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A Year's Residence in the United States of America: Vol 2
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EXPENCES OF HOUSE-KEEPING.
325. IT must be obvious, that these must be in proportion to the number in family, and to the style of living. Therefore, every one knowing how he stands in these two respects, the best thing for me to do is to give an account of the prices of house-rent, food, raiment, and servants; or, as they are called here, helpers.
326. In the great cities and towns house-rent is very high-priced; but, then, nobody but mad people live there except they have business there, and, then, they are paid back their rent in the profits of that business. This is so plain a matter, that no argument is necessary. It is unnecessary to speak about the expences of a farm-house; because, the farmer eats, and very frequently wears, his own produce. If these be high-priced, so is that part which he sells. Thus both ends meet with him.
327. I am, therefore, supposing the case of a man, who follows no business, and who lives upon what he has got. In England he cannot eat and drink and wear the interest of his money; for the Boroughmongers have pawned half his income, and they will have it, or his blood. He wishes to escape from this alternative. He wishes to keep his blood, and enjoy his money too. He would come to America; but he does not know, whether prices here will not make up for the robbery of the Borough-villains; and he wishes to know, too, what sort of society he is going into. Of the latter I will speak in the next chapter.
328. The price of house-rent and fuel is, when at more than three miles from New York, as low as it is at the same distance from any great city or town in England. The price of wheaten bread is a third lower than it is in any part of England. The price of beef, mutton, lamb, veal, small pork, hog-meat, poultry, is one half the London price; the first as good, the two next very nearly as good, and all the rest far, very far, better than in London. The sheep and lambs that I now kill for my house are as fat as any that I ever saw in all my life; and they have been running in wild ground, wholly uncultivated for many years, all the summer. A lamb, killed the week before last, weighing in the whole, thirty-eight pounds, had five pounds of loose fat and three pounds and ten ounces of suet. We cut a pound of solid fat from each breast; and, after that it was too fat to be pleasant to eat. My flock being small, forty, or thereabouts, of some neighbours joined them; and they have all got fat together. I have missed the interlopers lately: I suppose the "Yorkers" have eaten them up by this time. What they have fattened on except brambles and cedars, I am sure I do not know. If any Englishman should be afraid that he will find no roast-beef here, it may be sufficient to tell him, that an ox was killed, last winter, at Philadelphia, the quarters of which weighed two thousand, two hundred, and some odd pounds, and he was sold TO THE BUTCHER for one thousand three hundred dollars. This is proof enough of the spirit of enterprize, and of the disposition in the public to encourage it. I believe this to have been the fattest ox that ever was killed in the world. Three times as much money, or, perhaps, ten times as much, might have been made, if the ox had been shown for money: But, this the owner would not permit; and he sold the ox in that condition. I need hardly say that the owner was a Quaker. New Jersey had the honour of producing this ox, and the owner's name was JOB TYLER.
329. That there must be good bread in America is pretty evident from the well known fact, that hundreds of thousands of barrels of flour are, most years sent to England, finer than any that England can produce. And, having now provided the two principal articles, I will suppose, as a matter of course, that a gentleman will have a garden, an orchard, and a cow or two; but, if he should be able (no easy matter) to find a genteel country-house without these conveniences, he may buy butter, cheaper, and, upon an average, better than in England. The garden stuff, if he send to New York for it, he must buy pretty dear; and, faith, he ought to buy it dear, if he will not have some planted and preserved.
330. Cheese, of the North River produce, I have bought as good of Mr. STICKLER of New York as I ever tasted in all my life; and, indeed, no better cheese need be wished for than what is now made in this country. The average price is about seven pence a pound (English money), which is much lower than even middling cheese is in England. Perhaps, generally speaking, the cheese here is not so good as the better kinds in England; but, there is none here so poor as the poorest in England. Indeed the people would not eat it, which is the best security against its being made. Mind, I state distinctly, that as good cheese as I ever tasted, if not the best, was of American produce, I know the article well. Bread and cheese dinners have been the dinners of a good fourth of my life. I know the Cheshire, Gloucester, Wiltshire, Stilton, and the Parmasan; and I never tasted better than American cheese, bought of Mr. STICKLER, in Broad Street, New York. And this cheese Mr. STICKLER informs me is nothing uncommon in the county of Cheshire in Massachusetts; he knows at least a hundred persons himself that make it equally good. And, indeed, why should it not be thus in a country where the pasture is so rich; where the sun warms every thing into sweetness; where the cattle eat the grass close under the shade of the thickest trees; which we know well they will not do in England. Take any fruit which has grown in the shade in England, and you will find that it has not half the sweetness in it, that there is in fruit of the same bulk, grown in the sun. But, here the sun sends his heat down through all the boughs and leaves. The manufacturing of cheese is not yet generally brought, in this country, to the English perfection; but, here are all the materials, and the rest will soon follow.
