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CINCINNATI. - Harriet Martineau, Retrospect of Western Travel, vol. 2 
Retrospect of Western Travel in Three Vols (London: Saunders and Otley, 1838). Vol. 2.
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“‘Sir,’ said the custom-house officer at Leghorn, ‘your papers are forced! there is no such place in the world! your vessel must be confiscated!’ The trembling captain laid before the officer a map of the United States,—directed him to the Gulf of Mexico,—pointing out the mouth of the Mississippi,—led him 1000 miles up it, to the mouth of the Ohio,—and thence, another 1000 to Pittsburg. ‘There, sir, is the port whence my vessel cleared out.’ The astonished officer, before he saw the map, would as soon have believed that this ship had been navigated from the moon.”—Clay's Speeches.
We reached Cincinnati by descending the Ohio from Maysville. Kentucky, whence we took passage in tile first boat going down to the great City of the West. It happened to be an inferior boat; but, as we were not to spend a night on board, this was of little consequence. We were summoned by the bell of the steamer at 9 a.m., but did not set off till past noon. The cause of the delay forbade all complaint, though we found our station in the sun, and out of any breeze that might be stirring, oppressively hot, in the hottest part of a midsummer day. The captain had sent nine miles into convey to a place down the river where her other son was lying sick of the cholera. At noon the wagon with the old lady and her packages appeared. We were prepared to view her situation with the kindest feelings; but our pity scarcely survived the attempts she made to ensure it. I suppose the emotions of different minds must always have different modes of expression; but I could comprehend nothing of such a case as this. While there were apartments on board where the afflicted mother might have indulged her feelings in privacy, it was disagreeable to see the parade of hartshorn and water, and exclamations and sensibilities, in the presence of a company of entire strangers. Her son and a kind-hearted stewardess were very attentive to her, and it was much to be wished that she had been satisfied with their assiduities.
The scenery was fully equal to my expectations; and when we had put out into the middle of the river, we found ourselves in the way of a breeze which enabled us to sit outside, and enjoy the luxury of vision to the utmost. The sunny and shadowy hills, advancing and retiring, ribbed and crested with belts and clumps of gigantic beech: the rich bottoms always answering on the one shore to the group of hills on the other,—a perfect level, smooth, rich and green, with little settlements sprinkled over it: the shady crocks, very frequent between the hills, with sometimes a boat and figures under the trees which meet over it,—these were the spectacles which succeeded each other before our untiring eyes.
We touched at a number of small places on the banks, to put out and take in passengers. I believe we were almost as impatient as the good captain to get to Richmond, where his sick brother was lying, that the family might be out of suspense about his fate. A letter was put into the captain's hand from the shore, which did not tend to raise his spirits. It told him of the death, by cholera, of a lady whom he had just brought up the river. The captain's brother, however, was better. We were all committed to the charge of the clerk of the boat; and as we put out into the stream again, we saw the captain helping his mother up the hill, and looking a changed man, within a few minutes!
The moral plagues consequent on pestilence are an old subject; but one ever new to the spectator. The selfishness of survivors, the brutality of the well to the sick in a time of plague, have been held up to the detestation of the untried from the days of Defoe downwards, at least: but it seems as if the full horror of such a paroxysm of society had been left to be exhibited in America. Not that the ravages of the cholera were or could he fiercer there than in the plague-seasons of the Old World: but that in a country so much more Christianised in its spirit of helpfulness than any other, examples of selfish desertion show a more ghastly aspect than elsewhere. The disease was met there, and its inflictions sustained in the noblest spirit of charity, courage, and wisdom. A thousand-and-one tales might be told of the devotion of the clergy to their flocks, of masters to their slaves, of physicians to the poor, of neighbours to each other: but, in fearful contrast to these, stood out some of the gloomy facts which belong to such a time. In the west, the disease was particularly fatal, and the panic was not stilled when I was there, two years after the most destructive season. In the vicinity of Lexington, Kentucky, I saw a large white house, prettily placed, and was told of the dismal end of its late occupier, a lady who was beloved above every body in the neighbourhood, and who, on account of her benevolent deeds, would have been previously supposed the last person likely to want for solace on her dying bed. In this house lived Mrs. J., with her sister, Miss A. Miss A. died of cholera at nine in the evening, and was buried in the garden during the night by the servants. Mrs. J. was taken ill before the next evening, and there was no female hand near to tend her. The physician, who knew how much he was wanted in the town, felt it right to leave her when the case became entirely hopeless. He told the men who were assisting that she could not survive the night, and directed them to bury her immediately after her death. As soon as the breath was out of her body, these men wrapped her in the sheet on which she was lying, put her into a large box, and dug a hole in the garden, where they laid her beside her sister. Forty-eight hours before, the sisters had been apparently in perfect health, and busy providing aid for their sick neighbours. Thus, and thus soon were they huddled into their graves.
From the time of our leaving Richmond, the boat went on at good speed. We ceased to wear round, to take in casks and deals, at the beck of everybody on shore. The dinner was remarkably disagreeable:—tough beef, skinny chickens, grey-looking potatoes, gigantic radishes, sour bread, and muddy water in dirty tumblers. The only eatable thing on the table was a saucer-full of cranberries; and we had a bottle of claret with us. It was already certain that we should not reach Cincinnati so as to have a daylight view of it: our hopes were bounded to not being obliged to sit down to another meal on board.
