North America, by Anthony Trollope

Washington to St. Louis.

Though I had felt Washington to be disagreeable as a city, yet I was almost sorry to leave it when the day of my departure came. I had allowed myself a month for my sojourn in the capital, and I had stayed a mouth to the day. Then came the trouble of packing up, the necessity of calling on a long list of acquaintances one after another, the feeling that, bad as Washington might be, I might be going to places that were worse, a conviction that I should get beyond the reach of my letters, and a sort of affection which I had acquired for my rooms. My landlord, being a colored man, told me that he was sorry I was going. Would I not remain? Would I come back to him? Had I been comfortable? Only for so and so or so and so, he would have done better for me. No white American citizen, occupying the position of landlord, would have condescended to such comfortable words. I knew the man did not in truth want me to stay, as a lady and gentleman were waiting to go in the moment I went out; but I did not the less value the assurance. One hungers and thirsts after such civil words among American citizens of this class. The clerks and managers at hotels, the officials at railway stations, the cashiers at banks, the women in the shops — ah! they are the worst of all. An American woman who is bound by her position to serve you — who is paid in some shape to supply your wants, whether to sell you a bit of soap or bring you a towel in your bed-room at a hotel — is, I think, of all human creatures, the most insolent. I certainly had a feeling of regret at parting with my colored friend — and some regret also as regards a few that were white.

As I drove down Pennsylvania Avenue, through the slush and mud, and saw, perhaps for the last time, those wretchedly dirty horse sentries who had refused to allow me to trot through the streets, I almost wished that I could see more of them. How absurd they looked, with a whole kit of rattletraps strapped on their horses’ backs behind them — blankets, coats, canteens, coils of rope, and, always at the top of everything else, a tin pot! No doubt these things are all necessary to a mounted sentry, or they would not have been there; but it always seemed as though the horse had been loaded gipsy-fashion, in a manner that I may perhaps best describe as higgledy-piggledy, and that there was a want of military precision in the packing. The man would have looked more graceful, and the soldier more warlike, had the pannikin been made to assume some rigidly fixed position instead of dangling among the ropes. The drawn saber, too, never consorted well with the dirty outside woolen wrapper which generally hung loose from the man’s neck. Heaven knows, I did not begrudge him his comforter in that cold weather, or even his long, uncombed shock of hair; but I think he might have been made more spruce, and I am sure that he could not have looked more uncomfortable. As I went, however, I felt for him a sort of affection, and wished in my heart of hearts that he might soon be enabled to return to some more congenial employment.

I went out by the Capitol, and saw that also, as I then believed, for the last time. With all its faults it is a great building, and, though unfinished, is effective; its very size and pretension give it a certain majesty. What will be the fate of that vast pile, and of those other costly public edifices at Washington, should the South succeed wholly in their present enterprise? If Virginia should ever become a part of the Southern republic, Washington cannot remain the capital of the Northern republic. In such case it would be almost better to let Maryland go also, so that the future destiny of that unfortunate city may not be a source of trouble, and a stumbling-block of opprobrium. Even if Virginia be saved, its position will be most unfortunate.

I fancy that the railroads in those days must have been doing a very prosperous business. From New York to Philadelphia, thence on to Baltimore, and again to Washington, I had found the cars full; so full that sundry passengers could not find seats. Now, on my return to Baltimore, they were again crowded. The stations were all crowded. Luggage trains were going in and out as fast as the rails could carry them. Among the passengers almost half were soldiers. I presume that these were men going on furlough, or on special occasions; for the regiments were of course not received by ordinary passenger trains. About this time a return was called for by Congress of all the moneys paid by the government, on account of the army, to the lines between New York and Washington. Whether or no it was ever furnished I did not hear; but it was openly stated that the colonels of regiments received large gratuities from certain railway companies for the regiments passing over their lines. Charges of a similar nature were made against officers, contractors, quartermasters, paymasters, generals, and cabinet ministers. I am not prepared to say that any of these men had dirty hands. It was not for me to make inquiries on such matters. But the continuance and universality of the accusations were dreadful. When everybody is suspected of being dishonest, dishonesty almost ceases to be regarded as disgraceful.

I will allude to a charge made against one member of the cabinet, because the circumstances of the case were all acknowledged and proved. This gentleman employed his wife’s brother-inlaw to buy ships, and the agent so employed pocketed about 20,000l. by the transaction in six months. The excuse made was that this profit was in accordance with the usual practice of the ship-dealing trade, and that it was paid by the owners who sold, and not by the government which bought. But in so vast an agency the ordinary rate of profit on such business became an enormous sum; and the gentleman who made the plea must surely have understood that that 20,000l. was in fact paid by the government. It is the purchaser, and not the seller, who in fact pays all such fees. The question is this: Should the government have paid so vast a sum for one man’s work for six months? And if so, was it well that that sum should go into the pocket of a near relative of the minister whose special business it was to protect the government?

American private soldiers are not pleasant fellow-travelers. They are loud and noisy, and swear quite as much as the army could possibly have sworn in Flanders. They are, moreover, very dirty; and each man, with his long, thick great-coat, takes up more space than is intended to be allotted to him. Of course I felt that if I chose to travel in a country while it had such a piece of business on its hands, I could not expect that everything should be found in exact order. The matter for wonder, perhaps, was that the ordinary affairs of life were so little disarranged, and that any traveling at all was practicable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that American private soldiers are not agreeable fellow-travelers.