331. Groceries, as they are called, are, upon an average, at far less than half the English price. Tea, sugar, coffee, spices, chocolate, cocoa, salt, sweet oil; all free of the Boroughmongers' taxes and their pawn, are so cheap as to be within the reach of every one. Chocolate, which is a treat to the rich, in England, is here used even by the negroes. Sweet oil, raisins, currants; all the things from the Levant, are at a fourth or fifth of the English price. The English people, who pay enormously to keep possession of the East and West Indies, purchase the produce even of the English possessions at a price double of that which the Americans give for that very produce! What a hellish oppression must that people live under! Candles and soap (quality for quality) are half the English price. Wax candles (beautiful) are at a third of the English price. It is no very great piece of extravagance to burn wax candles constantly here, and it is frequently done by genteel people, who do not make their own candles.
332. Fish I have not mentioned, because fish is not every where to be had in abundance. But, any where near the coast it is; and, it is so cheap, that one wonders how it can be brought to market for the money. Fine Black-Rock, as good, at least, as codfish, I have seen sold, and in cold weather too, at an English farthing a pound. They now bring us fine fish round the country to our doors, at an English three pence a pound. I believe they count fifty or sixty sorts of fish in New York market, as the average. Oysters, other shell-fish, called clams, In short, the variety and abundance are such that I cannot describe them.
333. An idea of the state of plenty may be formed from these facts: nobody but the free negroes who have families ever think of eating a sheep's head and pluck. It is seldom that oxen's heads are used at home, or sold, and never in the country. In the course of the year hundreds of calves' heads, large bits and whole joints of meat, are left on the shambles, at New York, for any body to take away that will. They generally fall to the share of the street hogs, a thousand or two of which are constantly fatting in New York on the meat and fish flung out of the houses. I shall be told, that it is only in hot weather, that the shambles are left thus garnished. Very true; but, are the shambles of any other country thus garnished in hot weather? Oh! no! If it were not for the superabundance, all the food would be sold at some price or other.
334. After bread, flesh, fish, fowl, butter, cheese and groceries, comes fruit. Apples, pears, cherries, peaches at a tenth part of the English price. The other day I met a man going to market with a waggon load of winter pears. He had high boards on the sides of the waggon, and his waggon held about 40 or 50 bushels. I have bought very good apples this year for four pence half penny (English) a bushel, to boil for little pigs. Besides these, strawberries grow wild in abundance; but no one will take the trouble to get them. Huckle-berries in the woods in great abundance, chesnuts all over the country. Four pence half-penny (English) a quart for these latter. Cranberries, the finest fruit for tarts that ever grew, are bought for about a dollar a bushel, and they will keep, flung down in the corner of a room, for five months in the year. As a sauce to venison or mutton, they are as good as currant jelly. Pine apples in abundance, for several months in the year, at an average of an English shilling each. Melons at an average of an English eight pence. In short, what is there not in the way of fruit? All excellent of their kinds and all for a mere trifle, compared to what they cost in England.
335. I am afraid to speak of drink, lest I should be supposed to countenance the common use of it. But, protesting most decidedly against this conclusion, I proceed to inform those, who are not content with the cow for vintner and brewer, that all the materials for making people drunk, or muddle headed, are much cheaper here than in England. Beer, good ale, I mean, a great deal better than the common public-house beer in England; in short, good, strong, clear ale, is, at New York, eight dollars a barrel; that is, about fourteen English pence a gallon. Brew yourself, in the country, and it is about seven English pence a gallon; that is to say, less than two pence a quart. No Boroughmongers' tax on malt, hops, or beer! Portugal wine is about half the price that it is in England. French wine a sixth part of the English price. Brandy and Rum about the same in proportion; and the common spirits of the country are about three shillings and sixpence (English) a gallon. Come on, then, if you love toping; for here you may drink yourselves blind at the price of sixpence.
336. WEARING APPAREL comes chiefly from England, and all the materials of dress are as cheap as they are there; for, though there is a duty laid on the importation, the absence of taxes, and the cheap food and drink, enable the retailer to sell as low here as there. Shoes are cheaper than in England; for, though shoe makers are well paid for their labour, there is no Borough-villain to tax the leather. All the India and French goods are at half the English price. Here no ruffian can seize you by the throat and tear off your suspected handkerchief. Here SIGNOR WAITHMAN, or any body in that line, might have sold French gloves and shawls without being tempted to quit the field of politics as a compromise with the government; and without any breach of covenants, after being suffered to escape with only a gentle squeeze.
337. Household Furniture, all cheaper than in England. Mahogany timber a third part of the English price. The distance shorter to bring it, and the tax next to nothing on importation. The woods here, the pine, the ash, the white-oak, the walnut, the tulip-tree, and many others, all excellent. The workman paid high wages, but no tax. No Borough-villains to share in the amount of the price.