The western sky faded while we were watching the Hunter pursuing the Coquette,—two pretty little steam-boats that were moving along under the shadow of the banks. Some time after dark, we came in sight of long rows of yellow lights, with a flaring and smoking furnace here and there, which seemed to occupy a space of nearly two miles from the wharf where we at length stopped I had little idea how beautiful this flaring; region would appear in sunshine.
After waiting some time in the boat for the arrival of a back, we proceeded up the steep pavement above the wharf to the Broadway Hotel and Boarding-house. There we were requested to register our names, and were then presented with the cards of some of the inhabitants who had called to inquire for us. We were well and willingly served; and I went to rest, intensely thankful to be once more out of sight of slavery.
The next morning was bright, and I scarcely remember a pleasanter day during all my travels than this 16th of June. We found ourselves in a large boarding-house, managed by a singularly zealous and kindly master. His care of us was highly amusing, during the whole time of our stay. His zeal may be judged of by a circumstance which happened one morning. At breakfast, he appeared healed and confused, and looked as if he had a bad head-ache. He requested us to excuse any forget-fulness that we might observe, and mentioned that he had, by mistake, taken a dangerous dose of laudanum. We begged he would leave the table, and not trouble himself about us, and hoped he had immediately taken measures to relieve himself of the dose. He replied that he had had no time to atted to himself till a few minutes ago. We found that he had actually put off taking an emetic till he had gone to market, and sent home all the provision for the day. He had not got over the consequences of the mistake the next morning. The ladies at the breakfast-table looked somewhat vulgar; and it is undeniable that the mustard was spilled, and that the relies of the meal were left in some disorder by the gentlemen who were most in a hurry to be off to business. But every one was obliging; and I saw at that table a better thing than I saw at any other table in the United States;—a lady of colour breakfasting in the midst of us!
I looked out from our parlour window, and perceived that we were in a wide, well-built street, with broad foot-pavements, and handsome houses. A house was at the moment going up the street,—a rather arduous task, as the ascent was pretty steep. There was an admirable apparatus of levers and pulleys; and it moved on, almost imperceptibly, for several yards, before our visitors began to arrive, and I had to give up watching its march. When the long series of callers came to an end, the strolling house was out of sight.
The first of our visitors was an English gentleman, who was settled in business in Cincinnati. He immediately undertook a commission of inquiry with which I had been charged from England, about a family of settlers, and sent me a pile of new books, and tickets for a concert which was to be held in Mrs. Trollope's bazaar the next evening but one. He was followed by a gentleman of whom much will be told in my next chapter; and by Dr. Drake, the first physician in the place; and Miss Beecher, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Beecher, Head of Lane Seminary, near Cincinnati, then on his trial for heresy, and justly confident of acquittal. Miss Beecher is a lady eminent for learning and talents, and for her zeal in the cause of education. These were followed by several merchants, with their ladies, sisters, and daughters. The impression their visits left on our minds was of high respect for the society of Cincinnati, if these were, in manners, dress, and conversation, fair specimens. Dr. Drake and his daughter proposed to call us for an afternoon drive, and take us home to tea with them; a plan to which we gladly agreed.
After dinner, we first arranged ourselves in a parlour which was larger and better furnished than the one we first occupied; and then walked down to the river while waiting for Dr. Drake's carriage. The opposite Kentucky shore looked rich and beautiful; and the bustle on the river, covered with every kind of craft; the steam-boats being moored six or more abreast, gave us a highly respectful notion of the commerce of the place.
Dr. Drake took us a delightful drive, the pleasure of which was much enhanced by his very interesting conversation. He is a complete and favourable specimen of a Westerner. He entered Ohio just forty-seven years before this time, when there were not above a hundred white persons in the State, and they all French, and when the shores were one expanse of cane-brake, infested by buffalo. He had seen the foundations of the great city laid; he had watched its growth till he was now able to point out to the stranger, not only the apparatus for the exportation of 6,000,000 dollars' worth a-year of produce and manufactures, but things which he values far more,—the ten or twelve edifices erected for the use of the common schools,—the new church of St. Paul,—the two fine banking-houses,—and the hundred and fifty handsome private dwellings,—all the creations of the year 1835. He points to the periodicals,—the respectable monthlies, and the four daily, and six weekly papers of the city. He looks with a sort of paternal complacency on the 35,000 inhabitants, scarcely one of whom is without the comforts of life, the means of education, and a bright prospect for the future. Though a true Westerner, and devoutly believing the buckeyes (natives of Ohio) to be superior to all others of God's creatures, he hails every accession of intelligent members to his darling society. He observed to me, with his calm enthusiasm (the concomitant of a conviction which has grown out of experience rather than books,) on the good effects of emigration on the posterity of emigrants; and told how, with the same apparent means of education, they surpass the descendants of natives. They combine the influences of two countries. Thus believing, he carries a cheerful face into the homes of his Welsh, Irish, English, German, and Yankee patients: he bids them welcome, and says, from the bottom of his heart, that he is glad to see them. His knowledge of the case of the emigrant enables him to alleviate, more or less, with the power which an honest and friendly physician carries about with him, an evil which he considers the worst that attends emigration. He told me that, unless the head of the emigrant family be timely and judiciously warned, the peace of the household is broken up by the pining of the wife. The husband soon finds interests in his new abode,—he becomes a citizen, a man of business, a man of consequence, with brightening prospects; while the poor wife, surrounded by difficulties or vexed with hardships at home, provided with no compensation for what she has left behind, pines away, and wonders that her husband can be so happy when she is so miserable, When there is an end of congeniality, all is over; and a couple who would in their own land have gone through life cheerily, hand in hand, become uneasy yoke-fellows, in the midst of a much-improved outward condition or prospect.
