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A Year's Residence in the United States of America Vol 3
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MORRIS BIRKBECK, ESQ.
OF ENGLISH PRAIRIE, ILLINOIS TERRITORY.
North Hempstead, Long Island,
15th Dec. 1818.
MY DEAR SIR,
1016. BEING, when I wrote my former Letter to you, in great haste to conclude, in order that my son William might take it to England with him, I left unnoticed many things, which I had observed in your "Letters from the Illinois;" and which things merited pointed notice. Some of these I will notice; for, I wish to discharge all my duties towards my countrymen faith fully; and, I know of no duty more sacred, than that of warning them against pecuniary ruin and mental misery.
1017. It has always been evident to me, that the Western Countries were not the countries for English farmers to settle in: no, nor for American farmers, unless under peculiar circumstances. The settlers, who have gone from the New England States, have, in general, been able men with families of stout sons. The contracted farm in New England sells for money enough to buy the land for five or six farms in the West. These farms are made by the labour of the owners. They hire nobody. They live any how for a while. I will engage that the labour performed by one stout New England family in one year, would cost an English farmer a thousand pounds in wages. You will say, why cannot the English labour as hard as the Yankees? But, mind, I talk of a family of Yankee sons; and, besides, I have no scruple to say, that one of these will do as much work in the clearing and fencing of a farm, and in the erection of buildings, as four or five English of the same age and size. Yet, have many of the New England farmers returned. Even they have had cause to repent of their folly. What hope is there, then, that English farmers will succeed?
1018. It so happens, that I have seen new settlements formed. I have seen lands cleared. I have seen crowds of people coming and squatting down in woods or little islands, and by the sides of rivers. I have seen the log-hut raised; the bark covering put on; I have heard the bold language of the adventurers; and I have witnessed their subsequent miseries. They were just as free as you are; for, they, like you, saw no signs of the existence of any government, good or bad.
1019. New settlements, particularly at so great a distance from all the conveniences and sweeteners of life, must be begun by people who labour for themselves. Money is, in such a case, almost useless. It is impossible to be lieve, that, after your statement about your intended hundred acres of Indian corn, you would not have had it, or, at least, a part of it, if you could; that is to say, if money would have got it. Yet you had not a single square rod. Mr. HULME, (See Journal, 28th July) says, in the way of reason for your having no crops this year, that you could purchase with more economy than you could grow! Indeed! what; would the Indian Corn have cost, then, more than the price of the Corn? Untoward observation; but perfectly true, I am convinced. There is, it is my opinion, nobody that can raise Indian Corn or Grain at so great a distance from a market to any profit at all with hired labour. Nay, this is too plain a case to be matter of opinion. I may safely assume it as an indisputable fact. For, it being notorious, that labour is as high priced with you as with us, and your statement shewing that Corn is not much more than one third of our price, how monstrous, if you gain at all, must be the Consumers' gains here! The rent of the land here is a mere trifle more than it must be there, for the cultivated part must pay rent for the uncultivated part. The labour, indeed, as all the world knows, is every thing. All the other expences are not worth speaking of. What, then, must be the gains of the Long Island farmer, who sells his corn at a dollar a bushel, if you, with labour at the Long Island price, can gain by selling Corn at the rate of five bushels for two dollars! If yours be a fine country for English farmers to migrate to, what must this be? You want no manure. This cannot last long; and, accordingly, I see, that you mean to dung for wheat after the second crop of Corn. This is another of the romantic stories exposed. In Letter IV you relate the romance of manure being useless; but, in Letter X, you tell us, that you propose to use it. Land bearing crops without a manure, or, with new-culture and constant ploughing, is a romance. This I told you in London; and this you have found to be true.
