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A Year's Residence in the United States of America Vol 3
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To the Editor of the National Advocate.
Hyde Park, Jan. 9th, 1819.
1056. BEFORE I saw your paper of the day before yesterday, giving some extracts from a book published in England by one Fearon, I had written part of the following article, and had prepared to send it home as part of a Register, of which I send one every week. Your paper enabled me to make an addition to the article; and, in the few words below, I have this day sent the whole off to be published in London. If you think it worth inserting, I beg you to have the goodness to give it a place; and I beg the same favour at the hands of all those editors who may have published Fearon's account of what he calls his visit to me. I am, Sir,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,
1057. There is, I am told, one FEARON, who has gone home and written and published a book, abusing this country and its people in the grossest manner. I only hear of it by letter. I hear, also, that he speaks of me as if he knew me. I will tell you how far he knew me: I live at a country house 20 miles from New York. One morning, in the summer of 1817, a young man came into the hall, and introduced himself to me under the name of FEARON. The following I find about him in my journal: — "A Mr. FEARON came this morning and had breakfast with us. Told us an odd story about having slept in a black woman's hut last night for sixpence, though there are excellent taverns at every two miles along the road. Told us a still odder story about his being an envoy from a host of families in London, to look out for a place of settlement in America; but he took special care not to name any one of those families, though we asked him to do it. We took him, at first, for a sort of spy. William thinks he is a shopkeeper's clerk; I think he has been a tailor. I observed that he carried his elbow close to his sides, and his arms, below the elbow, in a horizontal position. It came out that he had been with BUCHANAN, Castlereagh's consul at New York; but it is too ridiculous; such a thing as this cannot be a spy; he can get access no where but to taverns and boarding houses."
1058. This note now stands in my journal or diary of 22d August, 1817. I remember that he asked me some very silly questions about the prices of land, cattle, and other things, which I answered very shortly. He asked my advice about the families emigrating, and the very words I uttered in answer, were these: "Every thing I can say, in such a case, is to discourage the enterprize. If Englishmen come here, let them come individually, and sit down amongst the natives: no other plan is rational."
1059. What I have heard of this man since, is, that he spent his time, or great part of it, in New York, amongst the idle and dissolute young Englishmen, whose laziness and extravagance had put them in a state to make them uneasy, and to make them unnoticed by respectable people. That country must be bad, to be sure, which would not give them ease and abundance without labour or economy.
1060. Now, what can such a man know of America? He has not kept house; he has had no being in any neighbourhood; he has never had any circle of acquaintances amongst the people; he has never been a guest under any of their roofs; he knows nothing of their manners or their characters; and how can such a man be a judge of the effects of their institutions, civil, political, or religious?
1061. I have no doubt, however, that the reviews and newspapers, in the pay of the Boroughmongers, will do their best to propagate the falsehoods contained in this man's book. But what would you say of the people of America, if they were to affect to believe what the French General said of the people of England? This man, in a book which he published in France, said, that all the English married women got drunk, and swore like troopers; and that all the young women were strumpets, and that the greater part of them had bastards before they were married. Now, if the people of America were to affect to believe this, what should we say of them? Yet, this is just as true as this FEARON'S account of the people of America.
1062. As to the facts of this man's visit to me, my son William, who is, by this time, in London, can and will vouch for their truth at any time, and, if necessary, to Fearon's face, if Fearon has a face which he dares show.
1063. Since writing the above, the New York papers have brought me a specimen of Mr. FEARON'S performance. I shall notice only his account of his visit to me. It is in the following words:
Visit to Mr.
— Upon arriving
at Mr. Cobbett's gate, my feelings, in walking along the path which
led to the residence of this celebrated man are difficult to
describe. The idea of a person self-banished, leading an isolated
life in a foreign land; a path rarely trod, fences
in ruins, the gate broken, a house mouldering to decay,
added to much awkwardness of feeling on my part, calling upon an
entire stranger, produced in my mind feelings of thoughtfulness and
melancholy. I would fain almost have returned without entering the
wooden mansion, imagining that its possessor would exclaim, 'What
intruding fellow is here coming to break in upon my pursuits?' But
these difficulties ceased almost with their existence. A female
servant (an English woman) informed me that her master was from home,
attending at the county court. Her language was natural enough for a
person in her situation; she pressed me to walk in, being quite
that I was her
and she was so
to see an
Following my guide
through the kitchen, the floor of which, she asserted, was imbedded
with two feet of dirt when Mr. Cobbett came there (it
had been previously in the occupation of Americans)
I was conducted to a front parlour, which contained but a single
several trunks of
sea-clothes. Mr. Cobbett's first question on seeing me was, 'Are you
an American, sir?' then, 'What were my objects in the United States?
