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The following is taken from Journal of a Residence and Tour in the United States of North America, from April, 1833, to October, 1834. by Edward S. Abdy (London: Murray, 1835)
In this portion of Edward Abdy's travel journal, he mentions being served iced water in a tavern (making a good speculation on why this would occur in the U.S. and not in England), laws of inheritance, a conversation with a stage coach driver, the Boston Atheneum, and a lecture on slavery.
ON the 13th I left Hartford by the stage for Northampton at eleven, A.M., and arrived about eight,--the distance being forty-eight miles. Eleven miles from the city we came to Tariffville, a very pretty village, situated in a most lovely valley, through which flows the Farmington river, pursuing its devious course to join the Connecticut. At this place a carpet manufacture is carried on by about 400 workmen,-partly American and partly foreign. The quality is said to be good. Three miles further we came to Granby, where we dined. Though it is but a small place and the traffic not sufficient to maintain an hotel, yet we had a luxury at table which a stage-coach passenger would look for in vain at one of our best inns on any of our most frequented roads. We had iced water. The same luxury at a petty tavern was procured for a young woman who was in the stage. It should be observed, however, that there is greater facility, as well as greater necessity, for laying in a provision of this kind in America than with us-as the winters are much more severe, and the summers much hotter; were it not, indeed, for this refrigerating antiseptic, many articles of domestic consumption would be spoiled. At the hotels, during the warm weather, a piece of ice is generally placed upon the butter.
The country between Tariffville and Granby is delightful. The farms, which are cultivated by the proprietors, average about 100 acres. The land is poor, having been worked for some time, and receiving but little manure. This offset of the old English yeomanry are, however, happy and contented, and retain the stem virtues which distinguished their ancestors. A son of one of them was in the coach, and described to me their customs and manners. At the death of the possessor, the estate is distributed among the members of the family, according to the most equitable principles. If any of the children have received a learned education, the advantages to be derived from its acquisition, and the labor lost to the father during the interval, require a commensurate deduction from his share, that all may be put upon an equality. Any misconduct or want of prudence is visited with a diminution of the portion according to the demerit of the party, or the chance of his becoming extravagant and dissipated. These matters are so well understood, that the claims of justice are satisfied, where the interposition of the law might produce supineness or evasion. In case of equal partition by will or intestacy, the farm is saved from too minute subdivision by an arrangement between the claimants, which shall leave one of them to till the paternal acres, while the rest receive an equivalent, and transfer their labor to some other place, or some other employment. Where the children are likely to suffer from the vices of the parent, the law steps in, and, by an appeal to the Court of Probate, a guardian is appointed to administer the estate, and protect the family.
In every State of the Union, with the exception -I believe the only exception-of Louisiana, where restrictions exist on the power of willing in proportion to the number of children, any one may dispose of his estate at his death in any way be pleases. It is a very common thing to omit altogether making a will, under the impression that the law will distribute the property more equitably than the owner could himself. "There is generally, in the Statute laws of the several States," says Kent in his Commentaries, iv. 417, "a provision relative to real and personal estates, similar to that which exists in the English Statute of Distributions, concerning an advancement to a child. If any child of the intestate has been advanced by him, by settlement, either out of the real or personal estate, or both, equal or superior to the amount in value of the share to such child, which would be due from the real and personal estate, if no such advancement had been made, then such child, and his descendants, are excluded from any share in the real and personal estate of the intestate. But, if such advancement be not equal, then the child and his descendants are entitled to receive from the real and personal estate sufficient to make up the deficiency, and no more. The maintenance and education of a child or the gift of money, without a view to a portion or settlement in life, is not deemed an advancement."
I was well acquainted with a man, upon whose education his father had expended a greater sum than upon that of his other children. The former refunded the difference, as soon as he was enabled to do what he considered an act of justice-not wishing that the family harmony should be endangered by any thing like partiality to one of its members. In most countries this would have been thought a remarkable instance of virtue.
In England the family is sacrificed to the estate; in France the estate is sacrificed to the family. The Americans have avoided both extremes. They cannot see the justice of giving the whole "mess" to one son, whether be be Reuben or Benjamin. They are in error, however, with respect to our system. They imagine it to be obligatory; and not, as it really is, except in the case of intestacy, or entails, (which are not, like those in Scotland, perpetual,) a matter that is regulated by custom, and fluctuating as the opinion which upholds it.