1020. It is of little consequence what wild schemes are formed and executed by men who have property enough to carry them back; but, to invite men to go to the Illinois with a few score of pounds in their pockets, and to tell them, that they can become farmers with those pounds, appears to me to admit of no other apology than an unequivocal acknowledgment, that the inviter is mad. Yet your fifteenth Letter from the Illinois really contains such an invitation. This letter is manifestly addressed to an imaginary person. It is clear that the correspondent is a feigned, or supposed, being. The letter is, I am sorry to say, I think, a mere trap to catch poor creatures with a few pounds in their pockets. I will here take the liberty to insert the whole of this letter; and will then endeavour to show the misery which it is calculated to produce, not only amongst English people, but amongst Americans who may chance to read it, and who are now living happily in the Atlantic States. The letter is dated, 24th of February, 1818, and the following are its words:
1021. "Dear Sir, When a man gives advice to his friends, on affairs of great importance to their interest, he takes on himself a load of responsibility, from which I have always shrunk, and generally withdrawn. My example is very much at their service, either for imitation or warning, as the case may be. I must, however, in writing to you, step a little over this line of caution, having more than once been instrumental in helping you, not out of your difficulties, but from one scene of perplexity to another; I cannot help advising you to make an effort more, and extricate yourself and family completely, by removing into this country. When I last saw you, twelve months ago, I did not think favourably of your prospects: if things have turned out better, I shall be rejoiced to hear it, and you will not need the Advice I am preparing for you. But, if vexation and disappointments have assailed you, as I feared, and you can honourably make your escape, with the means of transmitting yourself hither, and one hundred pounds sterling to spare don't hesitate. In six months after I shall have welcomed you, barring accidents, you shall discover that you are become rich, for you shall feel that you are independent: and I think that will be the most delightful sensation you ever experienced; for, you will receive it multiplied, as it were, by the number of your family as your troubles now are. It is not, however, a sort of independence that will excuse you from labour, or afford you many luxuries, that is, costly luxuries. I will state to you what I have learned, from, a good deal of observation and inquiry, and a little experience; then you will form your own judgment. In the first place, the voyage. That will cost you, to Baltimore or Philadelphia, provided you take it, as no doubt you would, in the cheapest way, twelve guineas each, for a birth, fire, and water, for yourself and wife, and half price, or less, for your children, besides provisions, which you will furnish. Then the journey. Over the mountains to Pittsburgh, down the Ohio to Shawnee Town, and from thence to our settlement, fifty miles north, will amount to five pounds sterling per head. If you arrive here as early as May, or even June, another five pounds per head will carry you on to that point, where you may take your leave of dependence on any thing earthly but your own exertions. At this time I suppose you to have remaining one hundred pounds (borrowed probably from English friends, who rely on your integrity, and who may have directed the interest to be paid to Me on their behalf, and the principal in due season.) We will now, if you please, turn it into dollars, and consider how it may be disposed of. A hundred pounds sterling will go a great way in dollars. With eighty dollars you will enter a quarter section of land; that is, you will purchase at the land-office one hundred and sixty acres, and pay one-fourth of the purchase money, and looking to the land to reward your pains with the means of discharging the other three-fourths as they become due, in two, three, and four years. You will build a house with fifty dollars; and you will find it extremely comfortable and convenient, as it will be really and truly yours. Two horses will cost, with harness and plough, one hundred. Cows, and hogs, and seed corn, and fencing, with other expenses, will require the remaining two hundred and ten dollars. This beginning, humble as it appears, is affluence and splendour, compared with the original outfit of settlers in general. Yet no man remains in poverty, who possesses even moderate industry and economy, and especially of time. — You would of course bring with you your sea-bedding and store of blankets, for you will need them on the Ohio; and you should leave England with a good stock of wearing apparel. Your luggage must be composed of light articles, on account of the costly land-carriage from the Eastern port to Pittsburgh, which will be from seven to ten dollars per 100 Ibs. nearly sixpence sterling per pound. A few simple medicines of good quality are indispensable, such as calomel, bark in powder, castor oil, calcined magnesia, laudanum; they may be of the greatest importance on the voyage and journey, as well as after your arrival. Change of climate and situation will produce temporary indisposition, but with prompt and judicious treatment, which is happily of the most simple kind, the complaints to which new comers are liable are seldom dangerous or difficult to overcome, provided due regard has been had to salubrity in the choice of their settlement, and to diet and accommodation after their arrival.
"With best regards, I remain, &c."
1022. Now, my dear sir, your mode of address, in this letter, clearly shews that you have in your eye a person above the level of common labourers. The words "Dear Sir" indicate that you are speaking to a friend, or, at least, to an intimate acquaintance; of course to a person, who has not been brought up in the habits of hard labour. And such a person it is, whom you advise and press to come to the Illinois with a hundred pounds in his pocket to become a farmer!