It was my present intention to go due west across the country into Missouri, skirting, as it were, the line of the war which had now extended itself from the Atlantic across into Kansas. There were at this time three main armies — that of the Potomac, as the army of Virginia was called, of which McClellan held the command; that of Kentucky, under General Buell, who was stationed at Louisville on the Ohio; and the army on the Mississippi, which had been under Fremont, and of which General Halleck now held the command. To these were opposed the three rebel armies of Beauregard, in Virginia; of Johnston, on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee; and of Price, in Missouri. There was also a fourth army in Kansas, west of Missouri, under General Hunter; and while I was in Washington another general, supposed by some to be the “coming man,” was sent down to Kansas to participate in General Hunter’s command. This was General Jim Lane, who resigned a seat in the Senate in order that he might undertake this military duty. When he reached Kansas, having on his route made sundry violent abolition speeches, and proclaimed his intention of sweeping slavery out of the Southwestern States, he came to loggerheads with his superior officer respecting their relative positions.

On my arrival at Baltimore, I found the place knee-deep in mud and slush and half-melted snow. It was then raining hard — raining dirt, not water, as it sometimes does. Worse weather for soldiers out in tents could not be imagined — nor for men who were not soldiers, but who, nevertheless, were compelled to leave their houses. I only remained at Baltimore one day, and then started again, leaving there the greater part of my baggage. I had a vague hope — a hope which I hardly hoped to realize — that I might be able to get through to the South. At any rate I made myself ready for the chance by making my traveling impediments as light as possible, and started from Baltimore, prepared to endure all the discomfort which lightness of baggage entails. My route lay over the Alleghenies, by Pittsburg and Cincinnati, and my first stopping place was at Harrisburg, the political capital of Pennsylvania. There is nothing special at Harrisburg to arrest any traveler; but the local legislature of the State was then sitting, and I was desirous of seeing the Senate and Representatives of at any rate one State, during its period of vitality.

In Pennsylvania the General Assembly, as the joint legislature is called, sits every year, commencing their work early in January, and continuing till it be finished. The usual period of sitting seems to be about ten weeks. In the majority of States, the legislature only sits every other year. In this State it sits every year, and the Representatives are elected annually. The Senators are elected for three years, a third of the body being chosen each year. The two chambers were ugly, convenient rooms, arranged very much after the fashion of the halls of Congress at Washington. Each member had his own desk and his own chair. They were placed in the shape of a horseshoe, facing the chairman, before whom sat three clerks. In neither house did I hear any set speech. The voices of the Speaker and of the Clerks of the Houses were heard more frequently than those of the members; and the business seemed to be done in a dull, serviceable, methodical manner, likely to be useful to the country, and very uninteresting to the gentlemen engaged. Indeed at Washington also, in Congress, it seemed to me that there was much less of set speeches than in our House of Commons. With us there are certain men whom it seems impossible to put down, and by whom the time of Parliament is occupied from night to night, with advantage to no one and with satisfaction to none but themselves. I do not think that the evil prevails to the same extent in America, either in Congress or in the State legislatures. As regards Washington, this good result may be assisted by a salutary practice which, as I was assured, prevails there. A member gets his speech printed at the government cost, and sends it down free by post to his constituents, without troubling either the House with hearing it or himself with speaking it. I cannot but think that the practice might be copied with success on our side of the water.

The appearance of the members of the legislature of Pennsylvania did not impress me very favorably. I do not know why we should wish a legislator to be neat in his dress, and comely, in some degree, in his personal appearance. There is no good reason, perhaps, why they should have cleaner shirts than their outside brethren, or have been more particular in the use of soap and water, and brush and comb. But I have an idea that if ever our own Parliament becomes dirty, it will lose its prestige; and I cannot but think that the Parliament of Pennsylvania would gain an accession of dignity by some slightly increased devotion to the Graces. I saw in the two Houses but one gentleman (a Senator) who looked like a Quaker; but even he was a very untidy Quaker.

I paid my respects to the Governor, and found him briskly employed in arranging the appointments of officers. All the regimental appointments to the volunteer regiments — and that is practically to the whole body of the army — are made by the State in which the regiments are mustered. When the affair commenced, the captains and lieutenants were chosen by the men; but it was found that this would not do. When the skeleton of a State militia only was required, such an arrangement was popular and not essentially injurious; but now that war had become a reality, and that volunteers were required to obey discipline, some other mode of promotion was found necessary. As far as I could understand, the appointments were in the hands of the State Governor, who however was expected, in the selection of the superior officers, to be guided by the expressed wishes of the regiment, when no objection existed to such a choice. In the present instance the Governor’s course was very thorny. Certain unfinished regiments were in the act of being amalgamated — two perfect regiments being made up from perhaps five imperfect regiments, and so on. But though the privates had not been forthcoming to the full number for each expected regiment, there had been no such dearth of officers, and consequently the present operation consisted in reducing their number.

* The army at this time consisted nominally of 660,000 men, of whom only 20,000 were regulars.

