etc. Crevecceur, the amateur 
naturalist, deserves a book all to himself. It is noteworthy 
that in expanding his Letters for French readers (to no good 
purpose otherwise) he added pages of natural description 
and anecdote. It is scarcely necessary to examine into the 
absolute accuracy of all his observations ; both in the present 
volume and in his three-volume Voyage dans la Haute 
Pensylvanie (sic) et dans lEtat de New York (Paris, 1801), he 
is at least far less preposterous than such an arrant " nature- 
faker " as the English traveller, John Josselyn, whose New 
England s Rareties Discovered (London, 1672) is one of the 
jests of colonial literature. 

Crevecceur credits his Voyage, on the title-page, to "an 
adopted member of the Oneida Nation." He professes to 
translate this book from a manuscript written in English, 
found in the custom-house at Copenhagen. He tells us that 
the manuscript was saved from the wreck of the Morning 
Star outbound from Philadelphia. This Voyage is a work of 
slight worth; although translated into German and Dutch, 
it does not seem to have been reprinted. The book describes 
travels in America more extensive than any we positively 
know Crevecceur to have made: here he set an example for 
Chateaubriand to follow! And that Chateaubriand was 
familiar with Cr6vecceur's Letters there is sufficient evidence 
in the letter which he addressed to Fontanes, October 2, 1801, 
shortly before publishing his Genius of Christianity : " You 
see, my dear friend, my eagerness to serve you. I send you 
my rimes of the Ohio and I give them a title, which presents 
them as a simple extract from the work of M. de Crevecceur " 
(Correspondence General?, Paris, 1812; i. 57). 

Since Chateaubriand is, from a literary point of view, the 
most noteworthy of European travellers in America during 



Notes 241 

the eighteenth century, it is interesting to compare with his 
highly imaginative descriptions of the bison and the Missis- 
sippi Basin Crvecceur's practical thoughts on the same 
subjects. In the first volume of Cre" vecceur's Voyage (pp. 529 
fL) is supplied a note on the " Buffaloes and the Savannas ": 

" Before the whites crossed the Alleghanys and founded the 
colonies of Tennessee, Kentucky, etc., considerable troops of 
buffaloes or bisons appeared in the natural prairies of these vast 
regions; and multiplied prodigiously; but for several years 
no more of them has been seen : a great part has been destroyed 
and the others, fleeing so redoubtable an enemy, have crossed 
the Mississippi and rejoined their kind in the great grassy plains 
which stretch from the west bank of this river to unknown 
distances." 

Instead of indulging in picturesque descriptions of the 
buffaloes, Crevecceur exclaims at the stupidity of the 
" American nations " in not having tried to domesticate the 
animal. The Indians' failure to seize upon this idea suggests 
to him " that their intellectual organisation is inferior to that 
of the European and Asiatic nations." 

Some of the natural history recorded in Crevecceur 's 
ravage deserves perpetuation. Thus a note to the second 
volume (pp. 396-397) gives astonishing information as to the 
monches luisantes, or fireflies: 

" They much resemble bees in color and size: like scarabs, 
they have two pairs of wings . . . when they fly, they develop 
a third set whence issue rays of light, which give to the lower 
and posterior part of their bodies the appearance of a lighted 
coal. . . . They do no harm and never rise to more than four 
or six feet above the ground. One can catch them easily and 
make use of them as a reading light." 

NOTE VIII. John Bertram, Botanist (1699-1777). Crve- 
cceur uses the orthography of the Scottish branch of the 
Bartram family, which none of the Pennsylvanians ever 
used. The house of the sturdy Quaker naturalist still stands, 
in West Philadelphia; part of his Botanic Garden l is pre- 
served as a city park: for no longer do farms surround it. 

1 " . . . He was, perhaps, the first Anglo-American who conceived the 
idea of establishing a BOTANIC GARDEN for the reception and cultiva- 
tion of the various vegetables, native of the country, as well as of 
exotics; and of travelling for the discovery and acquisition of them." 
William Bartram (his son, likewise a distinguished naturalist and 
traveller) ; see Memorials of John Bartram, etc., by William Darlington 
(Philadelphia, 1849). 



242 Letters from an American Farmer 

Though Cr^vecoeur's account of Bartram is, in general, 
accurate enough, he was mistaken in making him say, " My 
father was a Frenchman/* A remote ancestor is said to have 
" come with William the Conqueror " into England, " and 
settled in the north; " but that was as near as Bartram came 
to owning French allegiance. Cr^vecoeur represents a 
Russian gentleman, Mr. Iwan Al . . . z (Alexiowitz), as having 
paid the visit described; but one suspects that he himself 
was the " Russian gentleman." Certainly Bartram fulfils 
in many ways the requirements of an ideal portrait of the 
American Cultivator. Bartram's Observations on the In- 
habitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, etc., 
in his Travels from Pennsilvania (sic) to Onondago, Oswego, 
and the Lake Ontario in Canada, was published at London in 
1751. The travels of his son William Bartram were a source 
for Coleridge in England and for Chateaubriand in France. 

NOTE IX. Crevec&urs Correspondents. The author of 
Letters from an American Farmer was not brilliant in private 
correspondence. He was none the less favoured in his friend- 
ships. Some of his letters those, for example, to Ethan 
Allen, the Vermont patriot have not yet been discovered 
by students of his life. There is, however, in the Library 
of Congress, at Washington, a formidable budget of letters 
addressed to Allen's fellow-countrymen. Givecceur's three 
epistles to George Washington are purely formal and con- 
gratulatory rather too much so. More interesting is the 
correspondence with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin 
Franklin. 

Cr^vecoeur's acquaintance with Franklin he owed to the 
kindly Madame d'Houdetot (see Note X.). In the summer 
of 1781 this lady sent to Franklin a letter, preserved in the 
Library of the Pennsylvania Historical Society at Phila- 
delphia,, an English translation of a portion of which follows: 

" I was given to hope in the Spring, my dear Doctor, that I 
should sec you some day at Sanois. . . . May I, my dear Doctor, 
make use of it [your good opinion] in regard to a young American 
who has just arrived and who should have been presented and 
recommended to you before? He is a Frenchman by birth, 
but for a long time has been established in your country, under 
the protection of your laws, to which he is faithful. His name 
is Crevecoeur, and he is the son of a friend, of more than twenty 
years' standing, of my husband and myself. . . ." 



Notes 243 

This letter was written from Paris, August 10, 1781. 
With it is preserved a letter from Cr^vecceur himself, indited 
a fortnight later: 

" CAKN, zftth August, 1781. 

" SIR, Chance Enabled me the other day to take 5 Americans 
by ye hand who had fortunately escaped from ye English prisons 
& Crossed the Channell, Luckily for me as well as for them 
I was Just arrived from N. America, where I have resided 27 
years I brought them to my father's Seat, who Tells me that 
lie had Several Times the pleasure of dining with you at the 
Count de Houdctot's the Capt. of ye boat readily brought 
them here, and presented them to ye Count de Blanchy the 
Commandant of this Province, who received them with Kindness 
and left them under my care they gave their declarations 
before the admiralty, & were duly acknowledg'd to be Americans 
as they are genteel discreet men from the Massachusetts I 
have placed them in a good House and procured them the 
Hospitality of the City all went on well when I heard that 
their boat belonged of right to the Duke of Penthievre In 
consequence of this Information I visited the Intendent's, who 
Told me that if 1 wrote a petition in their name to the admiral, 
he would Inclose it in a Letter of his & recommend the contents; 
this I have done & thought it my duty to send you a Copy of ye 
Same, that you may if necessary unite your good Endeavours 
in order to procure to the 5 brave men the Slender Plank on 
which they have reached this shore however, as it is uncertain, 
whether or no the Ravens of office will not Swallow all I have 
procured them all they want one of the Company Luckily 
heard Yesterday that his brother was the Second in Command 
on board the black Princess him I have sent off by the Post 
with a Sufficient Passeport the other intend for L'orient as 
soon as they have heard from you that space of Time they shall 
pass at my Father's house 

The adventure of these Men as well as that of many more 
who have Landed here, hath Suggested me an Idea which I beg 
to Communicate Policy as well as humanity points out the 
Necessity ot appointing m these Ports some Persons who should 
have proper authority to claim protect and befriend all such 
Americans as should Land on this Coast by those simple Means 
those people would find protection everywhere & not be exposed 
as many of them are to be treated as English prisoners, which 
Treatment Tends to Nourish prejudices, that ought to be 
extinguished if from the Information you might receive of me 
from the Count de Houdetot you thought me capable of dis- 
charging this office I'd readily accept of it without either fee or 
Reward, glad on the contrary as a good Frenchman and as a 
good American to contribute my Mite towards the Success ol 
this grand this usefull revolution Excuse this Letter it is zeal 
and the purest zeal which hath dictated it ; with so much the more 



244 Letters from an American Farmer 

confidence that tho' I have not the pleasure of being acquainted 
with you, yet I well know Mr. John Jay now in Spaign, Mr. 
Governor Morris, Mr. Duwane &c. & all the New York delegates 
I hope the representations these 5 Americans have made you 
will be Successfull, for they are worthy of your patronage. I 
hope also that you will approve my conduct and Intentions. 
" I Remain with the most unfeigned Respect 
" Your very Humble Servant 

" ST. JOHN. 
" At Mr. Le Mozier Merely, Rue St. Jean." 