1023. I will pass over the expences previous to this unfortunate man and his family's arriving at the Prairies, though those expences will be double the amount that you state them at. But he arrives with 450 dollars in his pocket. Of these he is to pay down 80 for his land, leaving three times that sum to be paid afterwards. He has 370 left. And now what is he to do? He arrives in May. So that this family has to cross the sea in winter, and the land in spring. There they are, however, and now what are they to do? They are to have built for 50 dollars a house "EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE AND CONVENIENT:" the very words that you use in describing the farmer's house, that was to cost, with out buildings, 1500 dollars! However, you have described your own cabin, whence we may gather the meaning which you attach to the word comfortable. "This cabin is built of round straight logs, about a foot in diameter, laying upon each other, and notched in at the corners, forming a room eighteen feet long by sixteen; the intervals between the logs 'chunked,' that is, filled in with slips of wood; and 'mudded,' that is, daubed with a plaister of mud; a spacious chimney, built also of logs, stands like a bastion at one end; the roof is well covered with four hundred 'clap boards' of cleft oak, very much like the pales used in England for fencing parks. A hole is cut through the side called, very properly, the 'through,' for which there is a 'shutter,' made also of cleft oak, and hung on wooden hinges. All this has been executed by contract, and well executed, for twenty dollars. I have since added ten dollars to the cost, for the luxury of a floor and ceiling of sawn boards, and it is now a comfortable habitation."
1024. In plain words, this is a log-hut, such as the free negroes live in about here, and a hole it is, fit only for dogs, or hogs, or cattle. Worse it is than the negro huts; for they have a bit of glass; but here is none. This miserable hole, black with smoke as it always must be, and without any window, costs, however, 30 dollars. And yet this English acquaintance of yours is to have "a house extremely comfortable and convenient for fifty dollars." Perhaps his 50 dollars might get him a hut, or hole, a few feet longer and divided into two dens. So that here is to be cooking, washing, eating, and sleeping all in the same "extremely convenient and comfortable" hole! And yet, my dear Sir, you find fault of the want of cleanliness in the Americans! You have not seen "the Americans." You have not seen the nice, clean, neat houses of the farmers in this Island, in New England, in the Quaker counties of Pennsylvania. You have seen nothing but the smoke-dried Ultra-montanians; and your project seems to be to make the deluded English who may follow you rivals in the attainment of the tawny colour. What is this family to do in their 50 dollar den? Suppose one or more of them sick! How are the rest to sleep by night or to eat by day?
1025. However, here they are, in this miserable place, with the ship-bedding, and without even a bedstead, and with 130 dollars gone in land and house. Two horses and harness and plough are to cost 100 dollars! These, like the hinges of the door, are all to be of wood I suppose; for as to flesh and blood and bones in the form of two horses for 100 dollars is impossible, to say nothing about the plough and harness, which would cost 20 dollars of the money. Perhaps, however, you may mean some of those horses, ploughs and sets of harness, which, at the time when you wrote this letter, you had all ready waiting for the spring to put in your hundred acres of corn that was never put in at all! However, let this pass too. Then there are 220 dollars left, and these are to provide cows, hogs, seed, corn, fencing, and other expences. Next come two cows (poor ones) 24 dollars; hogs, 15 dollars; seed corn, 5 dollars; fencing, suppose 20 acres only, in four plots, the stuff brought from the woods nearest adjoining, Here are 360 rods of fencing, and, if it be done so as to keep out a pig, and to keep in a pig, or a horse or cow, for less than half a dollar a rod, I will suffer myself to be made into smoked meat in the extremely comfortable house. Thus, then, here are 213 out of the 220 dollars, and this happy settler has seven whole dollars left for all "other expences;" amongst which are the cost of cooking utensils, plates, knives and forks, tables, and stools; for, as to table-cloths and chairs, those are luxuries unbecoming "simple republicans." But, there must be a pot to boil in; or, is that too much? May these republicans have a washing tub? Perhaps, indeed, it will become unnecessary in a short time; for, the lice will have eaten up the linen; and, besides, perhaps real independence means stark-nakedness. But, at any rate, the hogs must have a trough; or, are they to eat at the same board with the family? Talking of eating puts me in mind of a great article; for what are the family to eat during the year and more before their land can produce? For even if they ar rive in May, they can have no crop that year. Why, they must graze with the cows in the Prairies, or snuggle with the hogs in the woods. An oven! Childish effeminacy! Oh! unleavened bread for your life. Bread, did I say? Where is the "independent" family to get bread? Oh! no! Grass and Acorns and Roots; and, God be praised; you have plenty of water in your wells, though, perhaps, the family, with all their "independence" must be compelled to depend on your leave to get it, and fetch it half a mile into the bargain.