Nothing can be much uglier than the State House at Harrisburg, but it commands a magnificent view of one of the valleys into which the Alleghany Mountains is broken. Harrisburg is immediately under the range, probably at its finest point, and the railway running west from the town to Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and Chicago, passes right over the chain. The line has been magnificently engineered, and the scenery is very grand. I went over the Alleghanies in midwinter, when they were covered with snow, but even when so seen they were very fine. The view down the valley from Altoona, a point near the summit, must in summer be excessively lovely. I stopped at Altoona one night, with the object of getting about among the hills and making the best of the winter view but I found it impossible to walk. The snow had become frozen and was like glass. I could not progress a mile in any way. With infinite labor I climbed to the top of one little hill, and when there became aware that the descent would be very much more difficult. I did get down, but should not choose to describe the manner in which I accomplished the descent.

In running down the mountains to Pittsburg an accident occurred which in any other country would have thrown the engine off the line, and have reduced the carriages behind the engine to a heap of ruins. But here it had no other effect than that of delaying us for three or four hours. The tire of one of the heavy driving wheels flew off, and in the shock the body of the wheel itself was broken, one spoke and a portion of the circumference of the wheel was carried away, and the steam-chamber was ripped open. Nevertheless the train was pulled up, neither the engine nor any of the carriages got off the line, and the men in charge of the train seemed to think very lightly of the matter. I was amused to see how little was made of the affair by any of the passengers. In England a delay of three hours would in itself produce a great amount of grumbling, or at least many signs of discomfort and temporary unhappiness. But here no one said a word. Some of the younger men got out and looked at the ruined wheel; but the most of the passengers kept their seats, chewed their tobacco, and went to sleep. In all such matters an American is much more patient than an Englishman. To sit quiet, without speech, and ruminate in some contorted position of body comes to him by nature. On this occasion I did not hear a word of complaint — nor yet a word of surprise or thankfulness that the accident had been attended with no serious result. “I have got a furlough for ten days,” one soldier said to me, “and I have missed every connection all through from Washington here. I shall have just time to turn round and go back when I get home.” But he did not seem to be in any way dissatisfied. He had not referred to his relatives when he spoke of “missing his connections,” but to his want of good fortune as regarded railway traveling. He had reached Baltimore too late for the train on to Harrisburg, and Harrisburg too late for the train on to Pittsburg. Now he must again reach Pittsburg too late for his further journey. But nevertheless he seemed to be well pleased with his position.

Pittsburg is the Merthyr-Tydvil of Pennsylvania — or perhaps I should better describe it as an amalgamation of Swansea, Merthyr-Tydvil, and South Shields. It is, without exception, the blackest place which I ever saw. The three English towns which I have named are very dirty, but all their combined soot and grease and dinginess do not equal that of Pittsburg. As regards scenery it is beautifully situated, being at the foot of the Alleghany Mountains, and at the juncture of the two rivers Monongahela and Alleghany. Here, at the town, they come together, and form the River Ohio. Nothing can be more picturesque than the site, for the spurs of the mountains come down close round the town, and the rivers are broad and swift, and can be seen for miles from heights which may be reached in a short walk. Even the filth and wondrous blackness of the place are picturesque when looked down upon from above. The tops of the churches are visible, and some of the larger buildings may be partially traced through the thick, brown, settled smoke. But the city itself is buried in a dense cloud. The atmosphere was especially heavy when I was there, and the effect was probably increased by the general darkness of the weather. The Monongahela is crossed by a fine bridge, and on the other side the ground rises at once, almost with the rapidity of a precipice; so that a commanding view is obtained down upon the town and the two rivers and the different bridges, from a height immediately above them. I was never more in love with smoke and dirt than when I stood here and watched the darkness of night close in upon the floating soot which hovered over the house-tops of the city. I cannot say that I saw the sun set, for there was no sun. I should say that the sun never shone at Pittsburg, as foreigners who visit London in November declare that the sun never shines there.

Walking along the river side I counted thirty-two steamers, all beached upon the shore, with their bows toward the land — large boats, capable probably of carrying from one to two hundred passengers each, and about three hundred tons of merchandise. On inquiry I found that many of these were not now at work. They were resting idle, the trade down the Mississippi below St. Louis having been cut off by the war. Many of them, however, were still running, the passage down the river being open to Wheeling in Virginia, to Portsmouth, Cincinnati, and the whole of South Ohio, to Louisville in Kentucky, and to Cairo in Illinois, where the Ohio joins the Mississippi. The amount of traffic carried on by these boats while the country was at peace within itself was very great, and conclusive as to the increasing prosperity of the people. It seems that everybody travels in America, and that nothing is thought of distance. A young man will step into a car and sit beside you, with that easy careless air which is common to a railway passenger in England who is passing from one station to the next; and on conversing with him you will find that he is going seven or eight hundred miles. He is supplied with fresh newspapers three or four times a day as he passes by the towns at which they are published; he eats a large assortment of gum-drops and apples, and is quite as much at home as in his own house. On board the river boats it is the same with him, with this exception, that when there he can get whisky when he wants it. He knows nothing of the ennui of traveling, and never seems to long for the end of his journey, as travelers do with us. Should his boat come to grief upon the river, and lay by for a day or a night, it does not in the least disconcert him. He seats himself upon three chairs, takes a bite of tobacco, thrusts his hand into his trowsers pockets, and revels in an elysium of his own.

