Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

people under an attractive title' to listen to his prosing. This impression received a strong confirmation when we found our suspicious guide launching out into a wide ocean of discussion for the purpose of proving the close relation subsisting between the foreign trade of England and the foreign trade of China; and folTowing that up, he enters into an explanation of the means of extending free trade to the whole coast of China. Although this subject has no reference to the immediate question which werexpected to see treated in these volumes; yet, it is not without its interest at the present moment, when our future connexion with China is a theme of anxious consideration in the commercial world. Though' trade is legally very much restricted in China, still no people in the world enjoy the freedom of it in greater perfection. They call it smig-pigeon, and there is no doubt, that, from their disposition, a free trade could be easily established with them by European and American merchants. And why is it that free trade is not spread over the whole coast of China at this moment? Because, replies our author, the political fears of the Chinese government will not allow it. Therefore, says an Englishman, gend another embassy to Pekin; instruct the ambassador to swear, like 'Lord Amherst, that he has no commercial objects, that he is sent across the world to manifest the regard of his Britannic majesty for his Imperial majesty, and to improve the relations of amity that so happily subsisted between their illustrious parents Kienlung and George the Third:" bnt this time do not trust altogether to the ambassador's skill in the art of lying; back him with armed ships; order him to talk of English conquests in India; tell him to frighten the mandarins by a' display of English power, and if necessary by the use of force: this is the way to calm the political fears of the Chinese government." Jis The author afterwards suggests that what he calls the most free, and perhaps most extensive trade in the world, might be established in the following way. The harbour dues of Sincapore (which is little more than a stopping-place for English ships) (the mere harbour dues of that ill-chosen and merely English port, are sufficient to defray the expense of maintaining it. The trade of a well-chosen market-place on the coast of China, open to all nations on equal terms, must produce, from moderate harbour dues alone, more than enough to cover the cost of establishing and preserving it; supposing the work performed in the American fashion, with a view to utility, not in the old English fashion, with a view to robbing the public. Besides, referring to the preceding remarks on the causes of the value of land, to the value of land at Sincapore, Penang and Batavia; a value produced mainly by the competition of Chinese settlers; and bearing in mind that as many Chinese as could find room would settle in a free market-place near the coast of China, it would seem that great profits might be made by an outlay of capital in the way proposed. The English are puzzled to find investments for their capital.

At length the author returns to the real subject of his book,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and concludes his first volume with a chapter on some social peculiarities of the Americans. : There can be no doubt that many -scenes of religious madness take place in the United States, particularly in the back woods, 'as: bodies writhing, arms swinging, legs dancing, eyes rolling, groans, shouts, howls and shrieke; men knocking their heads against trees, women tearing off their clothes ; congregations frantic after the example of the preacher: all this is true, but the causes of it which are described by English travellers are far from being the correct ones. The Americans, according to our author, speaking of them as a general body, are religious by habit, but not constantly, not mixing up things spiritual with things temporal, not shewing, or feeling religious sentiments, except when they meet for public worship. The custom of attending public worship is almost universal, and to neglect it would be considered indecent; but so completely has custom taken the place of zeal in this matter, that what form of worship a citizen prefers is perfectly indifferent to all the other citizens, like the colour of his coat. Members of the same family even belong to congregations of opposite tenets, without the slightest interruption of domestic peace. Moreover, avowed deists, who in Eng. land would be scouted as infidels, are as much respected as the most devout Christians, provided they belong to a sect and congregate once a week to profess their limited faith. Lukewarmness, indifference this would be called in England, and has been called by English writers; but some other expression must be found for it, since amongst the most tolerant congregations in America are those which occasionally work themselves into a state of religious phrenzy. Sobriety in general, with occasional fits of intoxication, seems a more correct description of spiritual matters in America. The general sobriety is explained by a total separation between religion and politics ; but this does not account for the occasional drunkenness. What is the cause of that religious phrenzy now and then exbibited by people, whose ordinary religious feelings are so tolerant and sober, so much the reverse of bigotry and fanaticism?