1026. To talk seriously upon such a subject is impossible, without dealing in terms of reprobation, which it would give me great pain to employ when speaking of any act of yours. Indeed such a family will be free; but, the Indians are free, and so are the gypsies in England. And I most solemnly declare, that I would sooner live the life of a gypsy in England, than be a settler, with less than five thousand pounds, in the Illinois; and, if I had the five thousand pounds, and was resolved to exchange England for America, what in the name of common sense, should induce me to go into a wild country, when I could buy a good form of 200 acres, with fine orchard and good house and out-buildings, and stock it completely, and make it rich as a garden, within twenty miles of a great sea-port, affording me a ready market and a high price for every article of my produce?
1027. You have, by this time, seen more than you had seen, when you wrote your "Letters from the Illinois." You would not, I am convinced, write such letters now. But, lest you should not do it, it is right that somebody should counteract their delusive effects; .and this I endeavour to do as much for the sake of this country as for that of my own country men. For a good while I remained silent, hoping that few people would be deluded; but when I heard, that an old friend, and brother sportsman; a sensible, honest, frank, and friendly man, in Oxfordshire, whom I will not name, had been seized with the Illinois mad ness, and when I recollected, that he was one of those, who came to visit me in prison, I could no longer hold my tongue; for, if a man like him; a man of his sound understanding, could be carried away by your representations, to what an extent must the rage have gone!
1028. Mr. HULME visited you with the most friendly feelings. He agrees with you perfectly as to notions about forms of government. He wished to give a good account of your proceedings. His account is favourable; but, his facts, which I am sure are true, let out what I could not have known for certainty from any other quarter. However, I do not care a farthing for the degrees of goodness or of badness; I say all new countries are all badness for English farmers. I say, that their place is near the great cities on the coast; and that every step they go beyond forty miles from those cities is a step too far. They want freedom: they have it here. They want good land, good roads, good markets: they have them all here. What should they run rambling about a nation-making for? What have they to do about extending dominion and "taming the wilderness?" If they speculate upon becoming founders of republics, they will, indeed, do well to get out of the reach of rivals. If they have a thirst for power, they will naturally seek to be amongst the least in formed part of mankind. But, if they only want to keep their property and live well, they will take up their abode on this side of the mountains at least.
1029. The grand ideas about the extension of the empire of the United States are of very questionable soundness: and they become more questionable from being echoed by the Edinburgh Reviewers, a set of the meanest politicians that ever touched pen arid paper. Upon any great question, they never have been right, even by accident, which is very hard! The rapid extension of settlements to the West of the mountains is, in my opinion, by no means favourable to the duration of the present happy Union. The conquest of Canada would have been as dangerous; but not more dangerous. A nation is never so strong and so safe as when its extreme points feel for each other as acutely as each feels for itself; and this never can be when all are not equally exposed to every danger, and especially when all the parts have not the same interests. In case of a war with England, what would become of your market down the Mississippi? That is your sole market. That way your produce must go; or you must dress yourself in skins and tear your food to bits with your hands. Yet that way your pro duce could not go, unless this nation were to keep up a Navy equal to that of England. Defend the country against invaders I know the people always will; but, I am not sure, that they will like internal taxes sufficient to rear and support a navy sufficient to clear the gulph of Mexico of English squadrons. In short, it is my decided opinion, that the sooner the banks of the Ohio, the Wabash, and the Mississippi are pretty thickly settled, the sooner the Union will be placed in jeopardy. If a war were to break out with England, even in a few years, the lands of which the Mississippi is the outlet, would lose a great part of their value. Who does not see in this fact a great cause of disunion? On this side the mountains, there are twelve hundred miles of coast to blockade; but you, gentlemen Prairie owners, are like a rat that has but one hole to go out and to come in at. You express your deep-rooted attach ment to your adopted country, and I am sure you are sincere; but, still I may be allowed to doubt, whether you would cheerfully wear bear-skins, and gnaw your meat off the bones for the sake of any commercial right that the nation might go to war about. I know that you would not starve; for coffee and tea are not necessary to man's existence; but, you would like to sell your flour and pork, and would be very apt to discover reasons against a war that would prevent you from selling them. You appear to think it very wicked in the Atlantic People to feel little eagerness in promoting the increase of population to the Westward; but, you see, that, in this want of such eagerness, they may be actuated by a real love for their country. For my part, I think it would have been good policy in the Congress not to dis pose of the Western Lands at all; and I am sure it would have been an act of real charity.