338. Horses, carriages, harness, all as good, as gay, and cheaper than in England. I hardly ever saw a rip in this country. The hackney coach horses and the coaches themselves, at New York, bear no resemblance to things of the same name in London. The former are all good, sound, clean, and handsome. What the latter are I need describe in no other way than to say, that the coaches seem fit for nothing but the fire and the horses for the dogs.
339. Domestic servants! This is a weighty article: not in the cost, however, so much as in the plague. A good man servant is worth thirty pounds sterling a year; and a good woman servant, twenty pounds sterling a year. But, this is not all; for, in the first place, they will hire only by the month. This is what they, in fact, do in England; for, there they can quit at a month's warning. The man will not wear a livery, any more than he will wear a halter round his neck. This is no great matter; for, as your neighbours' men are of the same taste, you expose yourself to no humiliation on this score. Neither men nor women will, allow you to call them servants, and they will take especial care not to call themselves by that name. This seems something very capricious, at the least; and, as people in such situations of life, really are servants, according to even the sense which MOSES gives to the word, when he forbids the working of the man servant and the maid servant, the objection, the rooted aversion, to the name, seems to bespeak a mixture of false pride and of insolence, neither of which belong to the American character, even in the lowest walks of life. I will, therefore, explain the cause of this dislike to the name of servant. When this country was first settled, there were no people that laboured for other people; but, as man is always trying to throw the working part off his own shoulders, as we see by the conduct of priests in all ages, negroes were soon introduced. Englishmen, who had fled from tyranny at home, were naturally shy of calling other men their slaves; and, therefore, "for more grace" as Master Matthew says in the play, they called their slaves servants. But, though I doubt not that this device was quite efficient in quieting their own consciences, it gave rise to the notion, that slave and servant meant one and the same thing, a conclusion perfectly natural and directly deducible from the premises. Hence every free man and woman have rejected with just disdain the appellation of servant. One would think, however, that they might be reconciled to it by the conduct of some of their superiors in life, who, without the smallest apparent reluctance, call themselves "Public Servants," in imitation, I suppose, of English Ministers, and his Holiness, the Pope, who, in the excess of his humility, calls himself, "the Servant of the Servants of the Lord.'' But, perhaps, the American Domestics have observed, that "Public Servant" really means master. Be the cause what it may, however, they continue most obstinately to scout the name of servant; and, though they still keep a civil tongue in their head, there is not one of them that will not resent the affront with more bitterness than any other that you can offer. The man, therefore, who would deliberately offer such an affront must be a fool. But, there is an inconvenience far greater than this. People in general are so comfortably situated, that very few, and then only of those who are pushed hard, will become domestics to any body. So that, generally speaking, Domestics of both sexes are far from good. They are honest; but they are not obedient. They are careless. Wanting frequently in the greater part of those qualities, which make their services conducive to the neatness of houses and comfort of families. What a difference would it make in this country, if it could be supplied with nice, clean, dutiful English maid servants! As to the men, it does not much signify; but, for the want of the maids, nothing but the absence of grinding taxation can compensate. As to bringing them with you, it is as wild a project as it would be to try to carry the sunbeams to England. They will begin to change before the ship gets on soundings; and, before they have been here a month, you must turn them out of doors, or they will you. If, by any chance, you find them here, it may do; but bring them out and keep them you cannot. The best way is to put on your philosophy; never to look at this evil without, at the same time, looking at the many good things that you find here. Make the best selection you can. Give good wages, not too much work, and resolve, at all events, to treat them with civility.
340. However, what is this plague, compared with that of the tax gatherer? What is this plague compared with the constant sight of beggars and paupers, and the constant dread of becoming a pauper or beggar yourself? If your commands are not obeyed with such alacrity as in England, you have, at any rate, nobody to command you. You are not ordered to "stand and deliver" twenty or thirty times in the year by the insolent agent of Boroughmongers. No one comes to forbid you to open or shut up a window. No insolent set of Commissioners send their order for you to dance attendance on them, to shew cause why they should not double-tax you; and, when you have shown cause, even on your oath, make you pay the tax, laugh in your face, and leave you an appeal from themselves to another set, deriving their authority from the same source, and having a similar interest in oppressing you, and thus laying your property prostrate beneath the hoof of an insolent and remorseless tyranny. Free, wholly free, from this tantalizing, this grinding, this odious curse, what need you care about the petty plagues of Domestic Servants?
341. However, as there are some men and some women, who can never be at heart's ease, unless they have the power of domineering over somebody or other, and who will rather be slaves themselves than hot have it in their power to treat others as slaves, it becomes a man of fortune, proposing to emigrate to America, to consider soberly, whether he, or his wife, be of this taste; and, if the result of his consideration be in the affirmative, his best way will be to continue to live under the Borough mongers, or, which I would rather recommend, hang himself at once.