I was told that the stockholders in these boats were in a bad way at the present time. There were no dividends going. The same story was repeated as to many and many an investment. Where the war created business, as it had done on some of the main lines of railroad and in some special towns, money was passing very freely; but away from this, ruin seemed to have fallen on the enterprise of the country. Men were not broken hearted, nor were they even melancholy; but they were simply ruined. That is nothing in the States, so long as the ruined man has the means left to him of supplying his daily wants till he can start himself again in life. It is almost the normal condition of the American man in business; and therefore I am inclined to think that when this war is over, and things begin to settle themselves into new grooves, commerce will recover herself more quickly there than she would do among any other people. It is so common a thing to hear of an enterprise that has never paid a dollar of interest on the original outlay — of hotels, canals, railroads, banks, blocks of houses, etc. that never paid even in the happy days of peace — that one is tempted to disregard the absence of dividends, and to believe that such a trifling accident will not act as any check on future speculation. In no country has pecuniary ruin been so common as in the States; but then in no country is pecuniary ruin so little ruinous. “We are a recuperative people,” a west-country gentleman once said to me. I doubted the propriety of his word, but I acknowledged the truth of his assertion.

Pittsburg and Alleghany — which latter is a town similar in its nature to Pittsburg, on the other side of the river of the same name — regard themselves as places apart; but they are in effect one and the same city. They live under the same blanket of soot, which is woven by the joint efforts of the two places. Their united population is 135,000, of which Alleghany owns about 50,000. The industry of the towns is of that sort which arises from a union of coal and iron in the vicinity. The Pennsylvanian coal fields are the most prolific in the Union; and Pittsburg is therefore great, exactly as Merthyr-Tydvil and Birmingham are great. But the foundery work at Pittsburg is more nearly allied to the heavy, rough works of the Welsh coal metropolis than to the finish and polish of Birmingham.

“Why cannot you consume your own smoke?” I asked a gentleman there. “Fuel is so cheap that it would not pay,” he answered. His idea of the advantage of consuming smoke was confined to the question of its paying as a simple operation in itself. The consequent cleanliness and improvement in the atmosphere had not entered into his calculations. Any such result might be a fortuitous benefit, but was not of sufficient importance to make any effort in that direction expedient on its own account. “Coal was burned,” he said, “in the founderies at something less than two dollars a ton; while that was the case, it could not answer the purpose of any iron-founder to put up an apparatus for the consumption of smoke?” I did not pursue the argument any further, as I perceived that we were looking at the matter from two different points of view.

Everything in the hotel was black; not black to the eye, for the eye teaches itself to discriminate colors even when loaded with dirt, but black to the touch. On coming out of a tub of water my foot took an impress from the carpet exactly as it would have done had I trod barefooted on a path laid with soot. I thought that I was turning negro upward, till I put my wet hand upon the carpet, and found that the result was the same. And yet the carpet was green to the eye — a dull, dingy green, but still green. “You shouldn’t damp your feet,” a man said to me, to whom I mentioned the catastrophe. Certainly, Pittsburg is the dirtiest place I ever saw; but it is, as I said before, very picturesque in its dirt when looked at from above the blanket.

From Pittsburg I went on by train to Cincinnati, and was soon in the State of Ohio. I confess that I have never felt any great regard for Pennsylvania. It has always had, in my estimation, a low character for commercial honesty, and a certain flavor of pretentious hypocrisy. This probably has been much owing to the acerbity and pungency of Sydney Smith’s witty denunciations against the drab-colored State. It is noted for repudiation of its own debts, and for sharpness in exaction of its own bargains. It has been always smart in banking. It has given Buchanan as a President to the country, and Cameron as a Secretary of War to the government! When the battle of Bull’s Run was to be fought, Pennsylvanian soldiers were the men who, on that day, threw down their arms because the three months’ term for which they had been enlisted was then expired! Pennsylvania does not, in my mind, stand on a par with Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, or Virginia. We are apt to connect the name of Benjamin Franklin with Pennsylvania, but Franklin was a Boston man. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania is rich and prosperous. Indeed it bears all those marks which Quakers generally leave behind them.

I had some little personal feeling in visiting Cincinnati, because my mother had lived there for some time, and had there been concerned in a commercial enterprise, by which no one, I believe, made any great sum of money. Between thirty and forty years ago she built a bazaar in Cincinnati, which, I was assured by the present owner of the house, was at the time of its erection considered to be the great building of the town. It has been sadly eclipsed now, and by no means rears its head proudly among the great blocks around it. It had become a “Physio-medical Institute” when I was there, and was under the dominion of a quack doctor on one side, and of a college of rights of women female medical professors on the other. “I believe, sir, no man or woman ever yet made a dollar in that building; and as for rent, I don’t even expect it.” Such was the account given of the unfortunate bazaar by the present proprietor.