1030. Having now performed what I deemed my duty towards my countrymen, and towards this country too, I will conclude my letter with a few observations, relative to mills, which may be of use to you; for, I know, that you will go on; and, indeed, I most sincerely wish you all the success that you can wish yourself, without doing harm to others.
1031. You have no mill streams near you; and you are about to erect a wind-mill. Man is naturally prone to call to his aid whatever will save his bones labour. The water, the wind, the fire: any thing that will help him. Cattle of some sort or other were, for a long while, his great resource. But, of late, water-powers, wind-powers, fire-powers. And, indeed, wondrous things have been performed by machines of this kind. The water and the wind do not eat, and require no grooming. But, it sometimes happens, that, when all things are considered, we resort to these grand powers without any necessity for it; and that we forget how easily we could do the thing we want done, with our own hands. The story, in Peregrine Pickle, about the Mechanic, who had invented a water machine to cut off the head of a cabbage, hardly surpassed the reality in the case of the machine, brought out in England, some years ago, for reaping wheat; nor is it. much less ridiculous to see people going many miles with grist to a mill, which grist they might so easily grind at home. The hand-mills, used in England, would be invaluable with you, for a while, at least.
1032. But, it is of a mill of more general utility, that I am now about to speak to you; and, I seriously recommend it to your consideration, as well as to other persons similarly situated.
1033. At Botley I lived surrounded by water-mills and wind-mills. There were eight or ten within five miles of me, and one at two hundred yards from my house. Still I thought, that it was a brutal sort of thing to be obliged to send twice to a mill, with all the uncertainties of the business, in order to have a sack of wheat or of barley ground. I sent for a mill-wright, and, after making all the calculations, I re solved to have a mill in my farm yard, to grind for myself, and to sell my wheat in the shape of flour. I had the mill erected in a pretty little barn, well floored with oak, and standing upon stones with caps: so that no rats or mice could annoy me. The mill was to be moved by horses, for which, to shelter them from the wet, I had a shed with a circular roof erected on the outside of the barn-. Under this roof, as well as I recollect, there was a large wheel, which the horses turned, and a bar, going from that wheel, passed through into the barn, and there it put the whole machinery in motion.
1034. I have no skill in mechanics. I do not, and did not, know one thing from another by its name. All I looked to was the effect; and this was complete. I had excellent flour. All my meal was ground at home. I was never bothered with sending to the mill. My ears were never after dinned with complaints about bad flour and heavy bread. It was the prettiest, most convenient, and most valuable thing I had upon my farm. It was, I think, put up in 1816, and this was one of the pleasures, from Which the Borough-villains (God confound them!) drove me in 1817. I think it cost me about a hundred pounds. I forget, whether I had sold any flour from it to the Bakers. But, independent of that, it was very valuable. I think we ground and dressed about forty bushels of wheat in a day; and, we used to work at it on wet days, and when we could not work in the fields. We never were stopped by want of wind or water. The horses were always ready; and I know, that our grinding was done at one half the expence at which it was done by the millers.
1035. The farmers and millers used to say, that I saved nothing by my mill. Indeed, gain was not my object, except in convenience. I hated the sudden calls for going to the mill. They produced irregularity; and, besides, the millers were not more honest than other people. Their mills contained all sorts of grain; and, in their confusion, we sometimes got bad flour from good wheat; an accident that never happened to us after we got our own mill. But, as to the gain, I have just received a letter from my son, informing me, that the gentle man, a farmer born and bred, who rents my farm in my absence, sells no wheat; that he grinds all; that he sells flour all round the country; and that this flour is preferred before that of the millers. I was quite delighted to hear this news of my little mill. It awakened many recollections; and I immediately thought of communicating the facts to the public, and particularly to you.
1036. You will observe, that my farm is situated in the midst of mills. So that, you may be sure, that the thing answers, or it would not be carried on. If it were not attended with gain, it would not be put in motion. I was convinced, that any man might grind cheaper with a horse-mill than with a water or wind mill, and now the fact is proved. For, observe, the mill costs nothing for scite; it occupies a very small space; it is independent of wind and water; no floods or gales can affect it.