In answer to this question, it is suggested, that those who are not prone to much mental exertion generally are most sensible to a want of some violent occasional excitement, a principle which at once explains why it is that wherever a considerable number are found whose minds are not actively engaged, there we shall also discover the use of extraordinary stimulants. The rule appears to be universal; and those idle savages, who know nothing about spirits, drugs, music, or shows, or any other of the usual sources of excitement, are said to twirl themselves about in order to get into a state of intoxication. Now, it appears, according to the present writer, that in all those new settlements of America where love feasts and camp-meetings are most common, the inhabitants pass a great part of their lives in solitude, not in absolute solitude, like that which when inflicted as a punishment produces death or insanity, but out of the way of social intercourse, each family being isolated from all the others, except on rare occasions,

when they congregate in spite of distance and bad roads. The effect on the mind of this lonely and monotonous existence, can hardly be conceived by Englishmen generallyto whom the stillness of the country gives fresh and pleasant feelings. t: To a lane American family, there is nothing so delightful as one of those occasions when many families meet for any purpose; and when thousands meet for a religious purpose, the congregation, excited by a total change of scene, by the unusual confluence of numbers, and by the novelty of an impulse common to many, are easily intoxicated by eloquence of which the object is to inflame their atready heated imaginations. The preacher may or may not be as sincere as his audience; but in either case he is not to be blamed for their extravagance. Instead of causing the phrenzy over which he presides, he only helps to gratify a desire, the desire for some violent mental excitement, which has resulted from sameness and solitude. A'wandering preacher in America does not create, but only supplies, a demand for his services; visiting thinly peopled districts, not with a view to delude the scattered inhabitants, but because he knows that they already long for his presence, that they are waiting for a dose of superstitious terror; and that if he should not help them to devil-worship, they would send for some other dealer in that, to them, intoxicating drug.

It is upon the same principle too that the greater wildness of the women at those meetings is to be accounted for: they lead a more solitary, amore monotonous life than the

mnen,
who

go

abroad to markets, fairs, and elections, and therefore they (the women) are more liable to be excessively acted upon on any occasion of excitement. Above two-thirds of the inabitants of America, according to our author, pass the greater part of their lives in comparative loneliness; and this important circumstance is strongly urged as an excuse for many supposed faults in their customs and habits, which are complained of so intolerantly by English travellers, The author grants the truth of the remark, that democracy, at least in America, is unfavourable to learning; and he does not hesitate to admit, that amongst the nations which are called civilized, the Americans are the most neglectful of fine arts, science, and philosophy. But then the immediate cause of this unhappy state of things ought more strictly to be examined by those who pronounce on the American character. The great source of all these social imperfections is not the nature of the government, but it is the dispersed condition of the people, that condition having been always known to operate strongly against civilization. What is the case of the United States now, but one particularly unfavourable to that refinement, which can result alone from constant intercourse? They are a more dispersed society now than in Franklin's time. When Jefferson wrote the declaration of independence, the vast regions west of the Alleghanies had scarcely been opened for settlement. Washington became a soldier in contests with the Indians on the western frontier of Virginia, which is now the eastern frontier of states more extensive than the dependant colonies.

Even if the increase of people had been equal to the acquisition of land, still the dispersion would have been greater, because the interior settlements are, by reason of their great distance from the sea, more deficient in natural means of communication. Wash4 ington often foretold some of the evils that would result from spreading towards the west, unless the eastern and western states were connected by canals and good roads. The result is, thatı population has spread, not merely as fast as it has increased, but faster ; that there are fewer people to the square mile than when population was about a quarter of its present amount; and that this smaller number of people in proportion to land, besides being separated from each other by greater distance, are not so well provided with means of social intercourse. Where ithere are markets, there the people live together; but these are few and far between.