Cincinnati has long been known as a great town — conspicuous among all towns for the number of hogs which are there killed, salted, and packed. It is the great hog metropolis of the Western States; but Cincinnati has not grown with the rapidity of other towns. It has now 170,000 inhabitants, but then it got an early start. St. Louis, which is west of it again near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi, has gone ahead of it. Cincinnati stands on the Ohio River, separated by a ferry from Kentucky, which is a slave State, Ohio itself is a free-soil State. When the time comes for arranging the line of division, if such time shall ever come, it will be very hard to say where Northern feeling ends and where Southern wishes commence. Newport and Covington, which are in Kentucky, are suburbs of Cincinnati; and yet in these places slavery is rife. The domestic servants are mostly slaves, though it is essential that those so kept should be known as slaves who will not run away. It is understood that a slave who escapes into Ohio will not be caught and given up by the intervention of the Ohio police; and from Covington or Newport any slave with ease can escape into Ohio. But when that division takes place, no river like the Ohio can form the boundary between the divided nations. Such rivers are the highways, round which in this country people have clustered themselves. A river here is not a natural barrier, but a connecting street. It would be as well to make a railway a division, or the center line of a city a national boundary. Kentucky and Ohio States are joined together by the Ohio River, with Cincinnati on one side and Louisville on the other; and I do not think that man’s act can upset these ties of nature. But between Kentucky and Tennessee there is no such bond of union. There a mathematical line has been simply drawn, a continuation of that line which divides Virginia from North Carolina, to which two latter States Kentucky and Tennessee belonged when the thirteen original States first formed themselves into a Union. But that mathematical line has offered no peculiar advantages to population. No great towns cluster there, and no strong social interests would be dissevered should Kentucky throw in her lot with the North, and Tennessee with the South; but Kentucky owns a quarter of a million of slaves, and those slaves must either be emancipated or removed before such a junction can be firmly settled.

The great business of Cincinnati is hog killing now, as it used to be in the old days of which I have so often heard. It seems to be an established fact, that in this portion of the world the porcine genus are all hogs. One never hears of a pig. With us a trade in hogs and pigs is subject to some little contumely. There is a feeling, which has perhaps never been expressed in words, but which certainly exists, that these animals are not so honorable in their bearings as sheep and oxen. It is a prejudice which by no means exists in Cincinnati. There hog killing and salting and packing is very honorable, and the great men in the trade are the merchant princes of the city. I went to see the performance, feeling it to be a duty to inspect everywhere that which I found to be of most importance; but I will not describe it. There were a crowd of men operating, and I was told that the point of honor was to “put through” a hog a minute. It must be understood that the animal enters upon the ceremony alive, and comes out in that cleanly, disemboweled guise in which it may sometimes be seen hanging up previous to the operation of the pork butcher’s knife. To one special man was appointed a performance which seemed to be specially disagreeable, so that he appeared despicable in my eyes; but when on inquiry I learned that he earned five dollars (or a pound sterling) a day, my judgment as to his position was reversed. And, after all, what matters the ugly nature of such an occupation when a man is used to it?

Cincinnati is like all other American towns, with second, third, and fourth streets, seventh, eighth, and ninth streets, and so on. Then the cross streets are named chiefly from trees. Chestnut, walnut, locust, etc. I do not know whence has come this fancy for naming streets after trees in the States, but it is very general. The town is well built, with good fronts to many of the houses, with large shops and larger stores; of course also with an enormous hotel, which has never paid anything like a proper dividend to the speculator who built it. It is always the same story. But these towns shame our provincial towns by their breadth and grandeur. I am afraid that speculators with us are trammeled by an “ignorant impatience of ruin.” I should not myself like to live in Cincinnati or in any of these towns. They are slow, dingy, and uninteresting; but they all possess an air of substantial, civic dignity. It must, however, be remembered that the Americans live much more in towns than we do. All with us that are rich and aristocratic and luxurious live in the country, frequenting the metropolis for only a portion of the year. But all that are rich and aristocratic and luxurious in the States live in the towns. Our provincial towns are not generally chosen as the residences of our higher classes.

Cincinnati has 170,000 inhabitants, and there are 14,000 children at the free schools — which is about one in twelve of the whole population. This number gives the average of scholars throughout the year ended 30th of June, 1861. But there are other schools in Cincinnati — parish schools and private schools — and it is stated to me that there were in all 32,000 children attending school in the city throughout the year. The education at the State schools is very good. Thirty-four teachers are employed, at an average salary of 92l. each, ranging from 260l. to 60l. per annum. It is in this matter of education that the cities of the free States of America have done so much for the civilization and welfare of their population. This fact cannot be repeated in their praise too often. Those who have the management of affairs, who are at the top of the tree, are desirous of giving to all an opportunity of raising themselves in the scale of human beings. I dislike universal suffrage; I dislike votes by ballot; I dislike above all things the tyranny of democracy. But I do like the political feeling — for it is a political feeling — which induces every educated American to lend a hand to the education of his fellow-citizens. It shows, if nothing else does so, a germ of truth in that doctrine of equality. It is a doctrine to be forgiven when he who preaches it is in truth striving to raise others to his own level; though utterly unpardonable when the preacher would pull down others to his level.