1037. Now, then, if such a mill be preferable to wind or water-mills in a place where both abound, how useful must it be in a situation like yours? Such a mill would amply supply about three hundred families, if kept constantly at work. And then, it is so much more convenient than a windmill. A windmill is necessarily a most unhandy thing. The grain has to be hauled up and the flour let down. The building is a place of no capacity; and, there is great danger attending the management of it. My project is merely a neat, close barn, standing upon stones that rats and mice cannot creep up. The waggon comes to the door, the sacks are handed in and out; and every thing is so convenient and easily performed, that it is a pleasure to behold it.
1038. About the construction of the mill I know nothing. I know only the effect, and that it is worked by horses, in the manner that I have described. I had no Miller. My Bailiff, whom I had made a Bailiff out of a Carpenter, I turned into a Miller; or, rather, I made him look after the thing. Any of the men, however, ould do the millering very well. Any of them could make better flour than the water and wind-millers used to make for us. So that there is no mystery in the matter.
1039. This country abounds in excellent mill wrights. The best, I dare say, in the world; and, if I were settled here as a farmer in a large way, I would soon have a little mill, and send away my produce in flour instead of wheat. If a farmer has to send frequently to the mill, (and that he must do, if he have a great quantity of stock and a large family,) the very expence of sending will pay for a mill in two or three years.
1040. I shall be glad if this piece of information should be of use to any body, and particularly if it should be of any use in the Prairies; for, God knows, you will have plague enough without sending to mill, which is, of itself, no small plague even in a Christian country. About the same strength that turns a threshing machine, turned my mill. I can give no in formation about the construction. I know there was a hopper and stones, and that the thing made a clinking noise like the water-mills. I know that the whole affair occupied but a small space. My barn was about forty feet long and eighteen feet wide, and the mill stood at one end of it. The man who made it for me, and with whom I made a bargain in writing, wanted me to agree to a specification of the thing; but I declined having any thing to do with cogs and wheels, and persisted in stipulating for effects. And these were, that with a certain force of horses, it was to make so much fine flour in so long a time; and this bargain he very faithfully fulfilled. The price was I think severity pounds, and the putting up and altogether made the amount about a hundred pounds. There were no heavy timbers in any part of the thing. There was not a bit of wood, in any part of the construction, so big as my thigh. The whole thing might have been carried away, all at once, very conveniently, in one of my waggons.
1041. There is another thing, which I beg leave to recommend to your attention; and that is, the use of the Broom-Corn Stalks as thatch. The coverings of barns and other out-houses with shingles makes them fiery hot in summer, so that it is dangerous to be at work in making mows near them in very hot weather. The heat they cause in the upper parts of houses, though there be a ceiling under them is intolerable. In the very hot weather I always bring my bed down to the ground-floor. Thatch is cool. Cool in summer and warm in winter. Its inconveniences are danger from fire and want of durability. The former is no great deal greater than that of shingles. The latter may be wholly removed by the use of the Broom-Corn Stalks. In England a good thatch of wheat-straw will last twelve or fifteen years. If this straw be reeded, as they do it in the counties of Dorset and Devon, it will last thirty years; and it is very beautiful. The little town of CHARMOUTH, which is all thatched, is one of the prettiest places I ever saw. What beautiful thatching might be made in this country, where the straw is so sound and so clean! A Dorsetshire thatcher might, upon this very island, make himself a decent fortune in a few years. They do cover barns with straw here sometimes; but how one of our thatchers would laugh at the work! Let me digress here, for a moment, to ask you if you have got a sow-spayer? We have no such man here. What a loss arises from this! What a plague it is. We cannot keep a whole farrow of pigs, unless we breed from all the sows! They go away: they plague us to death. Many a man in England, now as poor as an owlet, would (if he kept from the infernal drink) become rich here in a short time. These sow-gelders, as they call them, swarm in England. Any clown of a fellow follows this calling, which is hardly two degrees above rat-catching and mole-catching: and yet there is no such person here, where swine are so numerous, and where so many millions are fatted for exportation! It is very strange.