Acknowledgment of this long letter was promptly made 
by the learned Doctor (Passy, September 2, 1781). A draft 
of the letter, filed away at Washington, is addressed to 
" M. St. John, chez M. Le Mozier, Marchand, Rue St. Jean, 
Caen, Normandie," and offers thanks for the other's kindness. 
There is, says Franklin, " no doubt of the Success of their 
Petition relating to their Boat, the same case having hap- 
pened several Times, and such Requests always readily 
comply'd with by the Goodness of the Due de Penthi^vre." 
Franklin offers to reimburse Crevecceur if he has disbursed 
any money on account of the Americans, and adds: 

" I am much oblig'd by your offer of continuing your kind 
Offices towards our People who may hereafter arrive in your 
Parts. The Congress lately sent out a Consul General for France, 
with Power of Appointing Sub-Consuls in the different Ports. 1 
The Vessel was unfortunately lost with all on board: But it 
is probable his Place will soon be Supply'd. On his Arrival 
I shall acquaint him with your generous Proposition. With 
great Regard, 

" I have the honour to be, etc." 

Crevecceur's answer to this letter seems not to have been 
preserved; but in the same collection at Washington is found 
the draft of a second letter from Franklin, written at Passy, 
September 21, 1781. This letter is printed in A. H. Smythe's 
monumental Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (New 
York, 1905-1907), viii. 308. In the course of it, Franklin 
says : 

" Made, la Comtesse d'Houdetot has warmly recommended 
to me a M. Crevecoeur who had lived long in America. Please 
to informe me if you are the same Person." 

1 As Franklin informed Crevecoeur in his next letter, the person 
thus appointed was Colonel William Palfrey (1741-1780), a former 
aide to General Washington, and Paymaster-General. 



Notes 245 

Both Madame d'Houdetot and Cr^vecoeur himself hastened 
to assure Dr. Franklin that St. John and Crvecceur were one 
and the same individual. As he had been so long absent 
from France, the former had " no personal knowledge of him " 
at this date, but had " always heard him well spoken of by 
his father, and it is for his sake, my dear Doctor, that I claim 
your kindness for his son. I know that he is very much 
attached to the United States, and that no one has felt more 
than he the calamities attendant upon the present war." 
Crevecceur's letter may well be reproduced at length: 

11 CAEN, September 26, 1781. 

" SIR, Yes Sir I am the Same Person whom Madame La 
Comtesse de Houdetot has been so kind as to mention to you. 
the Reason of this mistake proceeds from the Singularity of ye 
french Customs, which renders their Names, allmost arbitrary, 
& often leads them to forget their Family ones; it is in Conse- 
quence of this, that there are more alias dictios in this than in 
any other Country in Europe. The name of our Family is St. Jean, 
in English St. John, a name as Antient as the Conquest of 
England by Wm. the Bastard. 

" I am so great a Stranger to the manners of this, tho' my 
native Country (having quitted it very young) that I Never 
dreamt I had any other, than the old family name I was 
greatly astonished when at my late return, I saw myself under 
the Necessity of being Called by that of Crevecceur. Excuse 
this Tedious explanation, which I hope you will not think 
Improper, as I have run the risk of either remaining unknown 
to you, or of Losing the good effects which were Intended by 
Madame la Comtesse de Houdetot in mentioning me to you 
I don't mean to be Troublesome, very far from it, I am much 
more ambitious of ye Honor of your Esteem than of any thing 
else; I flatter myself with being able to Cultivate that of your 
acquaintance this Winter being invited to spend [letter torn] 
Le Marquis de Turgot's house brother to yc Late Comptrolleur 
general the Intendant of the City has thought proper to write 
to ye Insignificant admiralty of Bayeux, in consequence of which 
I have been put in possession of ye wherry in which the 5 ameri- 
cans Came over; this has prevented the Intendant from Sending 
to ye admiral the Memorial, a copy of which I had taken the 
Liberty to send you. No sooner had I received the wherry 
than I offered it to ye Intendant who accepted of it as soon 
as he make me some pecuniary Present, which I expect, I have 
informed my friends at Lorient to draw on me for the Sum 
granted whatever it will be I have not Seen the Intendant yet. 
" Poor Colol. Palfry I am Sincerely sorry for him; after having 
served his Country in the field, he wou'd have greatly have 



246 Letters from an American Farmer 

Served her here also, where such an Establishment is so Neces- 
sary I earnestly wish them another equally capable may 
succeed him the English Language being Common to both 
the Americans as well as to the Inhabitants of Great Britain 
the former become often Exposed to be Treated as Ennemies 
Instead of being taken by the hand & received as Friends 

" I thank you very kindly for your recommendations, I make 
no doubt of their Weight 

" I have the honor to be with unfeigned Respect Sir 

" Your Very Humble Sci vant 

" ST. JOHN DE CREVECCEUR. 

" Chez Mr. Le Mozier Marchd. Rue St. Jean, Caen." 

Again addressing Dr. Franklin from Caen, December 5, 
1781, Crevecoeur expresses joy at the successes of the Ameri 
cans under General Washington, and in a postscript adds: 

" The Americans who escaped from England last summer 
are happily embark' d at Nantes for Newberry m the State of 
Massachusetts." 

A letter of Madame d'Houdetot, addressed to Franklin from 
Sanois, October 18, 1782, refers to a presentation copy of 
these American Letters, about whose receipt Crevecoeur had 
expressed concern. A letter of Franklin's, dated February 
1 6, 1788, extends cordial thanks to Crevecoeur for a copy of 
this " excellent work " (evidently the French edition of 1787), 
as well as for t( the honourable mention you have been so 
good as to make of me in it." 

Franklin was not, however, Crevecoeur's only friend among 
great Americans. Thomas Jefferson, political philosopher, 
educator, freethinker, and second President of the United 
States, was by the nature of things one of his chief corre- 
spondents. Perhaps the first letter which Crevecoeur 
addressed to Jefferson was the following: l 

" NEW YORK, 23^ January, 1784. 

" SIR, Encourag'd by Mr. le Chevr. de Chastelux whom I saw 
lately in Paris, as well as by several others, French officers, who 
had the Honor of your acquaintance while on this Continent, 
I have been led to hope you'd not refuse giving an answer to the 
Question I take the Liberty of sending you. Give me leave 
to add that I am commissioned to do so by the Minister who is 
at the head of the Nurseries established throughout the Kingdom. 

1 Library of Congress. 



Notes 247 

1\ has been said in France that in some of the remotest settle- 
ments of Virginia or Carolina, Brandy has been distilled from 
Potatoes. 

" That this Root Contains a Spirit as strong as that which is 
obtained from grain is beyond a Doubt; but the Method of 
bringing it, in a State of Fermentation, is What Puzzles the 
Learned Chymists, Spite of the Many Tryals they have Made. 
1 shou'd be most Sincerely thankfull, If I cou'd be Informed 
o: the American Method, through your kind assistance. From 
the Respect with which I have heard your name mentioned as 
wll as from your extensive knowledge & Taste for the Arts & 
Sciences, I can't but hope you'll be Generous enough to com- 
municate [to] me your thoughts on the subject, which is More 
a. Matter of Curiosity than of real or usefull Import. I am like- 
wise commanded to ask you whether the Map of Virginia under- 
taken by subscription before the Revolution has ever been 
eLgrav'd & where it may be had? Least [sic] this shou'd Mis- 
carry through the Imperfection of American Posts, it will be 
torwarded to you by his excellency the Chevr. de la Luserne. I 
have the Honor to be with the Most Sincere Respect and Esteem 
Your very Humble Servt 

" ST. JOHN. 

" French Consul for ye States of N.Y., N.J. & Connecticut." 

When Jefferson projected a voyage from Boston to a 
French port, Crvecceur in New York thus expressed 
himself (July 15, 1784): 

" 1 . . . am glad for your sake that you shou'd have found 
a convenient Vessel, the Capt. of which has engaged to Land 
you on ye Coast of France, but I am afraid you'll set your feet 
on some barbarous coast [?] where you'll find neither Horses 
nor Carriages. . . . 

" I intended to have given you Letters of Introduction to 
several Persons in Paris worthy of your acquaintance & Esteem. 

" I hope you have given orders in Virginia for ye gathering 
of those Seeds which you yourself want and part of which you 
have promised me you'll find them very acceptable in Paris. 

" I beg you'd put Mr. Franklin in Mind of Introducing you 
to ye good duke of La rochefoucauld. He is the pearl of all ye 
Dukes a Good Man & an most able chymist. his House is ye 
center . . . [illegible] where Men of Genius & abilities often 
meet. You have therefore a great right to share his Friendship 
he honours me with his Esteem and Friendship. I write to 
him by this Packet & announce you to him. . . . 

" Maiden Lane No. 20: next door where you boarded." 

The last of the Cr^vecceur-Jefferson letters which we will 
quote is that written from Lorient, July 10, 1790. 

Cr^vecoeur refers in this to v 

i 1 



248 Letters from an American Farmer 

" the rising which is to take place in Paris on the i4th Instant. 
I tremble lest the Good Marquis [the Marquis de Lafayette] 
shou'd not be able to maintain Peace & Good Order among so 
great a concourse of People as will Flock there from every Part 
of ye Kingdom." 

And Crevecceur does not fail to inform his correspondent that 
in Brittany (whence he is writing) " the sparks of the old 
Fanaticism have been kindled by the Priests." 

Other letters of Crevecceur's were addressed to William 
Short a long-lived Virginian (1759-1849), who in 1784 went 
to France as Jefferson's Secretary of Legation. Subsequent)' 
Short held a number of other posts; but he liked Paris so 
well, and was so little inclined to " mend his fences " at 
home, that when, in 1808, President Jefferson nominated him 
to be Minister to Russia, the United States Senate refused to 
confirm his nomination. 

Mr. Short wrote to Crevecceur from Paris on August 6, 
1787 (Crevecceur then acting as French Consul-General at 
New York): 

" Things now appear to approach an important crisis in 
several parts of Europe & particularly m France." * 

Some of Crevecceur's letters to Short 2 are written half in 
English, half in French. As American charge d'affaires at 
Paris, Short seems to have held a high opinion of Crdvecceur's 
value as a correspondent. On July 4, 1790, the diplomatist 
wrote to him to learn something of his impressions of home 
affairs for Crevecceur had recently returned from New 
York: 

" If you were here in Person I should put you to the question 
ordinary and extraordinary I know your turn for observation 
& am sure you have a vast fund of new ideas relative to the 
United States. I wish your countrymen legislators here would 
take lessons from you on the business of making a revolution 
& forming a constitution for they are two things that should 
be treated very differently experience has taught us this before 
I wish this country to learn it without a dear - bought 
experience." 