***mib992 Had the Americans then: been without markets, what would have been their situation now? This is a question of some in. terest, and is intimately connected with another, namely, to what! are they indebted even for the markets they have ?

Sillos The second volume commences with a notice of the Slave Trade in America, in which its origin, progress, and prospects, are des scribed.

We own that we have ourselves, in common with most of tour countrymen, believed that no greater criine could have been com mitted by America than by permitting the practice of slavery within her precincts. But the present author seems to have his reasons for entertaining a very different opinion; and," he says, that a due examination of facts would, perhaps, make it appear that the situation of America does afford some sort of apology for the foul stain upon her character. The author endeavours to justify this assertion by referring to the origin of slavery. The first European colony, he says, in America was planted by Spapiards in the Island of St. Domingo, or, as it was originally called, Hispaniola. . . The first Spanish colonists of St. Domingo received from the Spanish crown extensive grants of the mast fertile land: The settlers carried with them an abundance of capital, and each settler obtained more good land than he could possibly cultivate. But land and capital are not the only elements of production. In order to produce wealth the first colonists of St. Domiogo wanted labourers. If some of them had laid out a portion of their capital inconveying labourers from Spain, the other settlers, who had not so expended a portion of their capital, would have been able to pay for the service of such labourers more than those could have paid who had diminished their capital by conveying la bourers from Spain. - Those who had not so diminished their capital, offering higher wages than those who had, would have enjoyed what the former had expended capital to procureurThis does actually occur very often in modern English colonies a Thus, unless all the settlers had agreed that each should take out a number of labourers in proportion to his capital, none of them

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

could have had any motive for slaying out capital in that way. Moreover, if such an agreement had been possible, and its execuk tion practicable, the labourers taken out by the capitalists, to a place where every one could obtain plenty of good land for a trifleza would have ceased to be labourers for bire; they would have ben come independent landowners, if not competitors with their former masters in the market of labour. This also does actually occur every day in several modern colonies.. Consequently, the first Spanish settlers in St. Domingo did not obtain labourers from Spain But, without labourers, their capital must have perished, op at least must soon have been diminished to that small amount: which each individual could employ with his own hands. This has actually occured in the last colony founded by Englishnien the Swan River settlement--where a great mass of capital, of seeds, implements and cattle, has perished for want of labourers toluse it, and where no settler has preserved much more capital than he can employ with his own hands. The first settlers in St. Domingo remaining without labourers, their only prospect was at solitary, wild, half-savage existence. Nay, they might have dieds for want. Of the colonies planted in modern times, more have perished than have prospered. Those settlersimight have died of want, because their own labour, not being combined in any degree, but being cut up into fractions as numerous as the individuals, might not have produced enough to keep them alive. In the colonies of modern times, thousands of people have died from this cause, and some in the last colony founded by England. 9 (Urged> by this want of labourers, the first settlers in St. Domingo per suaded the Spanish government to include in each of its grants of land a proportionate grant of natives. The most ancient grants of land in Hispaniola mention the number of natives which each: grantee was authorised to grant as cattle. This was the origin of slavery in America.

1 ), C9012 Such was the plan which was essential to the very existence of the colonists. T'he settlers from England, who had plenty of capital, but were without slaves. or labourers, failed altogether in the commencement, and many bodies of them either returned, or perished in the attempt. The beginning of slavery in the United States was brought about by the necessity there was for them; for, it appears, that the colony of Virginia, being in a deplorable situation after its first settlement, obtained, by mere accident, al ship load of slaves from a Dutch vessel that sailed up

James's River for provisions. These slaves were immediately set to work, some in raising food, some in cultivating tobacco. For the first time in this colony there was combination of labour and division of employments. Tobacco, although denounced by King James as a vile and nauseous weed, was already prized in Europe ; and the soil and climate of Virginia were peculiarly suited to its growth. Those settlers, therefore, who by obtaining slaves were enabled to employs many hands constantly in one work, in apreparing the ground for tobacco plants, in watering the plantsin preventing

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »