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was often struck with the boldness with which he canvassed subjects which we all, of whatever party, in Europe, regard with a sort of respect; and the perfect freedom he manifested, from all prepossessions in favour of the exclusive privileges, or the legalized superiority of that part of society with which, of course, he had been principally acquainted. While I sometimes admired the novelty of his speculations on these subjects, I confess I was sometimes disgusted with the want of respect which he exhibited for those institutions which once existed in more force, but still remain, though modified (and ameliorated I trust) by the spirit of the times. He ridiculed the idea that there was any thing like a representation of the people in France,—and that she did or ever could enjoy as much liberty as England, until the influence of the clergy was diminished, and the education of the lower classes of society more extended. Our amicable disputes on these, and many other similar topics, continued during the voyage, and I was often on the point of agreeing to many of his positions, which he assures me, I will see demonstrated in the character of the institutions of the United States. There was in the conversation of this young American something bold and fearless, in regard to the matter and manner of his speculations, which I have not often observed at home; and a disregard to names and ancient insti. tutions, which both pained and annoyed me. There was nothing remarkable in the character of the rest of our passengers, and our communication was limited to the civilities of mere ordinary acquaintance.
The voyage was short, and not varied by any remarkable incident; but the novelty of the situation, and my love of nature, preserved me from that monotony of feeling so often complained of by those who cross the sea. The joyous sensation of meeting another sail, freighted with human hope and fear, like our own,—the aspect of the placid ocean, unruffled by the gentlest zephyr, and the great deep thrown into the most horrid agitation by the resistless wind, have created a store of rich and deep reflection for after years. I do not envy the moral constitution of that man, who complains that a sea voyage is dull.
I have already seen Mr. W~, to whom I was introduced by the General. I was received in the most frank and cordial manner; and he several times alluded to those days, which you have so often detailed to me, when you both, young and full of honourable enthusiasm, fought under the banners of the young republic—when, though of different and distant countries, you shared like perils, from an attachment to the cause of liberty.
He is now old and feeble ; but his heart seemed rejoiced to see your son; and I felt with great emotion the compliment which was thus silently, but significantly, paid to your son. Mr. W. now scarcely leaves his house; but, like a venerable patriarch, is surrounded by his friends and family, and his latter days are soothed by the constant tidings of the prosperity of his native land, and the respect and gratitude of his fellow citizens.
I rejoice, my dear father, that my long cherished aspirations are realized; that I shall visit the places once trodden by you and your associates in arms, and which have often formed the subject of conversation, during our morning walks in the little wood, or our evening amusements in the old fashioned salon. I shall
, however, endeavour to judge calmly, notwithstanding my favourable bias in favour of the society and institutions of the United States, and I will give you honestly the result of my impressions, even at the expense of dissipating some of those cherished prepossessions, which time has consecrated and confirmed.
I shall not say any thing now of the city-indeed, I have scarcely seen any thing more than its principal street, which is quite imposing. I propose, moreover, to leave it in a few days, as it is midsummer, and there is then, as I am told, little to be enjoyed of its society. I do not regret the circumstance, as I shall go from this place to the great fall at Niagara, and descending lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, visit the province of Lower Canada, which is on many accounts so interesting to Frenchmen. Thence I shall return by way of lake Champlain, to this city, in the month of November, when I shall be able to observe attentively its society, manners and institutions. The great canal is nearly finished, and will be an object of no small interest; and I shall take infinite pleasure in visiting some spots, celebrated in the annals of the French war, as it is here called, and that of the revolution.
You will not hear from me so often as if I were in a seaport; but my heart will be always with you. I am sure Estelle will not forget her promise to write me, and to be attentive to old Gaspard for my sake. Embrace my dear mother for me, and believe in the truth and devotion of
New-York, I trust, my dear father, that my last brief letter from Albany will have quieted any fears which my long silence may have caused. I found it impossible to write as often as usual, during
my journey, owing to the rapidity of my movements, and the constant occupation, which mere observation and journalizing give rise to. En revanche, however, I hope that my diary will afford our little circle some amusement during moments when its members may wish to travel across the Atlantic. One is hardly at a loss for amusement in our country, but that satisfaction which descends into the heart, and sheds a bright, though not a brilliant hue over the passing hour, is not to be created or enjoyed at will; and if I shall ever communicate that sentiment to you, you will owe it not to any merit of mine, but the deep interest you take in every thing that interests me.