Dr. Drake must be now much older than he looks. He appears vigorous as ever, running beside his stout black gig-horse in difficult bits of forest road, head uncovered, and coat splashed, like any farmer making his way to market. His figure is spare and active; his face is expressive of shrewdness, humour, and kindliness. His conversation is of a high order; though I dare say it never entered his head that conversation is ever of any order at all. His sentences take whatever form fate may determine; but they bear a rich burden of truth hard won by experience, and are illumined by gleams of philosophy which shine up from the depths of his own mind. A slight degree of western inflation amuses the stranger; but there is something so much more loving than vain in the magniloquence, that it is rather winning than displeasing,—to strangers,—not to Yankees, who resent it as sectional prejudice, and in whose presence it might be as well forborne. The following passage, extracted from an Address delivered by Dr. Drake, before the Literary Convention of Kentucky, gives some idea of the spirit of the man in one of its aspects, though it has none of the pithy character of his conversation:—
“The relations between the upper and lower Mississippi States, established by the collective waters of the whole valley, must for ever continue unchanged. What the towering oak is to our climbing winter grape, the ‘Father of Waters’ must ever be to the communities along its trunk and countless tributary streams—an imperishable support, an exhaustless power of union. What is the composition of its lower coasts and alluvial plains, but the soil of all the upper States and territories, transported, commingled, and deposited by its waters? Within her own limits, Louisiana has, indeed, the rich mould of ten sister States, which have thus contributed to the fertility of her plantations. It might almost be said, that for ages this region has sent thither a portion of its soil, where, in a milder climate, it might produce the cotton, oranges, and sugar, which, through the same channel, we receive in exchange for the products of our cornfields, workshops, and mines;—facts which prepare the way, and invite to perpetual union between the West and South.
“The State of Tennessee, separated from Alabama and Mississippi on the south, and Kentucky on the north, by no natural barrier, has its southern fields overspread with floating cotton, wafted from the two first by every autumnal breeze; while the shade of its northern woods lies for half the summer day on the borders of the last. The songs and uproar of a Kentucky husking are answered from Tennessee; and the midnight racoon-hunt that follows, beginning in one State, is concluded in the other. The Cumberland, on whose rocky banks the capital of Tennessee rises in beauty, begins and terminates in Kentucky—thus bearing on its bosom at the same moment the products of the two States descending to a common market. Still further, the fine river Tennessee drains the eastern half of that State, dips into Alabama, recrosses the State in which it arose, and traverses Kentucky to reach the Ohio river; thus uniting the three into one natural and enduring commercial compact.
“Further north, the cotton trees, which fringe the borders of Missouri and Illinois, throw their images towards each other in the waters of the Mississippi:—the toiling emigrant's axe, in the depths of the leafless woods, and the crash of the falling rail-tree on the frozen earth, resound equally among the hills of both States—the clouds of smoke from their burning prairies mingle in the air above, and crimson the setting sun of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio.
“The Pecan tree sheds its fruit at the same moment among the people of Indiana and Illinois, and the boys of the two States paddle their canoes and fish together in the Wabash, or hail each other from opposite banks. Even villages belong equally to Indiana and Ohio, and the children of the two commonwealths trundle their hoops together in the same street.
“But the Ohio river forms the most interesting boundary among the republics of the West. For a thousand miles its fertile bottoms are cultivated by farmers, who belong to the different States, while they visit each other as friends or neighbours. As the schoolboy trips or loiters along its shores, he greets his playmates across the stream, or they sport away an idle hour in its summer waters. These are to be among the future, perhaps the opposing statesmen of the different commonwealths. When, at low water, we examine the rocks of the channel, we find them the same on both sides. The plants which grow above, drop their seeds into the common current, which lodges them indiscriminately on either shore. Thus the very trees and flowers emigrate from one republic to another. When the bee sends out its swarms, they as often seek a habitation beyond the stream, as in their native woods. Throughout its whole extent, the hills of Western Virginia and Kentucky cast their morning shadows on the plains of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The thunder cloud pours down its showers on different commonwealths; and the rainbow resting its extremities on two sister States, presents a beautiful arch, on which the spirits of peace may pass and re-pass in harmony and love.
“Thus connected by nature in the great valley, we must live in the bonds of companionship, or imbrue our hands in each other's blood. We have no middle destiny. To secure the former to our posterity, we should begin while society is still tender and pliable. The saplings of the woods, if intertwined, will adapt themselves to each other and grow together; the little bird may hang its nest on the twigs of different trees, and the dew-drop fall successively on leaves which are nourished by distinct trunks. The tornado strikes harmless on such a bower, for the various parts sustain each other; but the grown tree, sturdy and set in its way, will not bend to its fellow, and when uprooted by the tempest, is dashed in violence against all within its reach.
“Communities, like forests, grow rigid by time. To be properly trained, they must be moulded while young. Our duty, then, is quite obvious. All who have moral power should exert it in concert. The germs of harmony must be nourished, and the roots of present contrariety or future discord torn up and cast into the fire. Measures should be taken to mould a uniform system of manners and customs, out of the diversified elements which are scattered over the West. Literary meetings should be held in the different States; and occasional conventions in the central cities of the great valley, be made to bring into friendly consultation our enlightened and zealous teachers, professors, lawyers, physicians, divines, and men of letters, from its remotest sections. In their deliberations the literary and moral wants of the various regions might be made known, and the means of supplying them devised. The whole should successively lend a helping hand to all the parts, on the great subject of education, from the primary school to the university. Statistical facts, bearing on this absorbing interest, should be brought forward and collected; the systems of common school instruction should be compared, and the merits of different school books, foreign and domestic, freely canvassed. Plans of education, adapted to the natural, commercial, and social condition of the interior, should be invented; a correspondence instituted among all our higher seminaries of learning, and an interchange established of all local publications on the subject of education. In short, we should foster Western genius, encourage Western writers, patronize Western publishers, augment the number of Western readers, and create a Western heart.
“When these great objects shall come seriously to occupy our minds, the union will be secure, for its centre will be sound, and its attraction on the surrounding parts irresistible. Then will our State governments emulate each other in works for the common good; the people of remote places begin to feel as the members of one family; and our whole intelligent and virtuous population unite, heart and hand, in one long, concentrated, untiring effort, to raise still higher the social character, and perpetuate for ever the political harmony of the green and growing West.”
How strange is the feeling to the traveller in wild regions of having his home associations unexpectedly connected with the scene before him! Here, in this valley of the Mississippi, to my eye wild and luxuriant in beauty as I fancy Ceylon or Juan Fernandez, Dr. Drake pointed out to me two handsome dwellings with gardens, built by artisans from Birmingham; and he presently alighted to visit a Welsh patient. What a vision of brass-founding, tea urns, and dingy streets, and then of beaver hats and mob caps did these incidents call up! And again, when we were buried in a beechen wood, where “a sunbeam that had lost its way” streaked the stems, and lighted up the wild vines, Dr. Drake, in telling me of the cholera season in Cincinnati, praised a medical book on cholera which happened to be by a brother-in-law of mine. It was an amusing incident. The woods of Ohio are about the last place where the author would have anticipated that I should hear accidental praises of his book.
The Doctor had at present a patient in Dr. Beecher's house; so we returned by the Theological Seminary. Dr. Beecher and his daughters were not at home. We met them on the road in their cart,—the ladies returning from their school in the city; and we spent an evening there the next week. The seminary (Presbyterian) was then in a depressed condition, in consequence of the expulsion of most of the pupils for their refusal to avoid discussion of the Slavery question. These expelled youths have since been founders and supporters of abolition societies; and the good cause has gained even more than the seminary has lost by the absurd tyranny practised against the students.
From this, the Montgomery road, there is a view of the city and surrounding country which defies description. It was of that melting beauty which dims the eyes and fills the heart,—that magical combination of all elements,—of hill, wood, lawn, river, with a picturesque city steeped in evening sunshine, the impression of which can never be lost, nor ever communicated. We ran up a knoll, and stood under a clump of beeches to gaze; and went down and returned again and again, with the feeling that if we lived upon the spot, we could nevermore see it look so beautiful.
We soon entered a somewhat different scene, passing the slaughter-houses on Deer Creek, the place where more thousands of hogs in a year than I dare to specify are destined to breathe their last. Deer Creek, pretty as its name is, is little more than the channel through which their blood runs away. The division of labour is brought to as much perfection in these slaughter-houses as in the pin manufactories of Birmingham. So I was told. Of course I did not verify the statement by attending the process. In my childhood I was permitted by the carelessness of a nursemaid to see the cutting up of the reeking carcase of an ox; and I can bear witness that one such sight is enough for a life-time. But,—to tell the story as it was told to me,—these slaughter-houses are divided into apartments, communicating with each other: one man drives into one pen or chamber the reluctant hogs, to be knocked on the head by another whose mallet is for ever going. A third sticks the throats, after which they are conveyed by some clever device to the cutting-up room, and thence to the pickling, and thence to the packing and branding; a set of agents being employed for every operation. The exportation of pickled pork from Cincinnati is enormous. Besides supplying the American navy, ship-loads are sent to the West India Islands, and many other parts of the world. Dr. Drake showed me the dwelling and slaughter-house of an Englishman who was his servant in 1818; who then turned pork-butcher, and was, in a few years, worth ten thousand dollars.
The tea-table was set out in the garden at Dr. Drake's. We were waited upon, for the first time for many months, by a free servant. The long grass grew thick under our feet; fire-flies were flitting about us, and I doubted whether I had ever heard more sense and eloquence at any old world tea-table than we were entertained with as the twilight drew on.