Leaving Cincinnati, I again entered a slave State — namely, Kentucky. When the war broke out, Kentucky took upon itself to say that it would be neutral, as if neutrality in such a position could by any means have been possible! Neutrality on the borders of secession, on the battle-field of the coming contest, was of course impossible. Tennessee, to the south, had joined the South by a regular secession ordinance. Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, to the north, were of course true to the Union. Under these circumstances it became necessary that Kentucky should choose her side. With the exception of the little State of Delaware, in which from her position secession would have been impossible, Kentucky was, I think, less inclined to rebellion, more desirous of standing by the North, than any other of the slave States. She did all she could, however, to put off the evil day of so evil a choice. Abolition within her borders was held to be abominable as strongly as it was so held in Georgia. She had no sympathy, and could have none, with the teachings and preachings of Massachusetts. But she did not wish to belong to a confederacy of which the Northern States were to be the declared enemy, and be the border State of the South under such circumstances. She did all she could for personal neutrality. She made that effort for general reconciliation of which I have spoken as the Crittenden Compromise. But compromises and reconciliation were not as yet possible, and therefore it was necessary that she should choose her part. Her governor declared for secession, and at first also her legislature was inclined to follow the governor. But no overt act of secession by the State was committed, and at last it was decided that Kentucky should be declared to be loyal. It was in fact divided. Those on the southern border joined the secessionists; whereas the greater portion of the State, containing Frankfort, the capital, and the would-be secessionist governor, who lived there, joined the North. Men in fact became Unionists or secessionists not by their own conviction, but through the necessity of their positions; and Kentucky, through the necessity of her position, became one of the scenes of civil war.

I must confess that the difficulty of the position of the whole country seems to me to have been under-estimated in England. In common life it is not easy to arrange the circumstances of a divorce between man and wife, all whose belongings and associations have for many years been in common. Their children, their money, their house, their friends, their secrets have been joint property, and have formed bonds of union. But yet such quarrels may arise, such mutual antipathy, such acerbity and even ill usage, that all who know them admit that a separation is needed. So it is here in the States. Free soil and slave soil could, while both were young and unused to power, go on together — not without many jars and unhappy bickerings, but they did go on together. But now they must part; and how shall the parting be made? With which side shall go this child, and who shall remain in possession of that pleasant homestead? Putting secession aside, there were in the United States two distinct political doctrines, of which the extremes were opposed to each other as pole is opposed to pole. We have no such variance of creed, no such radical difference as to the essential rules of life between parties in our country. We have no such cause for personal rancor in our Parliament as has existed for some years past in both Houses of Congress. These two extreme parties were the slaveowners of the South and the abolitionists of the North and West. Fifty years ago the former regarded the institution of slavery as a necessity of their position — generally as an evil necessity, and generally also as a custom to be removed in the course of years. Gradually they have learned to look upon slavery as good in itself, and to believe that it has been the source of their wealth and the strength of their position. They have declared it to be a blessing inalienable, that should remain among them forever as an inheritance not to be touched and not to be spoken of with hard words. Fifty years ago the abolitionists of the North differed only in opinion from the slave owners of the South in hoping for a speedier end to this stain upon the nation, and in thinking that some action should be taken toward the final emancipation of the bondsmen. But they also have progressed; and, as the Southern masters have called the institution blessed, they have called it accursed. Their numbers have increased, and with their numbers their power and their violence. In this way two parties have been formed who could not look on each other without hatred. An intermediate doctrine has been held by men who were nearer in their sympathies to the slaveowners than to the abolitionists, but who were not disposed to justify slavery as a thing apart. These men have been aware that slavery has existed in accordance with the Constitution of their country, and have been willing to attach the stain which accompanies the institution to the individual State which entertains it, and not to the national government by which the question has been constitutionally ignored. The men who have participated in the government have naturally been inclined toward the middle doctrine; but as the two extremes have retreated farther from each other, the power of this middle class of politicians has decreased. Mr. Lincoln, though he does not now declare himself an abolitionist, was elected by the abolitionists; and when, as a consequence of that election, secession was threatened, no step which he could have taken would have satisfied the South which had opposed him, and been at the same time true to the North which had chosen him. But it was possible that his government might save Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri. As Radicals in England become simple Whigs when they are admitted into public offices, so did Mr. Lincoln with his government become anti-abolitionist when he entered on his functions. Had he combated secession with emancipation of the slaves, no slave State would or could have held by the Union. Abolition for a lecturer may be a telling subject. It is easy to bring down rounds of applause by tales of the wrongs of bondage. But to men in office abolition was too stern a reality. It signified servile insurrection, absolute ruin to all Southern slaveowners, and the absolute enmity of every slave State.

But that task of steering between the two has been very difficult. I fear that the task of so steering with success is almost impossible. In England it is thought that Mr. Lincoln might have maintained the Union by compromising matters with the South — or, if not so, that he might have maintained peace by yielding to the South. But no such power was in his hands. While we were blaming him for opposition to all Southern terms, his own friends in the North were saying that all principle and truth was abandoned for the sake of such States as Kentucky and Missouri. “Virginia is gone; Maryland cannot go. And slavery is endured, and the new virtue of Washington is made to tamper with the evil one, in order that a show of loyalty may be preserved in one or two States which, after all, are not truly loyal!” That is the accusation made against the government by the abolitionists; and that made by us, on the other side, is the reverse. I believe that Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to fight, and that he was right also not to fight with abolition as his battle-cry. That he may be forced by his own friends into that cry, is, I fear, still possible. Kentucky, at any rate, did not secede in bulk. She still sent her Senators to Congress. and allowed herself to be reckoned among the stars in the American firmament. But she could not escape the presence of the war. Did she remain loyal, or did she secede, that was equally her fate.

The day before I entered Kentucky a battle was fought in that State, which gave to the Northern arms their first actual victory. It was at a place called Mill Spring, near Somerset, toward the south of the State. General Zollicoffer, with a Confederate army numbering, it was supposed, some eight thousand men, had advanced upon a smaller Federal force, commanded by General Thomas, and had been himself killed, while his army was cut to pieces and dispersed; the cannon of the Confederates were taken, and their camp seized and destroyed. Their rout was complete; but in this instance again the advancing party had been beaten, as had, I believe, been the case in all the actions hitherto fought throughout the war. Here, however, had been an actual victory, and, it was not surprising that in Kentucky loyal men should rejoice greatly, and begin to hope that the Confederates would be beaten out of the State. Unfortunately, however, General Zollicoffer’s army had only been an offshoot from the main rebel army in Kentucky. Buell, commanding the Federal troops at Louisville, and Sydney Johnston, the Confederate general, at Bowling Green, as yet remained opposite to each other, and the work was still to be done.

I visited the little towns of Lexington and Frankfort, in Kentucky. At the former I found in the hotel to which I went seventy-five teamsters belonging to the army. They were hanging about the great hall when I entered, and clustering round the stove in the middle of the chamber; a dirty, rough, quaint set of men, clothed in a wonderful variety of garbs, but not disorderly or loud. The landlord apologized for their presence, alleging that other accommodation could not be found for them in the town. He received, he said, a dollar a day for feeding them, and for supplying them with a place in which they could lie down. It did not pay him, but what could he do? Such an apology from an American landlord was in itself a surprising fact. Such high functionaries are, as a rule, men inclined to tell a traveler that if he does not like the guests among whom he finds himself, he may go elsewhere. But this landlord had as yet filled the place for not more than two or three weeks, and was unused to the dignity of his position. While I was at supper, the seventy-five teamsters were summoned into the common eating-room by a loud gong, and sat down to their meal at the public table. They were very dirty; I doubt whether I ever saw dirtier men; but they were orderly and well behaved, and but for their extreme dirt might have passed as the ordinary occupants of a well-filled hotel in the West. Such men, in the States, are less clumsy with their knives and forks, less astray in an unused position, more intelligent in adapting themselves to a new life than are Englishmen of the same rank. It is always the same story. With us there is no level of society. Men stand on a long staircase, but the crowd congregates near the bottom, and the lower steps are very broad. In America men stand upon a common platform, but the platform is raised above the ground, though it does not approach in height the top of our staircase. If we take the average altitude in the two countries, we shall find that the American heads are the more elevated of the two. I conceived rather an affection for those dirty teamsters; they answered me civilly when I spoke to them, and sat in quietness, smoking their pipes, with a dull and dirty but orderly demeanor.

The country about Lexington is called the Blue Grass Region, and boasts itself as of peculiar fecundity in the matter of pasturage. Why the grass is called blue, or in what way or at what period it becomes blue, I did not learn; but the country is very lovely and very fertile. Between Lexington and Frankfort a large stock farm, extending over three thousand acres, is kept by a gentleman who is very well known as a breeder of horses, cattle, and sheep. He has spent much money on it, and is making for himself a Kentucky elysium. He was kind enough to entertain me for awhile, and showed me something of country life in Kentucky. A farm in that part of the State depends, and must depend, chiefly on slave labor. The slaves are a material part of the estate, and as they are regarded by the law as real property — being actually adstricti glebae — an inheritor of land has no alternative but to keep them. A gentleman in Kentucky does not sell his slaves. To do so is considered to be low and mean, and is opposed to the aristocratic traditions of the country. A man who does so willingly, puts himself beyond the pale of good fellowship with his neighbors. A sale of slaves is regarded as a sign almost of bankruptcy. If a man cannot pay his debts, his creditors can step in and sell his slaves; but he does not himself make the sale. When a man owns more slaves than he needs, he hires them out by the year; and when he requires more than he owns, he takes them on hire by the year. Care is taken in such hirings not to remove a married man away from his home. The price paid for a negro’s labor at the time of my visit was about a hundred dollars, or twenty pounds for the year; but this price was then extremely low in consequence of the war disturbances. The usual price had been about fifty or sixty per cent. above this. The man who takes the negro on hire feeds him, clothes him, provides him with a bed, and supplies him with medical attendance. I went into some of their cottages on the estate which I visited, and was not in the least surprised to find them preferable in size, furniture, and all material comforts to the dwellings of most of our own agricultural laborers. Any comparison between the material comfort of a Kentucky slave and an English ditcher and delver would be preposterous. The Kentucky slave never wants for clothing fitted to the weather. He eats meat twice a day, and has three good meals; he knows no limit but his own appetite; his work is light; he has many varieties of amusement; he has instant medical assistance at all periods of necessity for himself, his wife, and his children. Of course he pays no rent, fears no baker, and knows no hunger. I would not have it supposed that I conceive slavery with all these comforts to be equal to freedom without them; nor do I conceive that the negro can be made equal to the white man. But in discussing the condition of the negro, it is necessary that we should understand what are the advantages of which abolition would deprive him, and in what condition he has been placed by the daily receipt of such advantages. If a negro slave wants new shoes, he asks for them, and receives them, with the undoubting simplicity of a child. Such a state of things has its picturesquely patriarchal side; but what would be the state of such a man if he were emancipated tomorrow?