1042. To return to the thatching: Straw id not so durable as one could wish: besides, in very high winds, it is liable, if not reeded, to be ruffed a good deal; and the reeding, which is almost like counting the straws one by one, is expensive. In England we sometimes thatch with reeds, which in Hampshire, are called spear. This is an aquatic plant. It grows in the water, and will grow no where else. When stout it is of the thickness of a small cane at the bottom, and is about four or five feet long. I have seen a thatch of it, which, with a little patching, had lasted upwards of fifty years. In gentlemen's gardens, there are sometimes hedges or screens made of these reeds. They last, if well put up, half a century, and are singularly neat, while they parry the wind much better than paling or walls, because there is no eddy proceeding from their repulsion. They are generally put round those parts of the garden where the hot-beds are.
1043. Now, the Broom-Corn far surpasses the reeds in all respects. I intend, in my Book on Gardening, to give a full account of the applicability of this plant to garden-uses; both here and in England; for, as to the reeds, they can seldom be had, and a screen of them comes, in most parts of England, to more money than a paling of oak. But, the Broom-Corn! What an useful thing! What quantities upon an acre of land! Ten feet high, and more durable than reeds! The seed-stems, with a bit of the stem of the plant, make the brooms. These, I hear, are now sent to England. I have often talked of it in England as a good traffic. We here sweep stables and streets with what the English sweep their carpets with! You can buy as good a broom at New York for eight pence sterling as you can buy in London for five shillings sterling, and the freight cannot exceed two-pence or three-pence, if sent without handles. I bought a clothes-brush, an English clothes-brush, the other day for three shillings sterling. It was made of a farthing's worth of alder wood and of half a farthing's worth of Broom-Corn. An excellent brush. Better than bristles. I have Broom-Corn and Seed-Stems enough to make fifty thousand such brushes. I really think I shall send it to England. It is now lying about my barn, and the chickens are living upon the seeds. This plant demands greater heat even than the Indian Corn. It would hardly ripen its seed in England. Indeed it would not. But, if well managed, it would produce a prodigious crop of materials for reed-hedges and thatch. It is of a substance (I mean the main stalk) between that of a cane and that of a reed. It has joints precisely like those of the canes, which you may have seen the Boroughmongers' sons and footmen strut about with, called bamboos. The seed-stalks, which make the brooms and brushes, might not get so mature in England as to be so good as they are here for those uses: but, I have no doubt, that, in any of the warm lands in Surry, or Kent, or Hampshire, a man might raise upon an acre a crop worth several hundred pounds. The very stout stalks, if properly harvested and applied, would last nearly as long as the best hurdle rods. What beautiful screens they would make in gardens and pleasure grounds! Ten feet long, and straight as a gun stick! I shall send some of the seed to Eng land this year, and cause a trial to be made; and I will, in my Gardening Book, give full instructions for the cultivation. Of this book, which will be published soon, I would, if you lived in this world, send you a copy. These are the best uses of maritime intercourse: the interchange of plants, animals, and improvements of all sorts. I am doing my best to re pay this country for the protection which it has given me against our indemnified tyrants. "Cobbett's pigs and Swedish Turnips" will be talked of long after the bones of Ellenborough, Gibbs, Sidmouth, Castlereagh and Jenkinson will be rotten, and their names forgotten, or only remembered when my "trash" shall.
1044. This is a rambling sort of Letter. I now come back to the Broom-Corn for thatch. Sow it in rows about five feet asunder; or, rather, on ridges, a foot wide at the top, with an interval of five feet; let the plants stand all over this foot wide, at about three inches apart, or less. Keep the plants clear of weeds by a couple of weedings, and plough well between the ridges three or four times during the sum mer. This will make the plants grow tall, while their closeness to each other will make them small in thickness of stem or stalk. It will bring them to about the thickness of fine large reeds in England, and to about twice the length; and, I will engage, that a large barn may be covered, by a good thatcher, with the stalks, in two days, and that the covering shall last for fifty years. Only think of the price of shingles and nails! Only think of the cost of tiles in England! Only think of the expence of drawing or of reeding straw in England! Only think of going into the water to collect reeds in England, even where they are to be had at all, which is in a very few places! The very first thing that I would do, if I were to settle in a place where I had buildings to erect, would be to sow some Broom-Corn; that is to say, sow some roofs. What a fine thing this would be upon the farms in England! What a convenient thing for the cottagers! Thatch for their pretty little houses, for their styes, for their fuel-house, their cow-shed; and brooms into the bargain; for, though the seed would not ripen, and though the broom-part would not be of the best quality, it would be a thousand times better than heath. The seed might be sent from this country, and, though the Bo rough-villains would tax it, as their rapacious system does EVEN THE SEEDS OF TREES; yet, a small quantity of seed would suffice.
1045. As an ornamental plant nothing equals this. The Indian Corn is far inferior to it in this respect. Planted by the side of walks in gardens, what beautiful avenues it would make for the summer! I have seen the plants eighteen feet and a half high. I always wanted to get some seed in England; but, [never could. My friends thought it too childish and whimsical a thing to attend to. If the plant should so far come to perfection in England as to yield the broom-materials, it will be a great thing; arid, if it fall short of that, it will certainly surpass reeds for thatching and screening purposes, for sheep-yards, and for various other uses. How ever, I have no doubt of its producing brooms; for, the Indian Corn, though only certain sorts of it will ripen its seed even in Hampshire, will always come into bloom, and, in the Broom-Corn, it is the little stalks, or branches, out of which the flower comes, that makes the broom. If the plant succeed thus far in England, you may be sure that the Borough-villains will tax the brooms, until their system be blown to atoms; and, I should not wonder if they were to make the broom, like hops, an article of excise, and send their spies into people's fields and gardens to see that the revenue was not "defrauded." Precious villains! They stand between the people and all the gifts of nature! But this cannot last.
1046. I am happy to tell you, that Ellenborough and Gibbs have retired! Ill health is the pretence. I never yet knew ill health in duce such fellows to loosen their grasp of the public purse. But, be it so: then I feel plea sure on that account. To all the other pangs of body and mind let them add that of know ing, that William Cobbett, whom they thought they had put down for ever, if not killed, lives to rejoice at their pains and their death, to trample on their graves, and to hand down their names for the just judgment of posterity. What! are these feelings wrong? Are they sinful? What defence have we, then, against tyranny? If the oppressor be not to experience the resentment of the oppressed, let us at once acknowledge the divine right of tyranny; for, what has tyranny else to fear? Who has it to fear, but those whom it has injured? It is the aggregate of individual injury that makes up national injury: it is the aggregate of individual resentment that makes up national resentment. National resentment is absolutely necessary to the producing of redress for oppression; and, therefore, to say that individual resentment is wrong, is to say, that there ought to be no re dress for oppression: it is, in short, to pass a sentence of never-ending slavery on all man kind. Some Local Militia men; young fellows who had been compelled to become soldiers, and who had no knowledge of military discipline; who had, by the Act of Parliament, been promised a guinea each before they marched; who had refused to march because the guinea had not been wholly paid them; some of these young men, these mere boys, had, for this mutiny, as it was called, been flogged at Ely in Cambridgeshire, under a guard of German bayonets and sabres. At this I expressed my indignation in the strongest terms; and, for doing this, I was put for two years into a jail along with men convicted of unnatural crimes, robbery, and under charge of murder, and where ASTLET was, who was under sentence of death. To this was added a fine of a thousand pounds sterling; and, when the two years should expire, bonds for the peace and good behaviour for seven years! The seven years are not yet expired. I will endeavour to be of "good behaviour" for the short space that is to come; and, I am sure, I have behaved well for the past; for never were seven years of such efficient exertion seen in the life of any individual.
1047. The tyrants are hard pushed now. The Bank Notes are their only ground to stand on; and that ground will be moved from under them in a little time. Strange changes since you left England, short as the time has been! I am fully of opinion, that my four years which I gave the system at my coming away, will see the end of it. There can be no more war carried on by them. I see they have had Baring, of Loan-notoriety at the Holy Alliance-Congress. He has been stipulating for a supply of paper-money. They should have got my con sent to let the paper-money remain; for, I can destroy it whenever I please. All sorts of projects are on foot. "Inimitable Notes;" paying in specie by weight of metal. Oh! the wondrous fools! A sudden blow-up; or, a blow-up somewhat slow, by ruin and starvation; one of these must come; unless they speedily reduce the interest of the Debt; and even that will not save the seat-dealers.
1048. In the meanwhile let us enjoy ourselves here amongst this kind and hospitable people; but, let us never forget, that England is our country, and that her freedom and renown ought to be as dear to us as the blood in our veins. God bless you, and give you health and happiness.