As we walked home, through the busy streets, where there was neither the apathy of the South, nor the disorder consequent on the presence of a pauper class, I felt strongly tempted to jump to some hasty conclusions about the happiness of citizenship in Cincinnati. I made a virtuous determination to suspend every kind of judgment: but I found each day as exhilarating as the first; and when I left the city, my impressions were much like what they were after an observation of twenty-four hours.
The greater part of the next morning was occupied with visitors: but we found an interval to go out, under the guidance of friends, to see a few things which lay near at hand. We visited the Museum, where we found, as in all new museums whose rooms want filling up, some trumpery among much which is worthy to remain. There was a Mermaid, not very cleverly constructed, and some bad wax figures, posted like sentinels among the cases of geological and entomological specimens: but, on the whole, the Museum is highly creditable to the zeal of its contributors. There is, among other good things, a pretty complete collection of the currency of the country, from the earliest colonial days; and some of other countries with it. I hope this will be persevered in; and that the Cincinnati merchants will make use of the opportunities afforded by their commerce of collecting specimens of every kind of currency used in the world, from the gilt and stamped leather of the Chinese and Siberians to the last of Mr. Biddle's twenty-dollar notes. There is a reasonable notion abroad that the Americans are the people who will bring the philosophy and practice of exchanges to perfection; and theirs are the museums in which should be found a full history of currency, in the shape of a complete set of specimens.
We visited Mr. Flash's book-store, where we saw many good books, some very pretty ones, and all cheap. We heard there good accounts of the improved and improving literary taste of the place, shown in the increasing number of book societies, and the superior character of the works supplied to their orders. Mr. Flash and his partner are in favour of the protection of foreign literary property, as a matter of interest as well as principle.
We next went to the painting room of a young artist. Mr. Beard, whose works pleased me more than those of any other American artist. When I heard his story, and witnessed what he had already achieved, I could not doubt that, if he lived, he would run a noble career. The chief doubt was about his health,—the doubt which hangs over the destiny of almost every individual of eminent promise in America. Two years before I saw him, Beard had been painting portraits, at a dollar a head, in the interior of Ohio: and it was only a year since he suddenly and accidentally struck into the line in which he will probably show himself the Flamingo of the New World. It was just a year since he had begun to paint children. He had then never been out of his native state. He was born in the interior, where he began to paint without having ever seen a picture, except the daubs of itinerant artists. He married at nineteen, and came to Cincinnati, with wife, child, an empty purse, a head full of admiration of himself, and a heart full of confidence in this admiration being shared by all the inhabitants of the city. He had nothing to show, however, which could sanction his high claims; for his portraits were very bad. When he was in extreme poverty, he and his family were living, or rather starving, in one room, at whose open window he put up some of his pictures, to attract the notice of passengers. A wealthy merchant, Mr. G., and a gentleman with him, stopped and made their remarks to each other, Mr. G. observing “the fellow has talent, after all.” Beard was sitting behind his pictures, heard the remark, and knew the voice. He was enraged. Mr. G. visited him, with a desire to encourage and assist him; but the angry artist long resisted all attempts to pacify him. At his first attempt to paint a child, soon after, all his genius shone forth, to the astonishment of every one but himself. He has proved to be one of the privileged order who grow gentle, if not modest, under appreciation; he forgave Mr. G., and painted several pictures for him. A few wealthy citizens were desirous of sending him to Italy to study. His reply to every mention of the subject is, that he means to go to Italy, but that he shall work his own way there. In order to see how he liked the world, he paid a visit to Boston, while I was there, intending to stay some time. From a carriage window, I saw him in the street, stalking along like a chief among inferiors, his broad white collar laid over his coat, his throat bare, and his hair parted in the middle of his forehead, and waving down the sides of his face. People turned to look after him. He staid only a fortnight, and went back to Ohio, expressing great contempt for cities. This was the last I heard of him.
I have a vivid remembrance of three of his pictures of children. One, of a boy trudging through a mill-stream to school, absolutely American, not only in the scenery, but in the air and countenance of the boy. which were exquisitely natural and fresh. Another was a boy about to go unwillingly to school: his satchel was so slung over his shoulder as to show that he had not put it on himself: the great bite in the slice of bread and butter intimated that breakfast was going on in the midst of the grief; and the face was distorted with the most ludicrous passion. Thus far all might have been done by the pencil of the mere caricaturist. The triumph of the painter was in the beauty and grace of the child shining through the ridiculous circumstances amidst which he was placed. It was obvious that the character of the face when undisturbed by passion was that of careless gaiety. The third was a picture of children and a dog; one beautiful creature astride of the animal. and putting his cap upon the head of the dog, who was made to look the sage of the party. I saw and liked some of his pictures of another character. Any one of his humorous groups might be thought almost worthy of Wilkie: but there was repetition in them; two favourite heads especially, were popped in. in situations too nearly resembling. The most wonderful perhaps of his achievements was a fine full-length portrait of a deceased lady, whom he had never seen. It was painted from a miniature, and under the direction of the widower, whom it fully satisfied in regard to the likeness. It was a breathing picture. He is strongly disposed to try his hand on sculpture. I saw a bust of himself which he had modelled. It was a perfect likeness, and had much spirit. All this, and much more, having been done in a single year, by one who had never seen a good picture, it seems reasonable to expect great things from powers so rapidly and profusely developed. Beard's name was little, if at all. known beyond his native State, while I was in the country. If he lives, it will soon be heard of in Europe.