Though I have already mentioned to you the Hudson river, I cannot resist again recurring to the subject; inasmuch as I have, but a week since, arrived from a survey of its scenery, in one of the most delightful seasons I have ever observed. We have nothing like this noble stream in France, whether you consider the picturesque and varied beauties of its banks, or the commerce which floats on its shining bosom. It is more like an arm of the sea than a river; for vessels of the largest size may ascend it for one hundred and forty miles; while sloops, (the finest river craft in the world,) of more than one hundred tons burthen, are to be found navigating it above one hundred and sixty miles from its mouth. Their number amounts, as I was informed by a passenger in the steam-boat, to about two thousand of all sizes,* occupied in transporting the produce of the country to this great mart, and carrying back the proceeds, invested in all the various articles of luxury or absolute necessity. No prospect of a similar character, can be more exhilarating than that of a large fleet of these vessels, with their immense mainsails making their way, in every direction, for their various ports on the river-some delayed by an adverse wind, and others scudding joyously before it. None of our rivers,-neither the Rhone, the Seine nor the Garonne-exhibit so delightful a spectacle of human industry and enterprize. I was, however, surprised at one circumstance; and that is, the comparative scarcity of villages, at least so far as the eye can search them out. There are quays, built of wood, and projected here and there into the river, to which the sloops are moored. Attached to them is a store-house, tavern, and perhaps a house or two; and with the exception of Newburgh, Troy, Mount Pleasant, and some few other villages, the population
* The writer is mistaken :-we imagine, there are probably not more than fourteen or fifteen hundred. Trans.
does not appear to be very dense along the banks of the Hud
This river possesses a great deal of fine scenery,--alternately grand and beautiful. Sometimes it presents a delightful lake, surrounded by sloping hills, cultivated fields, and deep forests, which seem left untouched by the axe. When you enter what are called the Highlands, nature assumes a more rugged and sublime aspect; and the lofty mountains enclose you on every side, and the pendent rocks seem ready to fall and bring desolation on the frail vessel below them. The scene was altogether grand and striking; and its effect rendered still more 80, by those beautiful autumnal tints which the landscape assumes at this season. Nothing can be more magnificent than this peculiarity of American scenery. I despair of ever being able to give you any idea of the glorious effect, produced by the deep green of the pine, the brilliant purple of the maple, the bright yellow of the aspen,-all intermingled in infinite variety and in the most harmonious confusion. I shall not soon forget the impressions which this unrivalled exhibition made upon me, so far beyond the idea which I had derived from
your descriptions, as well as from books.
This part of the river is spoken of with admiration by the Americans, and with justice; but I must confess that I think the scenery of the Rhine more grand and imposing in its character. The old castles which tower above its rocky precipi. ces, and which are associated with so many romantic events in war and gallantry, add a nameless charm which here we cannot find, and which we ought not to wish for, in this youthful and uncorrupted republic. Those gloomy and weather-beaten walls were once the strong holds of feudal oppression; while the bright and sunny tops of the Highlands have never heard other sounds than the peaceful echo of the wood cutter's axe, the mellow notes of the horn, prolonged by their thousand echoes, or the exhilarating shout of men, whether savage or civilized, whose birthright was liberty.
You will think by this time, and I believe with some truth, that I have forgotten my promise to tell you something about the modern state of this metropolis. This city, with a port excelled by very few, either in Europe or America, for its ca
* The author has imbibed a very natural, but a very erroneous impression. These “ quays built of wood,” called in the vernacular, docks, are the landings of the villages, which, greatly to the convenience of the country, and entirely to the disadvantage of the searcher after the picturesque, are usually two or three miles from the river.-Trans.
pacity and its safety—with a noble river communicating with canals, one of which reaches lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence, while the other presents a passage for the commerce of the immense territory surrounding the upper lakes—with a back country of great and increasing fertility--with a large capital in the hands of enterprising men, is destined to become the London of America, the great commercial emporium of the western continent. At the close of the revolutionary war it had scarcely 30,000 inhabitants, while at this moment it counts probably more than 130,000. The then limits of the town, which extended no more than half a mile from the Battery, are now in the very heart of the city. So rapid has been its increase, that an acquaintance who has been kind enough to be my guide since my arrival here, told me that in the year 1804, he had seen more than one person shooting snipe on a large meadow, which is now covered with well-built houses and more than one church.* Such a relation would be almost incredible with us; but there are abundance of facts passing every day before my eyes, which render it no longer surprising.
The streets in the lower part of the town are narrow and irregular. Those in the upper part are straight and spacious. The whole surface is very level, though it was once undulating. It has been gradually brought to its present condition, by the advice of a city officer, who seems to have had more perseverance than taste.
The inconvenience is felt in many ways, and particularly in carrying off the waste water; a circumstance intimately connected with the health and prosperity of every large town.
A stranger usually sees the public edifices first; and I have as yet employed my mornings in this way. The Hotel de Ville is a very large and showy building of white marble, and has within very handsome, I might say splendid, accommodations for the municipality and the courts of justice. The architecture is, however, poor, and will not bear criticism. There is an anomaly about this building, which I never observed in any other. While the front is of marble, the back front is of a dusky free stone. Nothing can surpass the incongruity of the effect which is thus produced, except the wooden cupola which surmounts the whole building. Columbia College, formerly Kings' College, which I have heard you speak of, as being in the suburbs of the city, has been entirely rebuilt; and though it has far too many windows, is altogether, in my judgment, a
* We presume Lispenard's meadow is here alluded to.--Trans.