As soon as the stage arrived at Northampton, I was shewn into the tea-room of the hotel, where I found, among other guests, a young man at table, conversing with a lady opposite to him. When they had both retired, I was informed that they were a new-married couple-a fact of no very great importance to a stranger, yet shewing him that young people can commit matrimony, without letting the whole world know it, by sitting side by side, reciprocating little attentions and whispers, and throwing an air of mystery and restraint around them. The tea, as is every where the custom, was made at a side table, and served round to the guests as they wanted it; while at dinner the next day, the meat was to be carved by the "consumers,"-thus reversing the natural order of things, giving trouble to those who had something else to do, and saving it where it would not be felt. There were seventeen at table; and it fell to my lot to cut up one of the joints, (the last comer being always put at the top of the house and the bottom of the table,) so that I had some reason to complain of the inconvenience. There seems to be a sort of superstition about the art of making tea-a privilege confined to the fair sex. A man may help himself to every thing at the breakfast table without exciting surprise or remark; but be must no more presume to pour out the infusion of "China's fragrant leaf," than a lady to fill her glass with the juice of the grape. Not a word was said at table. No doubt the puritans, from whom the people are descended, were men of few words. By parity of reasoning, they despatched their meals very quickly. They had long graces-they had no time to spare for talking or eating. After dinner, the men retired to a handsome and convenient sitting-room, provided with newspapers; and the "womankind," with their friends, to another apartment, appropriated to their exclusive use.
I had some difficulty, after I had exhausted the contents of the journals, in finding any one to converse with. A young Bostonian, who had been in Europe, had a sort of fellow-feeling for me, and met my advances with much politeness. He was going to Saratoga springs and before we parted, he recommended me to a boardinghouse at Boston, and gave me his card as an introduction to the landlady.
Northampton is a very pretty town, with handsome houses, surrounded by gardens laid out somewhat in the French style. It would be an excellent place of residence for a man with a large family and a small fortune;-a sort of domestic antithesis too common with us. The prices of provisions are low. Pork averages from five to six cents the pound during the year. Beef and mutton about three or four. Veal and lamb a little higher. Eggs ten cents a dozen, and butter twelve cents the pound. Farming men can earn one dollar and a quarter a-day during harvest, exclusive of meals, of which they partake with their employers. The rest of the year the average, with board, is twelve or fourteen dollars a month, washing included. Free blacks are occasionally employed by the farmers; and sometimes even sit down to the same table with the whites. This confirms what I was told in New York, and shews that their services are more wanted in the country than in the towns. When the carpenters struck work at New York, some of the blacks got work from the masters an additional reason for jealousy to the mechanics. The abuse that is heaped upon the whole race proves that it is rising in the world. The worst are treated with contempt; while the better portion are spoken of with a degree of bitterness, that indicates a disposition to be more angry with their virtues than their vices. It is insufferably disgusting to hear them sneered at as dandy waiters and insolent puppies by men whose ancestors were perhaps transported convicts. Illiberal as this remark may be thought, it is surely a very mild recrimination to treat your forefathers' crimes as a misfortune in you, who treat my forefathers' misfortunes as a crime in me*.
Every stranger, as a matter of course, pays a visit to Mount Holyoke before be leaves Northampton, from which it is distant about three miles. The road lies through the "flats ", which are celebrated for their rich alluvial soil. The river is crossed by ferry, which is worked by two horses by means of a horizontal wheel--a sort of tread-mill that puts two paddles, similar to those of a steam-boat, into motion. The view from the mountain, which is separated by the Connecticut below, at the distance of 1200 feet, from its twin-brother Tom, is very noble and imposing commanding an extent of vision, on a fine day, of 100 miles. The States of Massachu
* "The descendants of pedlars talking about rank ! and those of exported paupers, or felons perhaps, gathering to themselves respect, because of the virtues of their ancestors." Nile's Register, 1831.
setts, Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire are visible from hence. The river, which is rather less than a quarter of a mile in breadth, runs, in a very irregular current, towards the sea, and, forming a singular curve, presents one of the most striking features of the scenery. Such is the concourse of visitors to this far-famed spot, that a miserable log hut on the summit, a sort of tavern for selling refreshments, is let at 150 dollars during the season. The average number of daily pilgrims in the summer is about 100.
I left Northampton on the 16th, at three, A.M., for Boston, and arrived at that place about eight in the evening. The road was good; and, if we had not changed our vehicle three times during the journey, and stopped at the various post-offices for the bags, and at the hotels for refreshment, we should have got in much sooner. The first fifteen miles were performed in an hour and forty minutes. The distance is ninety-four miles. The passengers were inclined to be sociable; and, as it was a fine day, and the country not uninteresting, the journey passed off pleasantly enough. An English coachman would have been somewhat amused with the appearance of the stage and the costume of the driver. The former was similar to some that are common enough in France, though not known on our side of the channel. It was on leathern springs; the boot and the hind part being appropriated to the luggage, while the box was occupied by two passengers in addition to the "conducteur," and as many on the roof. on the top, secured by an iron rail, were some of the trunks and boxes, and inside were places for nine; two seats being affixed to the ends, and one, parallel to them, across the middle of the carriage. Our driver sat between two of the outsides, and when there was but one on the box, over the near wheeler; and holding the reins, or lines, as he called them, in such a manner as to separate his team into couples, not a-breast, but in a line or tandem fashion, drove along with considerable skill and dexterity. When be got down, he fastened the "ribbons" to a ring, or a post in front of the house where he had occasion to pull up. One or two of these jehus were without their coats -- an undress I was glad to adopt during the heat of the day, and others in a plain country frock. I sat on the box most part of the time, and had a good deal of conversation with my companion. He was a very pleasant merry fellow. As he at first objected to admit a third to the honor of sitting by his side, I endeavored to joke him into good humor, and very soon succeeded, by laughing at his fun. When I asked him, for instance, whether he was full inside? he replied, with a knowing look:- "I guess I am-for I have just had a good dinner." We all laughed heartily. The joke was new to me; and the others were not in a vein to be nice about novelty. Three young men, who were inside, amused themselves by bowing very gravely and with profound respect, to the old folks, who were sitting at their doors, or looking out of the windows as we passed, and who were puzzling their brains, long after we were out of sight, in trying to make out to what acquaintance it could possibly be that they were indebted for this piece of unexpected civility. No one of our party, which was so numerous as to fill two stages, had any reason to complain of its formality. On my arrival, I was well received by the lady of the house to which I had been directed, and a comfortable bed soon made me forget the fatigues of the day.
morning I went out to call upon some persons whom I had known at New York
- and, on my way, met one of them. He was going to the Athenaeum-a literary
institution well provided with papers, and other publications, and an extensive
library. After I had looked over the establishment under his guidance,
and had had my name inscribed in due form as a visitor, I took my leave
of him, and went in search of my English friends. Having with some difficulty
found them, we went together in the evening to hear a public lecture on
the subject of slavery. The question was clearly stated and ably discussed,
as far as the principle, on which the system is founded, is involved. The
remainder of the discourse was deferred to the next and a subsequent meeting.
The orator's manner was rather more declamatory, and accompanied with more
gesticulation than we are accustomed to in England. The matter, however,
was excellent; the arrangement and the reasoning clear and conclusive;
and the spirit that breathed throughout such as evinced an earnest
conviction and a steady purpose. The audience was profoundly attentive,
and both numerous and respectable enough to justify the hope of a more
speedy settlement of this difficult question than the enemies and pretended
friends of freedom are willing to admit. The business of the evening commenced
and ended with a prayer from the lecturer, (a minister of the Congregationalists,)
and a hymn from a school of colored children, who were stationed in the
gallery under the care of their mistress. There were several of the same
race present; all of them decent in their dress and decorous in their behavior.
Some of them appeared to be in easy circumstances. There are fewer of them
in Boston than in New York; but they are not better treated. One of them
complained to me that he had experienced, great difficulty in obtaining
an employment in which be could get his bread decently and respectably:
with the exception of one or two employed as printers, one blacksmith,
and one shoemaker there are no colored mechanics in the city.
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