Was I acquainted with the friends of liberty in London? How long had
I left?' &c. He was immediately familiar. I was pleasingly
disappointed with the general tone of his manners. Mr. Cobbett thinks
meanly of the American people,
but spoke highly of the economy of their government. — He does not
advise persons in respectable circumstances to emigrate, even in the
present state of England. In his opinion a family who can barely live
upon their property, will more consult their happiness by not
removing to the United States. He almost laughs
at Mr. Birkbeck's settling
in the western country. This being the first time I had seen this
well-known character, I viewed him with no ordinary degree of
interest. A print by Bartolozzi, executed in 1801, conveys a correct
outline of his person. His eyes are small, and pleasingly good
natured. To a French gentleman present, he was attentive; with his
sons, familiar; to his servants, easy; but to all, in his tone and
manner, resolute and determined. He feels no hesitation in praising
himself, and evidently believes that he is eventually destined to be
the Atlas of the British nation. His faculty of relating anecdotes is
amusing. Instances when we meet. My impressions of Mr. Cobbett are,
that those who know him would like him, if they can be content to
submit unconditionally to his dictation. 'Obey me, and I will treat
you kindly; if you do not, I will trample on you,' seemed visible in
every word and feature. He appears to feel, in its fullest force, the
'I am myself alone.' "
1065. It is unlucky for this blade, that the parties are alive. First let the "English woman" speak for herself which she does, in these words:
1066. I remember, that, about a week after I came to Hyde Park, in 1817, a man came to the house in the evening, when Mr. Cobbett was out, and that he came again the next morning. I never knew, or asked, what countryman he was. He came to the back door. I first gave him a chair in a back-room; but, as he was a slippery-looking young man, and as it was growing late, my husband thought it was best to bring him down into the kitchen, where he staid till he went away. I had no talk with him. I could not know what condition Mr. Cobbett found the house in, for I did not come here 'till the middle of August. I never heard whether the gentleman that lived here before Mr. Cobbett, was an American, or not. I never in my life said a word against the people or the country: I am very glad I came to it; I am doing very well in it; and have found as good and kind friends amongst the Americans, as I ever had in all my life.
8th January, 1819.
1067. Mrs. Churcher puts me in mind, that I asked her what sort of a looking man it was, and that she said he looked like an Exciseman, and that Churcher exclaimed: "Why, you fool, they don't have any Excisemen and such fellows here!" — I never was at a county court in America in my life. I was out shooting. As to the house, it is a better one than he ever entered, except as a lodger or a servant, or to carry home work. The path, so far from being trackless, was as beaten as the highway. — The gentleman who lived here before me was an Englishman, whose name was Crow. But only think of dirt, two feet deep, in a kitchen! All is false. The house was built by Judge Ludlow. It is large, and very sound and commodious. The avenues of trees before it the most beautiful that I ever saw. The orchard, the fine shade and fine grass all about the house; the abundant garden, the beautiful turnip field; the whole a subject worthy of admiration; and not a single draw-back. A hearty, unostentatious welcome from me and my sons. A breakfast such, probably, as the fellow will never eat again. I leave the public to guess, whether it be likely, that I should give a chap like this my opinions about government or people! Just as if I did not know the people! Just as if they were new to me! The man was not in the house half an hour in the morning. Judge, then, what he could know of my manners and character. He was a long time afterwards at New York. Would he not have been here a second time, if I had been familiar enough to relate anecdotes to him? Such blades are not backward in renewing their visits whenever they get but a little encouragement. He, in another part of the extracts that I have seen, complains of the reserve of the American ladies. No "social intercourse" he says, between the sexes. That is to say, he could find none! I'll engage he could not; amongst the whites, at least. It is hardly possible for me to talk about the public affairs of England and not to talk of some of my own acts; but is it not monstrous to suppose, that I should praise myself, and show that I believed myself destined to be the Atlas of the British nation, in my conversation of a few minutes with an utter stranger, and that, too, a blade whom I took for a decent tailor, my son William for a shop-keeper's clerk, and Mrs. Churcher, with less charity, for a slippery young man, or, at best, for an Exciseman? — As I said before, such a man can know nothing of the people of America. He has no channel through which to get at them. And, indeed, why should he! Can he go into the families of people at home! Not he, indeed, beyond his own low circle. Why should he do it here, then? Did he think he was coming here to live at free quarter? The black woman's hut, indeed, he might force himself into with impunity; six pence would insure him a reception there; but, it would be a shame, indeed, if such a man could be admitted to unreserved intercourse with American ladies. Slippery as he was, he could not slide into their good graces, and into the possession of their fathers' soul-subduing dollars; and so he is gone home to curse the "nasty guessing Americans."