In the afternoon, a large party called us for an expedition into Kentucky. We crossed the river in the ferry-boat, without leaving the carriages, drove through Covington. and mounted slowly through a wood. till we reached the foot of a steep hill, where we alighted. We climbed the hill, wild with tall grass and shrubs, and obtained the view of Cincinnati which is considered the completest. I now perceived that, instead of being shut in between two hills, the city stands on a noble platform, round which the river turns, while the hills rise behind. The platform is perfectly ventilated: and the best proof of this is the healthiness of the city, above all other American cities. A physician who had been seven years a resident told me that he had been very delicate in health, before he came, like many others of the inhabitants: and like many others, he had not had a day's illness since his arrival. The average of deaths in the city during; the best season was seven per week: and. at the worst time of the year, the mortality was less than in any city of its size in the republic.
There is ample room on the platform for a city as large as Philadelphia, without encroaching at all on the hill-sides. The inhabitants are already consulting as to where the Capitol shall stand, whenever the nation shall decree the removal of the General Government beyond the mountains. If it were not for the noble building at Washington, this removal would probably take place soon.—perhaps after the opening of the great Southern rail-road. It seems rather absurd to call senators and representatives to Washington, from Missouri and Louisiana, while there is a place on the great rivers which would save them half the journey, and suit almost every body else just as well, and many much better. The peril to health at Washington in the winter season is great; and the mild and equable temperature of Cincinnati is an important circumstance in the case.
We hurried home to prepare for an evening party, and tea was brought up to us while we dressed. All the parties I was at in Cincinnati were very amusing, from the diversity in the company, and in the manners of the natives of the east and west. The endeavour seems to be to keep up, rather than to disuse distinctive observances; and this almost makes the stranger fancy that he has travelled a thousand miles between one evening and the next. The effect is entertaining enough to the foreign guest, but not very salutary to the temper of the residents: to judge by the complaints I heard about sectional exclusiveness. It appeared to me that the thing chiefly to be wished, in this connexion, was that the Easterners should make large concessions and allowance. It would be well for them to remember that it was they who chose the western city, and not the city them: and that if the elderly inhabitants are rather proud of their western deeds, and ostentatiously attached to their western symbols, this is a circumstance belonging to the place, and deliberately encountered, with other circumstances. by new residents: and that, moreover, all that they complain of is an indulgence of the feelings of a single generation. When the elderly members of the society drop off. the children of all residents will wear the buckeye, or forget it alike, And it certainly appeared to me that the cool assumption by Easterners of the superiority of New England over all other countries was. whether just or not, likely to be quite as offensive to the buckeyes, as any buckeye exultation could be to the Yankees.
At one evening party, the company sat round the drawing-room, occasionally changing places, or forming croups without much formality. They were chietly Yankees, of various accomplishments, from the learned learned who talked with enthusiasm about Chauning. and with strong sense about every thing but politics, in which his aristocratic bias drew him aside into something like nonsense.—to the sentimental young widow, who instantly began talking to me of her dear Mr.— and who would return to the subject as often as I led away from it. Every place was remarkable for her dear Mr.— — having been better or worse there: and every event was measured by its having happened so lone before or after her dear Mr. ——was buried. The conversation of the society was most about books, and society and its leaders at home and abroad. The manners of the lady of the house were, though slightly impaired by timidity. such as would grace any society of any country. The house, handsomely furnished, and adorned with some of the best of Beard's pictures, stood on a terrace beautifully surrounded with shrubbery, and commanding a fine view of the city.
At another party there was a greater variety. An enormous buckeye howl of lemonade, with a ladle of buckeye, stood on the hall table; and symbolical sprigs of the same adorned the walls. On entering the drawing-room. I was presented with a splendid bouquet, sent by a lady by the hands of her brother, from a garden and conservatory which are the pride of the city. My first introduction was to the catholic bishop; my next to a lady whom I thought then and afterwards one of the cleverest women I met in the country. There was a slight touch of pedantry to be excused, and a degree of tory prejudice against the bulk of the human race which could scarcely be exceeded even in England: but there was a charming good-humour in the midst of it all. and a power both of observation and reasoning which commanded high respect. One western gentleman sidled about in a sort of minuet step, unquestionably a gentleman as he as in all essential respects: and one young lady who was, I fancy, taking her first peep at the world, kept her eves earnestly fixed on the guests as they entered. bowing unconsciously in sympathy with every gentleman who bowed, and curtseying with every lady who curtseyed. She must have been well practiced in salutation before the evening was over, for the party was a large one. All the rest, with the exception of a forward Scotchman, were well-bred, and the evening passed off very pleasantly amidst brisk conversation, mirth, and excellent refreshments.