The natural beauty of the place which I was visiting was very great. The trees were fine and well scattered over the large, park-like pastures, and the ground was broken on every side into hills. There was perhaps too much timber, but my friend seemed to think that that fault would find a natural remedy only too quickly. “I do not like to cut down trees if I can help it,” he said. After that I need not say that my host was quite as much an Englishman as an American. To the purely American farmer a tree is simply an enemy to be trodden under foot, and buried underground, or reduced to ashes and thrown to the winds with what most economical dispatch may be possible. If water had been added to the landscape here it would have been perfect, regarding it as ordinary English park-scenery. But the little rivers at this place have a dirty trick of burying themselves under the ground. They go down suddenly into holes, disappearing from the upper air, and then come up again at the distance of perhaps half a mile. Unfortunately their periods of seclusion are more prolonged than those of their upper-air distance. There were three or four such ascents and descents about the place.

My host was a breeder of race-horses, and had imported sires from England; of sheep also, and had imported famous rams; of cattle too, and was great in bulls. He was very loud in praise of Kentucky and its attractions, if only this war could be brought to an end. But I could not obtain from him an assurance that the speculation in which he was engaged had been profitable. Ornamental farming in England is a very pretty amusement for a wealthy man, but I fancy — without intending any slight on Mr. Mechi — that the amusement is expensive. I believe that the same thing may be said of it in a slave State.

Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky, and is as quietly dull a little town as I ever entered. It is on the River Kentucky, and as the grounds about it on every side rise in wooded hills, it is a very pretty place. In January it was very pretty, but in summer it must be lovely. I was taken up to the cemetery there by a path along the river, and am inclined to say that it is the sweetest resting-place for the dead that I have ever visited. Daniel Boone lies there. He was the first white man who settled in Kentucky; or rather, perhaps, the first who entered Kentucky with a view to a white man’s settlement. Such frontier men as was Daniel Boone never remained long contented with the spots they opened. As soon as he had left his mark in that territory he went again farther west, over the big rivers into Missouri, and there he died. But the men of Kentucky are proud of Daniel Boone, and so they have buried him in the loveliest spot they could select, immediately over the river. Frankfort is worth a visit, if only that this grave and graveyard may be seen. The legislature of the State was not sitting when I was there, and the grass was growing in the streets.

Louisville is the commercial city of the State, and stands on the Ohio. It is another great town, like all the others, built with high stores, and great houses and stone-faced blocks. I have no doubt that all the building speculations have been failures, and that the men engaged in them were all ruined. But there, as the result of their labor, stands a fair great city on the southern banks of the Ohio. Here General Buell held his headquarters, but his army lay at a distance. On my return from the West I visited one of the camps of this army, and will speak of it as I speak of my backward journey. I had already at this time begun to conceive an opinion that the armies in Kentucky and in Missouri would do at any rate as much for the Northern cause as that of the Potomac, of which so much more had been heard in England.

While I was at Louisville the Ohio was flooded. It had begun to rise when I was at Cincinnati, and since then had gone on increasing hourly, rising inch by inch up into the towns upon its bank. I visited two suburbs of Louisville, both of which were submerged, as to the streets and ground floors of the houses. At Shipping Port, one of these suburbs, I saw the women and children clustering in the up-stairs room, while the men were going about in punts and wherries, collecting drift-wood from the river for their winter’s firing. In some places bedding and furniture had been brought over to the high ground, and the women were sitting, guarding their little property. That village, amid the waters, was a sad sight to see; but I heard no complaints. There was no tearing of hair and no gnashing of teeth; no bitter tears or moans of sorrow. The men who were not at work in the boats stood loafing about in clusters, looking at the still rising river, but each seemed to be personally indifferent to the matter. When the house of an American is carried down the river, he builds himself another, as he would get himself a new coat when his old coat became unserviceable. But he never laments or moans for such a loss. Surely there is no other people so passive under personal misfortune!

Going from Louisville up to St. Louis, I crossed the Ohio River and passed through parts of Indiana and of Illinois, and, striking the Mississippi opposite St. Louis, crossed that river also, and then entered the State of Missouri. The Ohio was, as I have said, flooded, and we went over it at night. The boat had been moored at some unaccustomed place. There was no light. The road was deep in mud up to the axle-tree, and was crowded with wagons and carts, which in the darkness of the night seemed to have stuck there. But the man drove his four horses through it all, and into the ferry-boat, over its side. There were three or four such omnibuses, and as many wagons, as to each of which I predicted in my own mind some fatal catastrophe. But they were all driven on to the boat in the dark, the horses mixing in through each other in a chaos which would have altogether incapacitated any English coachman. And then the vessel labored across the flood, going sideways, and hardly keeping her own against the stream. But we did get over, and were all driven out again, up to the railway station in safety. On reaching the Mississippi about the middle of the next day, we found it frozen over, or rather covered from side to side with blocks of ice which had forced their way down the river, so that the steam-ferry could not reach its proper landing. I do not think that we in England would have attempted the feat of carrying over horses and carriages under stress of such circumstances. But it was done here. Huge plankings were laid down over the ice, and omnibuses and wagons were driven on. In getting out again, these vehicles, each with four horses, had to be twisted about, and driven in and across the vessel, and turned in spaces to look at which would have broken the heart of an English coachman. And then with a spring they were driven up a bank as steep as a ladder! Ah me! under what mistaken illusions have I not labored all the days of my youth, in supposing that no man could drive four horses well but an English stage coachman! I have seen performances in America — and in Italy and France also, but above all in America — which would have made the hair of any English professional driver stand on end.

And in this way I entered St. Louis.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43