NOTE X. La Comtesse d'Houdetot. Several letters from 
this lady to Benjamin Franklin have been quoted or sum- 
marised in Note IX. Franklin met her in 1782, when 

1 Pennsylvania Historical Society. * Library of Congress. 



Notes 249 

be paid a visit at her country estate at Sanois. She felt 
herself greatly honoured by this attention from one who was 
" all the cry; " she prepared verses which were recited on 
his arrival verses that one of Franklin's American bio- 
graphers describes as " none the less fulsome because they 
were true." But these stanzas interest us chiefly because of 
their self-revelation: 

" Jeune, j'aimai; le temps de mon bel age, 
Ce temps si court, 1' amour soul le remplit. 
Quand j'atteignis la saison d'etre sage, 
Toujours j'aimai ; la raison me le dit. 
Mais 1'age vient, et le plaisir s'envole; 
Mais mon bonheur ne s'envole aujourd'hui; 
Car j'aime toujours, et 1' amour me console, 
Rien n'aurait pu me consoler de lui." 

To quote the chronicler: " The venerable sage (Franklin), 
with his gray hair flowing down upon his shoulders, his staff 
in hand, the spectacles of wisdom on his nose, was the perfect 
picture of true philosophy and wisdom." But Mr. P. E. 
More, an American critic, holds that " the ' sage ' must have 
found his virtue a burden on that day." The ceremony 
closed with the planting of a Virginia locust by the " true 
philosopher." 

It was as an old lady that Franklin knew the Corntesse 
d'Houdetot. Born in 1730, Elisabeth-Francoise-Sophie, 
Comtesse d'Houdetot, was of the family of the Live de Belle- 
garde, and a daughter of a farmer-general. Though the men 
of letters who thronged her salon in the days of her greatness 
praised her beauty no less than her wit, she is said to have 
been cross-eyed and marked by the smallpox. These 
defects did not keep her from marrying the Captain (later 
Lieutenant-General) the Count d'Houdetot: this in 1748. 
The sister-in-law of Madame d'Epinay, she was the intimate 
friend of Rousseau (who has something to say of her in his 
Confessions /) and the Encyclopaedists, as well as of Benjamin 
Franklin. Franklin's own copies of some of his letters to her 
are preserved at Washington in the Congressional Library: 

" PHILA., April 17, 1787. 

" I received in their time my dear Friend's kind Letters of the 
last year. An infinity of Affairs public and private have so 
devour 'd my time, that 1 am become necessarily a bad corres- 



250 Letters from an American Farmer 

pondent. I can however never forget the many Instances of 
your Benevolence and Friendship while I resided in France: 
They have made indelible Impression on my Mind of Gratitude 
and Affection. 

" I wish it had been in my Power to have render'd some 
Service to the Person you recommended to me. But he landed 
far from me in New England, and I have never yet seen him. 
I recommended him to the Governor of that State (Massa- 
chusetts) and have not since heard of him. 

" My Health continues good, my old Malady excepted ; and 
that, thanks to God, does not grow worse; so that I am capable 
of going thro' the Business of the Station to which I was chosen 
for the second year in November last, by the unanimous Vote 
of my Country in the General Assembly of their Representatives. 
And I am happy in my Family, having an affectionate Daughter 
to take care of me, and a Number of her young Children to amuse 
me, with whose pretty Actions & Prattle, and promising Tempers 
and Qualities of Body & Mind, I am extreamly pleased & enter- 
tained. 

" Adieu, my dear & much respected Friend, and believe me 
ever, with sincere & great Esteem and Affection, 

" Your most obedt. humle. Servt. 

" B. FRANKLIN." 

The following letter is undated: 

" I have received several kind Letters from my beloved 
Friend, all of which gave me great Pleasure as they inform'd 
me of your Welfare. The Memory of your Friendship & of the 
happy Hours I pass'd in your Genial Society at Sanois has often 
made me regret the Distance, that makes our ever meeting again 
impossible. I wrote a few lines to you last year, and sent them 
under Cover to M. St. Jean de Crevecoeur, believing him then 
in France, but he arrived here soon after. I hope however that 
my letter may have reach'd you; for as I grow older, I find 
writing more painful; and I never have been more burthen'd 
with Business than since my Return. This however will cease 
in a great degree with, the third & last year of my Presidentship, 
of which near four Months are now spent. The Accounts I have 
heard of the Misunderstandings and Troubles that have arisen 
in the Government of that dear Country in which I pass'd nine 
of the happiest years of my life, gave me a great deal of Pain; 
but I hope all will tend to its Good in the End. We have been 
labouring here to establish a new form of Federal Government 
for all the United States, and there is a Probability of its being 
adopted and carried into Execution, tho' it meets with a good 
deal of Opposition, it being difficult to reconcile and accomodate 
so many different & jarring Interests. If the Project succeeds 
our Government will be more energetic, and we shall be in a 
better condition of being serviceable to our Friends on many 



Notes 251 



future Occasions. Adieu ma chere et toujours aimable Amie; 
and believe me ever 

" Yours most affectionately, 

" B. FRANKLIN." 

The sprightly bluestocking to whom the philosopher wrote 
these letters was herself the author of a few Pensees. She 
survived until 1813. Chateaubriand, in his Memoir es, de- 
scribes meeting Saint-Lambert, author of the Saisons, etc., 
and Madame d'Houdetot in the Marais, ten years before the 
end came: 

" Both represented the opinions and the freedom of days 
gone by, carefully packed up and preserved; it was the i8th 
century dying and married after its own fashion. One need 
but hold on to life for unlawfulness to become lawful. Men 
feel an infinite esteem for immorality because it has not ceased 
to exist, and because time has adorned it with wrinkles. . . . 

" It became difficult to understand certain pages of the 
Confessions when one had seen the object of Rousseau's trans- 
ports. Had Madame d'Houdetot kept the letters which Jean- 
Jacques wrote to her, and which he says were more brilliant 
than those of the Nouvelle Htlo'ise? It A s believed that she 
made a sacrifice of them to Saint-Lambert. . . . 

" She never went to bed without striking the floor three times 
with her slipper and saying, ' Good-night, dear/ to the late 
author of the Saisons. That was what the philosophy of the 
1 8th century amounted to in 1803." 

A letter of Madame de Remusat to her husband, written 
from Sanois, May 12, 1805, says of Madame d'Houdetot: 

"... 1 am convinced that her society would be dangerous 
to a woman of weak character, or to one whose life was not 
happy. Any woman who was hesitating between love and 
virtue would do well to shun her; she is a hundred times more 
dangerous than an utterly corrupt person. She is so peaceful, 
so happy, so free from anxiety as to the next life. It would 
seem that she trusts to the words of the Gospel: ' Her sins, 
which are many, are forgiven : for she loved much.* " 

Another letter from the same correspondent, written toward 
the end of January 1813, reports the death of the octo- 
genarian relict of the eighteenth- century philosophy, and 
remarks on the peacefulness of her old age in spite of political 
storms. " No one could possess more- -I will not say good- 
ness, but kindness than Madame d'Houdetot. Goodness 



252 Letters from an American Farmer 

implies the choice of good as against evil; it perceives the 
evil and forgives it. Madame d'Houdetot never perceived 
evil in any one. . . ." Happy are those who die in their 
illusions ! To the end Madame d'Houdetot enjoyed beautiful 
landscapes and the song of birds; she loved flowers as well 
as verse, and during the Reign of Terror she lived, as Madame 
de R6musat writes, u in the country; her place of retreat 
was respected, her kinsfolk surrounded her with attentions. 
It is quite possible that her only recollections of this time 
were those of the family affection and intimacy, to which 
danger and anxiety gave an unexpected value." 

The better side of Madame d'Houdetot's nature found its 
expression in her relations with the American Farmer, whose 
friend and protector she became, advancing his interests at 
court, and showing for his sons (in the words of Robert 
de Crevecoeur) " a truly maternal tenderness." There seems 
to have been some sort of coolness between Madame 
d'Houdetot and Saint-John de Crevecoeur before the end 
came; when she died, however, her old prote'ge' drew up a 
set of " recollections." 



INDEX 



ALBANY, 67 Cape Pog, 92 

Alexander, 108 Carolinas, the, 54 

Alps, the, () Cat-birds, 33 

America, 14, 4*, 43, 66, 70, 189 j Catholicism, 50 
Americans, the, 19, 41, 43, 44, 48, | Cattle, 28, 29, 56, 8.. 02 

50, 52, 55, 58, 59, 63, 65, 6 9> 73, | Ceres, 12 

H7, 213 
American farmers, 13, 14, 21, 22, 

24, 25, 84 
Atlantic, the, 25, 109, 133 



Bald Eagle, 216 

Barnstable, 92, 107, 109 

Barra Island, 7.s 

Barry's Valley, 98, 153 

Beach grass, 97 

Bears, 30 

Beef, 23 

Bees, 27, 29, 30, 31, 128 

Bee-tree, 32 

Belleisle, Straits of, 116 

Bermudas, 92 

Bertram, John, the Botanist, 182- 

197 

Uethabara, 133 
Bethamia, 133 
Black ducks, 100 
Boston, 92, 93, 104, 107, 109, 134, 

144, 146, 149 
Botany, 183-187 
Bouquet, General, 187 
Brandts, 100 
Brazil, 116, 147 
British America, 44 

Calumet, the, 81 

Calvinism, 50 

Cambridge (Mass.), 104 

Campania, 12 

Canada, 48, 67, 146 

Cape Ann, 107 

Cape Breton, 116 

Cape Charles, 129 

Cape Cod, 91, 94, 104, 106-108 

Cape Fear, 133 



Chapoquidick Island, 118 
Charles Town, 9, 158-160 
Chatham, 107, 109 
Chelsea, 107 
Chesapeak, the, 133 
Chester, county, 67 
Chester, town, 195 
Chilmark, 118 
China, Emperor of, 25 
Cod-fishing, 115 
Connecticut, 28 
Connecticut, river, 107 
Coitou, 93 
Corn, 83, 85 
Costowet, 109 
Cows, 90, 92, 96, 98, 99 
Croskaty, 100 

Danes, the, 116 
Davis's Strait, 116 
Deep, river, 133 
Deer, 30, 51 
Detroit, 105 
Dorchester, 107 
Dort, 49 

Duke's County, 102, 118 
Dutch, the, 41, 43, 49 

Eastham f 107-109 

East Indies, 19 

Edgar Town, 118 

Eel Point, 97 

Elizabeth Island, 92, 102, 118 

England, 8,42, 57, 117 

English, the, 8, 12, 19, 39, 41, 57, 

59, 61, 66, 67, 150, 214 
English farmers, 21 
Erie, lake, 105 
Europe, 39-42, 44, 45, 55-58, 62, 

66, 67, 102, 189 



253 



254 Letters from an American Farmer 



Europeans, 7, 8, 20, 23, 41, 43, 44, 
47, 48, 51, 53, 55, 56, 58, 60, 61, 
65, 67, 69, 87, 102, 105, 106, 108, 

156, 175, 211, 214, 219, 221, 226, 

229 
European settlements, 109 

Falkland Islands, 116 

Falmouth, 106, 107, 118 

F. B., Mr., 10, 13, 14-17, 19 

Fennel, 30 

Fishing, 96-101, 115, 116, 116, 153 

Florida, 187 

Forests, clearing of, 143 

Fowls, 23, 26, 51, 100 

Foxes, 51, 100 

French, the, 41, 48 

Gay- Head, 121 

Georgia, 133 

Germans, the, 41, 59, 61, 62 

Germany, 61, 62 

German Lutherans, 49 

Gibs Pond, 153 

Glasgow, 74, 76 

Great Britain, 66 

Greenock, 74 

Guinea coast, 116, 117 

Harwich, 109 

Hebrides, the, 66 

Hickory, 30 

History of Andrew, the Hebridean, 

68 

History of Queen Elizabeth, 8 
Hogs, 51 
Horses, 90, 100 
Houratonick, 106 
Hudson, river, 107 
Humming birds, 178, 179 
Hungarian peasant, 23 
Hurons, the, 104 
Hyanees, 92, 103, 107, 109 

Indians, the, 52-54, 67, 70, 79-81, 
105, 108, 118, 122, 139, 146, 214, 

2l6, 221, 225 

Indian corn, 93, 109 
Irish, the, 41, 62, 63, 65 
Italy, ii, 156 

Kennebeck, river, 107, 117, 134, 
135 

Labrador, 116 

Lake Chmmplain, 200 



Lima, 158 

London, 8, 14, 117, 149 

Long Pond, the, 97 

Lycurgus, 90 

Lynn, 107 

Manitou, the Great, 227 
Martha's Vineyard, 118, uq 
Masconomeo, 107 
Mashpee, 106, IOQ 
Massachusetts, 48, 107, 121, 134, 

135, 150 

Massachusetts Bay, 102 
Massosoit, 107 
j Matapan, 107 
Maraneck, 67 
Mardiket, 97 
Maryland, 66, 192 
Mebekaudret, the, 107 
Metacomet, 108 
Macomet, 98 
Macomet Pond, 102 
Michigan, lake, 32 
Milton, 107 

Mississippi, rivei, 120, 125 
Mohigume, 107 
Monhauset, 106 
Monongahcla, 135 
Montreal, 146 
Moravians, the, 53, 133 

Nam set, 108, 109 

Nantucket, island of, 89, 93, 99, 

100-103, 109, 117-119, 123, 131, 

133, 144-148 
Nantucket Shoals, 101 
Napouset, 107 
Narragansets, 107 
Narrow Pond, the, 97 
Natticks, 103, 106, 108, 122, 156 
Nausit Indians, 108 
Natisset ? 107, 108 
Navigation of Sir Francis Drake, 8 
Negroes, the, 19, 23, 177 
Neill, Mr. 75, 76 
New England, 55, 64, 119; divine. 

104; missionaries, 107 
Newfoundland, 116 
New Garden, 133, 134 
New Hampshire, 9 
New Jersey, 185 
New Plymouth, 107 
New York, 67, 94 
Niagara, tails of, 105 
Nianticks, 107 
Nipuets, 107 



Index 



255 



Nobscusset, 106-109 I 

North Carolina, 118, 133 | 

North-West River, 133 ; 

Nosset, 108 

Nova Scotia, 40, 42, 88, 120 
Numkeag, 107 

Oby, 198 
Ohio, 32, 134 
Orange County, 133 
Orkneys, the, Go 

Palpus, 97, 99, 150 

Pamet, 108, IOQ 

Paris, 9 

Pashee, IOQ 

Pataxet, 107 

Peach brandy, 71 

Peat, 92 

Pello,'i98 

Penn, William, 49, 7o, 73. l8 ~ 

Pennsylvania, 86, 102, 186, 197 

Pennsylvanians, the, 48, 59, iSr 

Penobscot, 118, 134 

Pequods, 107 

Peru, 158, 161 

Petersburg, 9 

Philadelphia, 71, 72, 7^, 114, 1T 7, 

187, 190, 193 
Philip, 1 08 
Pigeons, 32, 33 
Piskataqua, river, 107 
Pittsburg, 187 
Ploughing, 23, 25, 51 
Plymouth Company, 108 
Pochick Rip, 99, 153 
Poi'asset, 107 
PokAnoket, 107 
Pompey. 9 
Pope, Alexander, 72 
Pork, 23 
Porpoises, 100 
Potatoes, 83, 03 
Potomaket, 109 

Presbyterians, the, 92, 130, 142 
Provence, 109 
Pumpkins, 83, 93 

Quakers, 30, 51, 53, *<>2, 103, 107, 

132, 137, 142 
Quayes, 99, 149 

Red Stone Creek, 135 
Rhode Island, 92 
Robins. 33 



Rome, 8, n, 156 
Russian boor, 23 



Saconasset, 109 

St. Lawrence, Gulf of, 116 

Sapadahock, 134 

Salem, 107, 133, 185 

Sandy Point, 100 

Sangus, 107 

Sankate's Head, 99 

Scootin, 109 

Scotch, the, 41, 62, 63, 65, 66, 08, 

73, 79 

Scotland, 56, 64, 79 
Sharks, 100 
Shawmut, 107 
Sheep, 90 

Sheep pasture titles, 06 
Shemah, 93 

Sherborn, 92, 93, 134, 135, 148 
Siasconcet lot, 99 
Single-horse carts, LH, 145 
Slavery, 160-165, 167-173 
Slave, dreadful punishment of a, 

172, 173 

Smith Point, 97 

Snakes, 174-177, 179-181 

Soccanoket, 106 

Society of Friends, see Quakers 

Soktoowoket, 109 

Solon, 90 

South Carolina, 133 

Squam, 99, 100 

Squashes, 83 

Sterling, Earl of. 103 
! Suecanosset, 107 
| Sufiakatche Beach, 99 
i Suvius, 9 

Swedes, the, 41 

Tarranteens, 107 
Teals, 100 

Tetonkemah lots, 98 
Timber, 91 
Tisbury, 118 
Titicut, 107 
Tobolsky, 198 
Tuckanut Island, 97, 100 
! Turnips, 93 
Turkeys, 100 

Vineyard Island, 102 

Vineyard, the, 106-108, 117, 

135 

Virginia, 54, 66, 187 
Virginians, the, 48, 55 



256 Letters from an American Farmer 



Wamponougs, 107 

Wansutta, 108 

W T asps, 36 

Waquoit, 109 

West Houda, 40, 88 

West Indies, 19, 117 

Wethus, 23 

Whales, 92, 115-117, 122-125, 127, 

130 

Wheat, 56, 143 
Wild cherry trees, 16 



Wild oats, 32 
Wm6simt, 107 
Wuvidiah, 97 
Wolves, 51", 100 
Wood's Hole, 92 
Wilus, 35 

Yadkin, river, 133 
Yale, 15 

Yarmouth, 107, 109 
Yoik, duke of, 103 



EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY 

A LIST OF THE 990 VOLUMES 
ARRANGED UNDER AUTHORS 

Anonymous works are given under titles 
Anthologies, Composite Volumes, Dictionaries, etc., arc 
arranged at the end of the list 



Abbott's Rollo at Work, etc., 275 
Addison's Spectator, 164-7 
Aeschylus' Lyrical Dramas, 62 
Aesop's and Other Fables, 657 
Aimard's The Indian Scout, 428 
Aiusworth'B Tower of London, 400 
Old St. Paul's, 522 
,, Windsor Castle, 760 
The Admirable Orichton, 80 L 
,. Rook wood, 870 
A 1C era pis '& Imitation of Christ, 484 
Alcott's Little Women and Good 

Wives, 248 
Little Men, 512 
Alpine Olub: Peaks, Passes, and 

Glaciers, 778 
Andersen's Fairy Tales, 4 

More Fairy Tales, 822 
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 621 
Alison's Voyasrea, 510 
Aquinas'B (Thomas), Selected 

Writings, 953 
Aristophanes' AcharoianR, ete., 344 

Frogs, etc... 516 
Aristotle's Ethics, 547 

Politics, 605 
,, Poetics, and Demetrius 

on Style, etc., 901 
Arnold's (Matthew) Essays, 115 
Pooms, 334 
Study of Celtic Literature, 

etc., 458 

Aucassin and Nicole tte, 497 
Augustine's (St.) Confessions, 200 

(St.) City of God, 982-3 
Aurelius' (Marcus) Meditations, 9 
Aust^iiV (Jane) Sense and Sensi- 
bility, 21 

Pride and Prejudice, 22 
Mansfield Park, 23 
Emma, 24 

Northanger Abbey, and 
Persuasion, 2f> 

Bacon's Essays, 10 

,, Advancement of Learning. 

719 

Bagehot's Literary Studies, 520, 521 
Baker's (Sir S. W.) Cast up by the 

Sea, 539 
Ballantyne'B Coral Island, 245 

Martin Rattler, 246 
,, Ungava, 276 

Balzac's Wild Ass's Skin, 26 

Eueenie Grandet, 169 
Old Goriot, 17 
Atheist's Moss, etc., 229 
Christ in Flanders, etc., 
284 



Balzac's The Chouana, 285 

Quest of the Absolute, 280 
Cat and Racket, etc., 349 
Catherine de Medici, 419 
Cousin Pone, 463 
The Country Doctor, 530 
llise and Fall of O6sar 

Birottcan, 59R 
Lost IBnsionB. G56 
The Country Parson, fiSfi 
Ursule Mirouet, 733 
BarbuRse'a Under I 1 ] re, 798 
Baroa's (Mme C. cie ia) Life in 

Mexico, 664 
Batos's Naturalist on the Amazons, 

440 
Baxter's (Richard) Autobiography, 

868 
Beaumont and Fletcher's Selected 

Plays, 506 

Beaumont's (Mary) Joan Seaton, 597 
Bede's Eccle^usticaJ History, 479 
Belloc's Stones, Essays, nud Poems, 

94$ 

Belt's Naturalist in Nioamjrna, 561 
Bennett's The Old Wires' Tale, 919 
Berkeley's (Bishop) Principles of 
Human Knowledge, New Theory 
of Vision, etc.. 483 
Berlioz (Hector), Life of. 601] 
Binns's Life of Abraham Lincoln, 

783 

Bjoruson's Plays, 625, 696 
Blackmore'a Lonia Doone, 304 
SprinirhaYen, 350 

Blnckwell's Pioneer Work for 

Women, 667 

Klalre's Poems and Prophecies, 792 
Bligh's A Book of the 'Bounty,' 950 
Boccaccio's Decameron, 845, 846 
Boehme's The Signature of All 

Things, etc., 569 

Bonaventura's The Little Flowers, 
The Life of St. Francis, etc., 485 
Borrow'8 Wild Wales, 49 

Lavenffro, 119 
,, Romany Rye, 120 
Bible in Spain, 151 
.> Gypaies in Spain, 697 
BoswcH's Life of Johnson, 1 , 2 

,, Tour to the Hebrides, 387 
Boult'e Asgard and Norso Heroes, 

689 

Boyle's The Sceptical Caymist, 559 
Bright's (John) Speeches, 252 
Bronte's (A.) The Tenant of Wildfell 

Hall, and Agnes Grey, 085 
Bronte's (C.) Jane Eyre, 287 
Shirley, 288 



Tbt Publishes regrtt that some of the vtbtmss are out of print. 
A Siltrted IMt is avtiUhU showing volurms in stack. 



BrontC's (O.) Villette, S51 

The Professor, 417 
lirontc's (E.) Wuthering Heights, 

Hrown's (Dr. John) Ra-b and His 

Friends, etc.. 11C 

Browne's (Fiancee) Granny's Won- 
derful Chair. 112 
Browne's (Sir Thos.) Religrio Medici, 

etc., 92 

Browning's Poems, 1833-44, 41 
1844-64, 42 
,. 1871-JK), 964 
The King & tho Book, 502 
Buchanan's Life and Adventures of 

Audubon, 60 J 

Bmfmch's The Agre of Fable, 472 
l^esrends of Charlemagne, 

556 
Buuyan'b Pilgrim's Progr* sa, 204 

( l race Abounding, and 

Mr. Badman, 815 
Burke'p American Speeches and 

Letters, 340 
Reflections on the French 

Revolution, etc., 460 
Bin-net's History of HIH Own Times, 

85 
Bnrney's (Fanny) Evelina, 352 

,. Diary, A Selec- 
tion, edited ay Lewis Gihbs, 960 
Burns 's Poetns and Son^s, 94 
Burton's lat Africa, 500 
Burton's (Robert) Auatotny of 

Melancholy, 886-8 
Butler's Analog of Religion, 90 
Butler's (Samuel) Ereivhon and 

Erewhon Revisited, 881 
Butler's The Way of All Flesh, 895 
Buxtou'H Memoirs, 773 
Byron 'y Complete Poetical and 
Dramatic Works, 486-8 
Letters, i>31 

Caesar 'K Gallic War, etc., 702 
Caldrron's Plays, 8 It) 
Can ton's Child's Book of Saints, 61 
Invisible Playmate, etc., 500 
Carlylo's French Revolution, 31, 32 
Letters, etc. of Cromwell, 

266-8 

Sartor Kesartus, 278 
Past and Present. 608 
Essay,', 703, 704 , 
Reminiscences, 875 
Carroll's (Lewis) Alice in Wonder- 
land, etc., 83G 

Caetifflione'fl The Courtier, 807 
Cellini's Autobiography, 51 
Cervootes's Don Quixote. 385, 38(5 
Chaucer's Canterbury Tale*. 307 
Chesterfield's Lottery to his Son, 823 
Chesterton's (Cecil) A History of the 

United States, 965 
Chesterton's (O. K.) Stories, Essays, 

and Poems, 913 
Chretien do Troyes's Arthurian 

Romances, 698 

Cibber's Apology for his Life, 668 
Cicero's Select Letters and Orations, 

345 

Clarke's Talcs from Chaucer, 537 
Oobbett'B Rural Rides, 638, 639 
Ooleridfre's Biograpbia, 1 1 



Coleridge's Golden Book of Poetry, 

Lectures on Shakespeare, 

162 
Colllns'e Woman in White, 404 

,, The Moonstone, 979 
Collodi'fl Pinoocliio, 538 
Conrad's Lord Jim, Q25 

Nigger of the 'Narcismis/ 

etc., 980 
Converse's LODK Will. 328 

,. House of Prayer. 923 

Cook's (Captain) Voyages. 99 
Cooper's The Deeralayer, 77 
The Pathfinder, 78 
Last of the Mohicans, 79 
The Pioneer, 171 
The Prairie, 172 
Cooper's Letters, 774 
Poems, 872 

Cox's Tales of Ancient Greece, 721 
Craik's Manual of English Litera- 
ture, 3-U> 

Craii (Mrs.). Set: Mulock 
Creasy 's Fifteen Decisive Battles, 

300 

CreveccBur's Letters from an A mor- 
ion n Farmer, 640 
Curti^'s 1'rue and I, and Lotus, 418 

Donn'n Two Years before the Ma it, 

538 

Dante's Divine Comedy, 308 
Darwin's Origin of Species, 81 I 

Voyage of the Beagle, 104 
Dasent's Story of Burnt Njal, 55H 
Daudet's Tartarin of Tarofloon, 423 
Defoe's Robinson Cnisoo, 59 
Captain Singleton, 74 
Memoirs of a Cavalier, 283 
Jonrnal of Plague. 289 
Tonr through England and 

Wales, 820, 832 
Moll Flanders, 837 
Do Join ville's Memoirs of the 
I Crusadf-fi, 333 

j cle la Mare's Htoriea and Poems, 910 
! Demosthenes' Select Orations. Mo 
Dennis's Cities and Cemeteries of 

Ktruria, 183, 184 
De Qiiinoey's Lake Poets, 163 
Opinm-Ifiatcr, 2'J3 
English Mail Coach, 

etc., G09 
De Retz (Cardinal), Momolrs of, 735, 

736 

Descartes' Discourse on Method, 570 
's Harnabv Rndge, 76 
Tale of 'Two Cities, 102 
Old Curiosity Shop, 173 
Oliver Twist, 233 
Great Expectations, 234 
Pickwick Papers. 235 
Bleak House, 23U 
Sketches by Bo/, 237 
Nicholas NickJeby, 238 
Christmas Books, 239 
Dombey and Son, '240 
Martin Chuzzlewit, 241 
David Oopperfleld, 242 
American Notes, 290 
Child's History of Eng- 
land, 291 
Hard Time*, 292 



Dicken0*o Little Dorrit,. 293 

Our Mutual Friend, 294 



Christmas Stories, 41 
Trnr 
54R 



Uncommervial 



eller, 



IMwr. Drood, 7:15 
RoprmU-d Pieces, 7-U 
Disraeli's Coningsby, 51C; 
Dodgre's Hand Briuker, 020 
Donne's Poems, 8(>7 
Dostoevgky'g Grime and Punish 

meat, 501 

,. The Houae of the Dead. 533 
,. Letters from the Underworld. 

etc., 654 
., The Idiot, (>82 
., Poor Folk, and The Gambler. 

711 
, The Brothers Karamazo t, 802, 

803 

.. The Possessed, 861. 862 
Dowdeii'B Life <"f K, Brt'vrnjnrr, 701 
Dryden's Dro ninth' ftpsriys, M',8 

Poems, 910 
Dufferiu's Letters from Iliph Lat- 

tudes, 4<W 

THimae'e The Three Musketeers, 8 ! 
The Bliu-k Tulip. 174 
Twenty Years After, 17 :> 
Marguerite do Valois, 3'Jfi 
The Count of Monte Cristo, 

393, 394 

The Forty-Five. 4 '20 

Chioot the Jester. 421 

Vieorute de Bra^eluune, 

.193-5 
,. Le Chevalier do Maiden 

Rouge, 614 

Dn Maurier's Trilby. 803 
Duruy'a History of France, 7. ".7, 7.''o 

iCddington'a Nature of the PliysicaJ 

World, 92 
Edgar's Oessy and Poictiors, 17 

Kimnymede and Lineoln 

Fair, 320 

Heroes of England, J 7 I 
Ed e worth's Castle Itackren*,, etc., 

410 

Eighteenth-Century Plays, 818 
Eliot's Adam Bode. 27 
Silas Manioc, 121 
Romola, 231 
Mill on the Floss, 3 23 
Felix Holt, 353 

Scenes of Clerical Life, 468 
Middlemarch, 854, 855 
Elite's (Havelock) 8etected Esnavf. 

930 

Blyot's Gouernour, 227 
Emerson'8 Essays, 12 

Itepreaentative Men, 270 
Nature, Conduct of Life, 

etc., 322 
Society and Solitude, etc. , 

587 

Poerns, 715 
Epietetua' Moral Discourses, 404 
Erckniann-Chatrian's The Conscript 

and Waterloo, 354 
,, Story of a Peasant, 700, 

707 

Euclid's Momenta, 891 
Kurlpidefi' Plays, 63, 271 



Krana'B Holy Gra^J, 445 

Evelyn's Diary, 220, 221 

Kverjnacum aud other Interlude?, 381 

Evrlngr's (Mrs.) MM. Ovrtheway 'H 
Remembraneeif-j, etc., 730 
Jaokawapos, Daddy Dar- 
win's Dovecot, and The 
Story of ft Short Life, 731 

Fall of thft NlboiuuRs, 312 
l''a,raday's Experimental Reyoarehes 

in Electricity, 576 
Femer's (Susan) Ma,riiar;e, 816 
Fi"M ing's Tom Jones. 365, 356 
Amelia, H32. i<53 
Joseph Andrews, 4G7 
Jonathan Wild, arid tlr 
Joaraivl of a Voyac? to 
Lisbon, 877 
i'jnlay's Byzantine Empire. 33 

,. Greece under the llonj&Ln-, 

185 

Flaubert.'-^ Miuiaiue Bovarv SUH 
Siilammbo, 86'.* 
Sentimental fcudueatiori, 

UG9 
Fletcher's fHeauuiout and) Selectet' 

Plays. 5Gt> 

Ford's (lathering's from ^paiii. 1J2 
KorstA^\s Life of Dickens. 781, 7S'. 
i'DrsO-r's ( E. M.) A Pas^a^e u> India. 

H72 
FOX'H ((Hiarles Jainefl) Selcctc.: 

Si)occhea, 7M-* 

Fox'e (G<*orp"-*) ./onrrial, 751 
France 'B (Aaat/ile) Si^rn of the Rome 
Pedauquo & Itefolt of the Angel 3, 
9C7 
Francis' (Saint) Tbo LittV' KJowcr*' 

ote., 485 
Franklin's Journey to the Polar Sea, 

417 
Franklin's (Benjamin) Autobio- 

graphy, 316 
Freeman's Old SngUsh History for 

Children, 540 

French Medieval Romances, 557 
Froiasart's Carouieloe, 57 
Frmide'? Short, Studies. 1.1, 705 
Henry VIII, 37? -4 
Edward VI, 37:> 
Mary Tudor, 477 
History of Queen Eliza- 
beth's RelKn, 5S3-7 
Life of Benjamin Uieraeli. 
I<ord Beaeonslield, 66G 

Galsworthy's Cotintry House, 917 
Galt'8 Auiials of tho Pari.sh, 427 
Gal ton's Inquiries into Human 

Faculty, 263 
GaHkell'8 Cranford, 83 

Life of Charlotte BrontS, 

318 

Srlria's Lovers, 524 
Mary Barton., 598 
Cousin Phillie, etc., 615 
North and South. 630 
Gatty'e Parables from Nature, 158 
Geoffrey of Monmoutli's Ulstorios of 

the Kings of Britain, 577 
Georffe's 1'rosrees and Poverty, 560 
Gibbon's Roman Empire, 434-<j, 
474-6 



Gibbon's Autobiography, 511 
Gilehrisfs Life of Blake, 971 
GiltillKn's Literary Portrait*, 348 
Giraldus Cainbronsis, "Wales. 27 'J 
Gleis'8 Lifo of Wellington, :i ! 1 

The Subaltern, 70S 
Goethe's Faust, 3u5 

Wilhelra Meister, 599, 600 
Conversations with Eckev- 

mann. 851 
Gogol's Dead Souls, 726 

Taras Bui ha. 740 

Goldsmith's Vicar of \Vakrfield, 295 
,, Poems and Plays, 415 

Citizen of the World, 

etc., 902 

Goncharov's Oblomov, 878 
Goro'rf Philosophy of the Good Life, 



Gorki's Through Ruwaia, 741 
GottheLTs Ulric the Farm Ser 

228 

Gray's Poems arid Letterb. (>28 
Green's Short History of the 

lish People, 727, 728 
Grettir Sapra. 099 
Grimms' ]< airy Tales, 56 
GroHsmith's Diary of a Nobody 
Grote's History of Greece, 1SG- 
Gudrun, 880 



vant, 
Eng- 



Hahnennri'd The Organon of the 

Rational Art of Healing, GO It 
Hakluyt'a Voyages, 'J04, 205, 31 .'5. 

314/338, 339, 383, 389 
Hallam's Constitutional History, 

G21-3 

Hamilton's The Federalist, CI9 
Harte's Luck of Roaring (-titiip. 081 
Harvey's Circulation of lilood, 2(i2 
Hawthorne's Wonder Book, 5 

T he Scarlet Letter, 1'J-J 
HOUHC of Seven GaLlo,, 

170 

The Marble Faun, 424 
Twice Told Tales, 531 
Blithedale Romance, 

592 
Hazlitt's Characters of Shake- 

speare's Plays, (J5 
Table Talk, 3'Jl 
Lectures, 4.11 

Spirit of the Apre and Lec- 
tures on English Poets, 
459 

Plain Speaker, 814 
Hcbbel's Plays, 094 
HeimBkringla: The Olaf Sn^as, 7J7 
Sagas of the Norse 

Kings, 847 

Heine's Prose and Poetry, 911 
Helps's (Sir Arthur) Life of Colum- 

bus, 332 

Herbert's Temple, 309 
Herodotus, 405, 406 
Herrick'fl Hesperidcs, 310 
Hobbes'R Leviathan, 091 
Holinshcd's Chronicle, 800 
Hobnes's Lh*e of Moxart, 5C4 
Holmes's (O. \V.) Autocrat, 00 
Professor, 67 

Poet, 68 
Homer's Iliad, 4.03 

Odyssey, 454 



Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, 201, 

202 
Horace's Complete Poetical Works, 

515 
Ilonghton'R Lifo and Letters of 

Kri.'".. 801 
Howard's (E.) Ratthn tho Reefer, 

857 
Howard's (John) State of tho 

Prison*, 835 
Hudson's (W. H.) A Shepherd's Life, 

920 
,, Fur A\vay and Long Ago, 

956 
Hughes 's (E. R.) Chinose Philosophy 

in Classical Tunes, 973 
Hupluts's (Thomas) Tom Brown'^ 

Scho<jklu.ys, 68 
Hugo's (Victor) Lea Miserables. 30".", 

3G4 

Notre Dame, 422 
Toilers of the Sea, 

509 
Hume's Treatise of Human Nature, 

etc., 548. 549 

Hunt's (L'.-iRlu Selected Essays. 829 
Hutchinson's (Col.) Memoirs, 317 
Huxley's (Aldoua) Stories, Essays. 

and Poems, 935 
Huxley's (T. H.) Alan's Place in 

Nature, 47 

Select Lectures and Lay 
Sermons, 4!) 

Ibsen's The Doll's Hou-f, etc., 494 
(ihosta, etc., 55'J 
i > retender, Pillars of Society, 

Rosmersholm, G59 
Brand, 716 
Lady Inpfr, etc., 7i'9 
Peer Gynt, 747 
Ingelow's Mt>ps the Fairy, <;i9 
Sketch Book, 117 
Conquest of Granada, 478 
Life of Mahomet, 513 
Italian Short Stories, 870 

James's (G. P. R.) Richelieu, 357 
James's (Uenry) The Turn of the 
Screw, and Tho Aspern Papers, 

,, The Ambassadors, 987 
James (Wm.) Selections from, 739 
Jeffcries's (Richard) After London, 
and Amaryllis at the 
Fair, 951 ' 

Beris, 850 [770-1 

Johnson's (Dr.) Lives of tho Poets, 
Jones (Thomas) & Gwyn Jone f The 

Mabinogion, 97 

Jonson's (Ben) Plays, 489, 490 
Josephus'y Wars of the Jews, 7 1 '2 

Kalidasa's Shakuntala, 629 

Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 909 

Keats's Poems, 101 

Keble'a Christian Year, 690 

King's Life of Mazzini, 562 

Kinglake's Eothen, 337 

Kiugsley's (Chas.) Westward Ho!, 20 
Heroes, 113 
Hypatia, 230 
Water Babies, aud 
Glauoud, 277 



(Chaw.) Herewurd the 
Wake, 29 G 
Alton Locko. 462 
Yeast. Gil 
Madam How and Lady 

Why, 777 
Poems, 793 
Klngsley's (Henry) Ravcnshoo, 28 

Geoffrey Harnlyn, 417 
Kingston's Peter the Whaler, 6 

,, Tiiree Midshipmen, 7 

Klrby's Kttlevala, 259, 260 
Kor.in. I- 80 

Lamb'.-* Tales from Shakespeare, 8 
lO.oarB of Elia. 1 -i 
Letter*, 34 '2, 343 
Lander's Imue-inary Conversations 

and Poems, *'.)0 
Lane's Modern Egyptians. 315 
Langland'K Piers Plowman, 571 
Latimer'H Sermons, 40 
Law's Serious Call, 91 
Lawrence's The White Peacock, 014 
BtorieF, F/-)says, ind 

POCIUB, 9f..s 
Layamon's (Waco ani) Arthurian 

Chronicles, 57 S 

Lear (Edmund). Scr iimhr Antho- 
logies 

Leibniz' Philosophical \\ntirujN. 905 
Lo Safe's Gil Bias, 4:37, 438 
Leslie's*. Memoirs of John Constable, 

563 

Lcssing'8 Laocoon, el' 1 , M3 
Lever's Harry Lorreqver, 177 
Levves's Life of Goethe. 26!) 
Lincoln's Speeches, ete., 20t< 
Livy's History of Homo. <>03. i'>69, 

670, 749, 755, 756 
Locke's Civil Government, 761 

Essay on Human Under- 
standing, 9S1 

Lockhurt'ri Life of Napoleon, 3 
Life of Scou, 55 

Life of Burns, 156 
Longrlellow'n Poems, 382 
Lonnrott's Kalevala, 25U, 260 
Loti's Iceland Fisherman. 920 
Lover's Handy Andy, 178 
Lowell's Among My Books, 607 
Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, 

750 

Liitzow's History of Bohemia, 432 
Lyell'a Antiquity of Man, 700 
Lynd's Essays on Life and Litera- 
ture. 990 
Lytton's Harold, 15 

Last of the Barons, 1 
Last Days of Pompeii, SO 
Pilgrims of the Rhino. 390 
Rienzi, 532 

Macaulay's England, 34 6 

Essays, 22:, 226 
Speeches on Politics. 

etc., 399 
Miscellaneous Essays, 

439 

MacDonald's Sir Glbbie, 07 H 
Phan tastes, 732 

Machiavelli'H Prince, 280 

, , Florentine li istory .370 

Maine's Ancient Lmv, 734 



Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, 45, 46 
Mai thus on the Principles of 

Population, 692, 693 
Mandeville's Travels, 812 
Mann's (Thomas) Stories & Epi- 
sodes, 962 
Manning's Sir Thomas Mure, It* 

Mary Powell, and De- 
borah's Uiary, 324 
Marlowe's Plays and Poeru.s, :;;.<;> 
Marry at'.; Mr. Midshipman Easy. 2 
Little Savage, 159 
Maaterman Ready, 160 
Peter Simple, 232 
Children of New Forest. 

247 

Percival Keene, 358 
Settlers in Canada, 370 
King's Own, 580 
Jacob Faithful, 618 
Martiiieau'p Featf on the Fjords, 429 
, MartinenKo-Cesaresco'fi Folk-Loiv 
I arid other Essays, 673 
! .Marx's Capital, 848, 849 
i Maugham's (Somerset) Cakes and 

Ale, 932 

| MaupaHAant'ti Short Stories, 907 
! M&KZi.'ti'fl Duties of Mat:, Hr., 224 
i Melville's Moby Dick. 179 
I Typee, 180 

| ,. Omoo, 297 

, Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard 
i Feverel, 916 
M6rim6e'B Carmen, etc., 834 
Meri vale's History of Rome, 43:; 
Mickiewicx's Pan Tadeusz. 84.:.' 
Mipmet's French Revolution, 7 hi 
Mill's Utilitarianism, Liberty, Repre- 
sentative Government, 482 
Rights of Woman. 825 
MiUer's Old Red Sandstone, 103 
I Milman's History of the Jewts, 377, 

378 
Milton'8 Poems. 381 

Areopagitica and other 

Prose Works, 795 
Mitford's Our Village, 927 
Moliere's Comedies, 830, 831 
Mommsen'a l< istory of Rome. 54 2- j 
Montagu ' (Lady) Letters, 69 
Montaigne's Essays, 440-2 
Moore's (George) Esther Waters, 

933 

More's Utopia, and Dialogue of 
Comfort against Tribulation. 461 
M oner's Hajji Baba, 679 
Morris's (Win.) Early Romances, 2G1 
,, Life and Death of Jason, 575 
Morte D'Arthur Romances. G .".4 
Motley's Dutch Republic, 86-8 
Muloc'k'* John Halifax, 123 

Neale's Full of Constantinople, 655 
Newcastle'** (Margaret, Duchess of) 

Life of the First Duke of New- 

castlo, ete., 722 
Newman's Apologia Pro Vita Sua, 

,, On the Scope and Nature 

of University Education, and a 
Paper on Christianity aad Scien- 
tific Investigation, 723 
Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zara- 
thufltra. 892 



Oliphant'a Salem Chapel, 244 
Omar Khayyam, S19 
Osborne (Dorothy), Lotter* of. K7 ! 
Ovid: Soleotfd Works, OOa 

Owen's (Robert,) A Ninv View of 
Society, etc., 790 

Paine'E Hijrhts of Man, 7 it? 
Palgravo's Golden Treasury. 90 
Paltook's Peter Wilkins. 070 
Park's (Mungo) Travels, -J'>5 
l^arkman's Con.spira<y of Pontino, 

302, 303 

Pascal's PetLs6cs, 871 
Paste n Lettt'is, r."2, 753 
Pater'g Mnrins tLi k Kpioiir^an. 903 
Pcaco'.-UV HoAdloLj? Hall, : l .'J7 
Pt-arsiuii't-- The Grain mar o[ Scioitce, 

03$) 
Pcnn's The Pearc of Eurore, Some 

Fruits of t ; oliuiiie, etc., 7 V J4 
Pepys'a Diary, 53, 54 
Percy's Roliqnw, 348, 149 
Pinnow'a (11.) History of Germany . 

92'J 

Pitt's Orations, 145 
Plato's Republic, 64 

Dialogrues, 456, 457 
Plutarch's Lives. 407-1* 
Moralia, MK; 

Poo's Talcs of JNIystery and Imagina- 
tion, 336 

Poems and Essays. 791 
Polo's C.Iarco) Travels, 306 
Popc'a Complete Poetical Works, 

Prescott's Conquest, of Pern, 301 

Conquest of Mexico, 397. 

398 

Pre vest's Manon Lescaut, ^l<?., 834 
I > rist!i > y*H AngeJ Pavement, 938 
Procter's Legends and Lyrics, 150 
Pushkin's Tho Captain's Daughter, 
etc., S9S 

Q oilier-Conch 's Hetty Wesley, 804 
Cumbridge Lectiire, 
974 

Rabelals'a Gargantua and Pauta- 

gmel, 826, 827 
Radcliffe'a (Mrs. Ann) The Mysterioa 

of Udolpho, 865, 866 
Ramayaua and Mahabharata, 403 
Reade's The Cloister and the 

Hearth, 29 

,. Peg Wofflngfton, 299 
Reid's (Mayne) Boy Hunters of the 

MisBisslppi, 582 
The B oy Slaves , 797 
Kenan's Life of Jesus, 805 
Iloynohls'a Dinconrses, 118 
Ricardo'a Principles of Political 

Economy and Taxation, 5!)0 
Richardson's Pamela, 683, 684 

Clariaaa, 882-5 
Roberts'^ (Morley) Western Aver- 

nus, 7(>2 

Robertson's Reliprion and Life, 37 
,, Christian Doctrine, ,18 

Bible Subjects, 39 
Robinaon'H (Wade) Sermons, 637 
Roset's Theea\arus, 630, 631 
~ '"I (I>, G.) Poonm, 627 



itoussean's TCmile, 518 

Social Contract 

other T2wayfl, 000 
Confessions, 85. S'* 
.Seven Lamps of Arch 

ture, 207 

Modem Paintora, 208- 
Stones of Venice, 213- 
Unto this Lost, etc., 2 
Elements of Drawing, 



etc., 



Pro- Raphael! tism , etc. ,218 
: Sesame jvrid Lilies, '219 

! ,. Ethics of tho Oust, 282 
! ,. Crown of Wild Olive, and 

Ccatus of Afflaia, 323 
Time and Tide, etc.. -i ."in 
The Two Boyhoods, t>8B 
Russell's Life of Gladstone, f>61 

Sand'* (George) The I>< vil's Pool, 

and Franco!^ the Waif, 634 
Rchoffel's Ekkvhii.-d. 529 
Scott's (M.) Tom Cringle^ Lotf, 710 
Scott's (Sir W.) Ivanho* - 16 
Fortunes of Nif?<.'!, 71 
Woodstock, 72 
Waverley, 75 
The Abbott, 124 
Anne of Gfi'.-retcJn, 125 
The Antiquary, 126 
Highland Widow, and Bc- 

trothexi, 127 
Black Dwarf, Legend of 

Montrose 128 

Bride of Lammermoor, 129 
Caetlo DangerotiH, Surgeon's 

Daughtrr, 130 
Robert of Paris. 131 
Fair Maid of Perth, 132 
Ouy Marinerinff, 133 
Fleart of Midlothian, 1 3 1 
Konilworth.136 
Th o M onn ftery , 1 3 'i 
Old Mortality', 137 
Peveril of the Peak, 138 
The Pirate, 139 
One ntin Durward, 14-0 
Redgaiintlet, 141 
Rob Hoy, 142 
St. Rowan's Well. 143 
Tho Talisman ,144 
Liv<^n of the Novelists, 331 
Poems and Plays, 550, 551 
Stcbohm'fl Oxford Reformers, 065 
Sueley's Ecoe Homo, 305 
S\veU's (Anna) Black Beauty, 748 
Shakespeare's Comedies, 153 

Histories, etc., 154 

,. Tragedies, 155 [90S 

Shchedrin'8 The Golovlyov Farnify, 
Shelley's Poetical Works, 257, 258 
Shelley's (Mra.) Frankenstein, 016 
Sheppard'e Charles Anchester, 503 
Sheridan's Plays, 95 
Sienklewicz's Tales, 871 

Quo Vadiaf. 970 

Sismondi'8 Italian Republics, 250 
Sraeaton's Life of Shakespeare. 514 
Smith's Wealth of Nations, 412, 413 
Smith's (Goorgre) Life of Wm. Carey, 

395 
Smollett's Roderick Random, 790 

Peregrine Piokle, 838, H39 



Smollett's The Expedition of Hum- 
phry Clinker, 975 
Somervillo and Ross: Experiences 

of an Irish R.M., 97 8 
Sophocles' DraauiH, 114 
Houthoy's Life of Nelson, 52 
Spectator, 164-7 
Speke'e Source of the Nile, 50 
Spencer's (Herbert) Essays on 

Education, 501 
Spenser's Faerie Queens 443, 444 

The Shepherd 'H Calendar, 

879 

Spinoza's Ethics, etc., 481 
Spyrf'8Heid1,4Sl 

Stanley'** Memoriate of Canterbury, 

HasternCiraroh, 251 f9 

Steela'e Tne Spectator, 164-7 

fttendhal'fc Scarlet and Black, 04;. f 

Sterne's Tristram Shandy, 017 [ V J I '. 

Sentimental Journey, and 

Journal to Eliza, 796 
Sto\enson' Treasure Island, a.nd 

Kidnapped. 703 
Master of Ballantrac, and Th< N 

Black Arrow, 7 64 
Virprinihus Puerisqiie. B->.H\ 
Familiar Studies of Man 
urnl BK>ke, 7fl/> 

,, An Inland Voyngo, Travels 
with a Donkey, and Silver- 
ado Squattera, 7 GO 
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydo, The 

Merry Men, etc., 7 07 
,, Poems, 70S 

,, In the South F.O-AP. and Island 
Nipht' Entertainments, 7('i 
St. Ires, 904 
Stow'e Surrey of London, 589 
Stowe's Unol Tom's Cabin. 371 
Strickland's Queen Elizabeth. 100 
Surtees's Jorrookw's Jauntfl.817 
bwedeuborg's IT^iTcn and Hell. 37U 
I.M vine Lore aud 

Wisdom, 635 
Divine Providence, 

658 
The True Christian 

Rollfdon. 8J>3 

Swift'8 Gulliver's Travels. Un- 
abridged Edition, 150 
Tale of a Tub, ete., 347 
,, Journal to Stella,, 757 
Swinburne's (A. C.), Poems and 

Prose, 961 
Swinnorton'B The Georgian Literary 

Scene, IMS 

Swiss Family Robinson, 430 
8ynge' Plays, Poems & Prose, 9G3 

Tacitus ' A miala , 2 7 3 

Agri cola and Gennania, 274 
Taylor's Words and Places, 51 7 
Tcheldio^ 's Plays and Stories, 1 1 
Tennyson's Poems, 4.4, (526 
Thackeray's Iftraond 73 

Vanity Fair, 298 

Tlie Hose and the Rlngr, 

tc., 359 

M Pendennis, 425, 426 

Newcomee, 465, 40C 

Tho Virginians, 507,508 

Knjflteh Humoriste, and 

TIM Four Gt>on?e, 610 



Thackeray's Ronndabout Pa pears, 587 
Thierry 's Norman Conquest, 198, 199 
Thoreau'B Walden, 281 
T^hucydidos* Peloponnestan War, 455 
Tolstoy's Master 8c Man, Other 

Parables & Tales, 469 
War and Peace, 525-7 
Childhood, Boyhood, and 

Youth. 591 

Anna Karenina. 612, G13 
Trench's On the Study ol Woude and 

English Post and Present, 788 
Trollope'ti Barchester Towers, 30 
Framley Parsonage, 181 
Tho Warden, 182 
Dr. Thornc, 3GQ [361 

Small Hoane at AUJngton. 
Last Clironicles of Barset. 
31,19 [761 

Goidn Lion of Granpere, 
Phineas Firm. 833, 833 
Trottrr'e The Bayard of India, 39" 
,, llodson of Hodson's Horse. 
Warron Hastings, 452 [401 
Tnrpenev*B Vincin Sii, 52S 
Liy^v, 677 

Fathers and Sons, 742 
Smoke, 988 
Twain'* (Mark) Tom Sawyer and 

Huckleberry Finn. 97 fi 
TyiidaH'a ftlp*ciei-B of the Alps, 98 
Tvtlor'p lYhiciplefi of Translation, 
"108 

V aeon's I Ares of the Paint* is, 784-7 

Vecnc'B (Jules) Twenty Thousand 

ljoaj?nefi wader the So., 310 

Drspped from the Ckmds, 367 

Abandoned, 3 C8 

., The Swret of the Island, 361) 
,, Five Weeks in a Balloon, and 
Around the World in Eighty 
]>ayB. 779 
Virgil's ^Kneid, 16t 

,, Kclojrue and Georfrio^, 222 
Voltaire's I-Afe of ChfiHw X II . 270 
Age of Lonte XI V . 7 80 
Candid? and Other Tales, 
i>36 

\\nco and Layamon'e Arttiurian 

Chronicles, 578 
Wakefield'n Letter from Sydney, 

etc.. 8*8 

Waipole's Letters, 77 r > 
^'alpohi'y (Husrb) 11 r. Pcrrin and 

Mr. Trail, 918 

Walton's Oompleat, Angler, 70 
Watrrtou'p V>':n)derin&8 in South 

America, 77'^ [899 

Webster and Ford's Selected Plays. 
Wells 's The Time Marbino, ami Tlu 

Wheels of ChT,^. 15 
Ann Veronica, 977 
Wesley's Journal, 105-8 
Whito'8 Selbomo, 48 
Wbitnian's L'^.avcH of Grass, 573 
\Vhyte-Mol villc'h Gladiators, ,523 
Wilde's Plays, Prose Writiii&H and 

Poems, 858 
Wollstonecraft's Rights of Wojcoan. 

825 
Wood's (Mrs. Hary ) The Channin^s, 



Woolf's To the Lighthouse, 949 
Woolman's Journal, etc., 402 
Wordsworth's Shorter Poems, 203 
Longer Poems, 311 

Xeuophon's Cyropaedia, 672 

Yellow Book, 503 

Yoage's The Dove in the Eagle's 

Nest, 329 

., The Book of Golden Deeds, 330 
,. The Heir of Redclyfle, 362 
The Little Duke. 470 
The Lauces of Lynwood, .179 

Young's (Arthur) Travels in France 
and Italy, 720 

Zola's Germinal 897 



Jntholoyies, Composite Folumes, 

Dictionaries, etc. 
A Book of British Ballads, 572 
A Book of Heroic Verse, 574 
A Book of Nonsense, by Edward 

Lear, and Others, 806 
A Century of Essays, An Anthology, 

653 
A New Book of Sense and Nonsense, 

813 

American Short Stories of the Nine- 
teenth Century, 840 
An Anthology of English Prose: 

From Bede to Stevenson, 675 
An Encyclopaedia of Gardening, by 

Walter P. Wright, 555 
\ncient Hebrew Literature, 4 vols., 
Anglo-Saron Poetry, 7U4 [:25.'>-6 
Annals of Fairyland, 365. 366, A 41 
Anthology of British Historical 

Speeches and O rations, 714 
Atlas of Classical Geography, 451 
Atlases, Literary and Historical: 
Europe, 496; America, 553; Ania. 
633; Africa and Australasia, 662 
Chinese Philosophy in Classical 

Times, 973 
Dictionary, Biographical, of English 

Literature, 449 
Biographical, of Foreign 

Literature, 900 
of Dates, New Edition to 

end of 1939, 554 
Everyman's English ,776 
of N on -Classical Myth- 
ology, 632 

Smaller Classical, 495 
Enqrlish Galaxy of Shorter Poeras. 
The, Chosen and Edited by 
Gerald Bullett, 959 



English Religions Verse, Edited bj 

G.LaceyMay,937 

English Short Stories, An An- 
thology, 743 
Fairy Gold, 157 

Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights, 
French Short Stories, 896 [249 

Gbost Stories, Edited by John 

Hampden, 952 
Golden Book of Modern English 

Poetry, 921 [746 

Golden Treasury of Longer Poems, 
Hindu Scriptures, Edited by Dr. 

Nicol Macnicol, 944 
International Modern Plays, 989 
Mabinogion,Tbe,97 
Minor Elizabethan Drama, 491, 498 
Minor Poets of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury, 844 
Minor Poete of the Seventeenth 

Century, 873 
Modern Humour, Edited by Guy 

Pocock and M. M. Bozirmn, 957 
Modern Plays, 942 
Modern Short Stories, Edited by 

John Hadfield, 954 
Mother Goose, 473 
Muses' Pageant, The, 581 . 606, 67 1 
Now Golden Treasury, 695 
New Testament, The, 93 
Plays for Boys and Girls, 966 
Poems of Our Time, 981 
Poetry Book for Boys and (iirls. 94 
Political Liberty, a Sympopimn, 745 
Portugruese Voyages, 986 
Prayer Books of Kin^ Edward VI, 

First and Second, 418 
Prelude to Poetry, 789 
Reader's Guide to Everyman's 

Library, revised edition, covering 

the nrst 950 vote., 889 
Restoration Plays, 604 
Russian Short Stories, 758 
Selections from St. Thomas Aquinas, 

Edited by the Rev. Father 

M. C. D'Aroy, 953 
Shorter Novels : Elizabethan, 824 

Jacobean and Restora- 
tion, 841 

Eighteenth Century- 856 
Silver Poets of the Sixteenth Century, 

985 

Story Book for Boys and Girls, 934 
Table Talk, 906 
Tales of Detection, 928 
Theology in the English Poets, 493 
Thesaurus of English Words and 

Phrases, Roget's, 630, 631 
Twenty One-Act Plays, Selected by 

John Hampden, 947 



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