Another party was at the splendid house to which the above-mentioned garden and conservatory belong. The proprietor has a passion for gardening and his ruling taste seems likely to be a blessing to the city, He employs four gardeners, and toils in his grounds with his own hands. His garden is on a terrace which overlooks the canal, and the most park-like eminences form the background of the view. Between the garden and the hills extend his vineyards, from the produce of which he has succeeded in making twelve kinds of wine, some of which are highly praised by good judges. Mr. Longworth himself is sanguine as to the prospect of making Ohio a wine-growing region: and he has done all that an individual can to enhance the probability. In this house is West's preposterous picture of Ophelia, the sight of which amazed me after all I had heard of it. It is not easy to imagine how it should have obtained the reputation of being his best, while his Cromwell is in existence. The party at this house was the largest and most elegant of any that I attended in Cincinnati, Among many other Bursts, we met one of the Judges of the Supreme Court, a Member of Congress and his lady, two Catholic priests. Judge Hall, the popular writer, with divines, physicians, lawyers, merchants and their families. The spirit and superiority of the conversation were worthy of the people assembled.
The morning of the 19th shone brightly down on the festival of the day. It was the anniversary of the opening of the Common Schools. Some of the schools passed our windows in procession, their banners dressed with garlands, and the children gay with flowers and ribands. A lady who was sitting with me remarked, “this is our populace.” I thought of the expression months afterwards, when the gentlemen of Cincinnati met to pass resolutions on the subject of abolitionism, and when one of the resolutions recommended mobbing as a retribution for the discussion of the subject of slavery; the law at lording no punishment for free discussion. Among those who moved and seconded these resolutions, and formed a deputation to threaten an advocate of free discussion, were some of the merchants who form the aristocracy of the place; and the secretary of the meeting was the accomplished lawyer whom I mentioned above, and who told me that the object of his life is law reform in Ohio! The “populace” of whom the lady was justly proud have in no case that I know of been the law-breakers; and in as far as “the populace” moans, not “the multitude” but the “vulgar,” I do not agree with the lady that these children were the populace, Some of the patrons and prize givers afterwards proved themselves the “vulgar” of the city.
The children were nearly and tastefully dressed. A great improvement has taken place in the costume of little boys in England, within my recollection; but I never saw such graceful children as the little boys in America: at least in their summer dress. They are slight, active, and free. I remarked that several were barefoot, though in other respects well clad: and I found that many put off shoes and stockings from choice during the three hot months. Others were barefoot from poverty,—children of t recent settlers, and of the poorest class of the community.
We set out for the church as soon as the procession had passed, and arrived before the doors were opened. A platform had been erected below the pulpit, and on it were seated the mayor and principal gentlemen of the city. The two thousand children then filed in. The Report was read, and proved very satisfactory. These schools were established by a cordial union of various political and religious parties: and nothing could be more promising than the prospects of the institution, as to funds, as to the satisfaction of the class benefited, and as to the continued union of their benefactors. Several boys then gave specimens of elocution, which were highly amusing. They seemed to suffer under no false shame, and to have no misgiving about the effect of the vehement action they had been taught to employ. I wondered how many of them would speak in Congress hereafter. It seems doubtful to me whether the present generation of Americans are not out in their calculations about the value and influence of popular oratory. They ought certainly to know best: but I never saw an oration produce nearly so much effect as books, newspapers, and conversation. I suspect that there is a stronger association in American minds than the times will justify between republicanism and oratory: and that they overlook the facts of the vast change introduced by the press.—a revolution which has altered men's tastes and habits of bought, as well as varied the methods of reaching minds. As to the style of oratory itself, reasoning; is now found to be much more impressive than declamation, certainly in England, and I think also in the United States: and though, as every American boy is more likely than not to act some part in public life, it is desirable that all should be enabled to speak their minds clearly and gracefully, I am inclined to think it a pernicious mistake to render declamatory accomplishment so prominent a part of education as it now is. I trust that the next generation will exclude whatever there is of insincere and traditional in the practice of popular oratory; discern the real value of the accomplishment, and redeem. the reproach of bad taste which the oratory of the present generation has brought upon the people. While the Americans have the glory of every citizen being a reader, and having books to read, they cannot have, and need not desire, the glory of shining in popular oratory,—the glory of an age gone by.
Many prizes of books were given by the gentlemen on the platform; and the ceremony closed with an address from the pulpit which was true, and in some respects beautiful; but which did not appear altogether judicious to those who are familiar with children's minds. The children were exhorted to trust their teachers entirely; to be assured that their friends would do by them what was kindest. Now, neither children nor grown people trust, any more than they believe, because they arc bid. Telling them to have confidence is so much breath wasted. If they arc properly trained, they will unavoidably have this trust and confidence, and the less that is said about it the better. If not, the less said the better, too; for confidence is then out of the question, and there is danger in making it an empty phrase. It would he well if those whose office it is to address children wore fully aware that exhortation, persuasion, and dissuasion are of no use in their case; and that there is immeasurable value in the opposite method of appeal. Make truth credible, and they will believe it: make goodness lovely, and they will love it: make holiness cheerful, and they will be glad in it: but remind them of themselves by threat, inducement, or exhortation, and you impair (if you do any thing) the force of their unconscious affections: try to put them upon a task of arbitrary self-management, and your words pass over their ears only to be forgotten.
Before eight o'clock in the evening, the Cincinnati public was pouring into Mrs. Trollope's, bazaar, to the first concert ever offered to them. This bazaar is the great deformity of the city Happily, it is not very conspicuous, being squatted down among houses nearly as lofty as the summit of its dome. From my window at the boarding house, however, it was only too distinctly visible. It is built of brick, and has Gothic windows, Grecian pillars, and a Turkish dome, and it was originally ornamented with Egyptian devices, which have, however, all disappeared under the brush of the whitewasher. The concert was held in a large plain room, where a quiet, well-mannered audience was collected. There was something extremely interesting in the spectacle of the first public introduction of music into this rising city. One of the best performers was an elderly man, clothed from head to foot in grey homespun. He was absorbed in his enjoyment; so intent on his violin, that one might watch the changes of his pleased countenance, the whole performance through, without fear of disconcerting him. There was a young girl, in a plain white frock, with a splendid voice, a good car, and a love of warbling which carried her through very well indeed, though her own taste had obviously been her only teacher. If I remember right, there were about five-and-twenty instrumental performers, and six or seven vocalists, besides a long row for the closing chorus. It was a most promising beginning. The thought came across me how far we were from the musical regions of the Old World, and how lately this place had been a cane-brake, echoing with the bellow and growl of wild beasts; and here was the spirit of Mozart swaying and inspiring a silent crowd as if they were assembled in the chapel at Salzburg!
This account of our three first clays at Cincinnati will convey a sufficient idea of a stranger's impressions of the place. There is no need to give a report of its charitable institutions and its commerce: the details of the latter are well known to those whom they may concern; and in America, wherever men are gathered together, the helpless are aided, and the suffering relieved. The most threatening evil to Cincinnati is from that faithlessness which manifests itself in illiberality. The sectional prejudice of the two leading—classes of inhabitants has been mentioned; and also the ill-principled character of the opposition made to abolitionism. The offence against freedom, not only of opinion, but of action was in this case so rank, that citizen of Louisville, on the slaveholding side of the Ohio, taunted the citizens of Cincinnati with persecuting men for opinion from mercenary interest; with putting down free discussion from fear of injury to their commerce. A third direction in this illiberality shows itself is towards the Catholics. The Catholic religion spreads rapidly in many most of the recently-settled parts of the United States, and its increase produces an almost insane dread among some Protestants, who fail to see that no evils that the Catholic religion can produce in the present state of society can be so afflictive and dangerous as the bigotry by which it is proposed to put it down. The removal to Cincinnati of Dr. Beecher, the ostentation and virulent foe of the Catholics, has much quickened the spirit of alarm in that region. It is to be hoped that Dr. Beecher and the people of Cincinnati will remember what has been the invariable consequence in America of public denunciations of assumed offences which the law does not reach; namely, mobbing. It is to be hoped that all parties will remember that Dr. Beecher preached in Boston three sermons vituperative of the Catholics, the Sunday before the Circumstances may also have shown them by this time how any kind faith grown under persecution; and, above all, it may be hoped that the richer classes of citizens will become more aware than they have yet proved themselves to be of their republican (to say nothing of their human) obligation to refrain from encroaching, in the smallest particulars, on their brethren's rights of opinion and liberty of conscience.
The roads in the interior of Ohio were in so bad a state from recent rains that I did not, at this time, attempt to visit the middle or northern parts of the State, where may be seen those monuments of an extinct race, about which much antiquarian inquiry is going forward. One of the large mounds, whose uses are yet unexplained, and in which are found specimens of the arts of life which are considered to show that their artificers were not of Indian race, still remains within the city. It was crumbling away when I saw it, being a tempting sport for children's play. It is a pity it should not be carefully preserved; for the whole history of evidence, particularly the more recent portion of it, shows the impossibility of anticipating what revelations may emanate from a single object of historical interest.
A volume might presently be filled with descriptions of our drives about the environs of Cincinnati. There are innumerable points of view whence the city with its masses of building and its spires, may be seen shining through the limpid atmosphere, like a cloud-city in the evening sky. There are many spots where it is a relief to lose the river from the view, and to be shut in among the brilliant green hills, which are more than can be numbered. But there is one drive which I almost wonder the inhabitants do not take every summer day,—to the Little Miami bottoms. We continued castward along the bank of the river for seven miles, the whole scenery of which was beautiful: but the unforgotten spot was the level about the mouth of the Little Miami river,—the richest of plains, level valleys, studded with farm-houses, enlivened with clearings, and kept primitive in appearance by the masses of dark forest which filled up all the unoccupied spaces. Upon this scene we looked down from a great height,—a Niphates of the new world. On entering a little pass, between two grassy hills, crested with wood, we were desired to alight. I ran up the ascent to the right, and was startled at finding myself on the top of a precipice. Far beneath me ran the Little Miami, with a narrow white pebbly strand, arrow-like trees springing over from the brink of the precipice, and the long evening shadows making the current as black as night, while the green, up to the very lips of the ravine, was of the sunniest, in the last flood of western light.
For more reasons than one I should prefer Cincinnati as a residence to any other large city of the United States. Of these reasons, not the last would be that the “Queen of the West” is enthroned in a region of wonderful and inexhaustible beauty.