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world—a sphere of being in imagination, which, to our real life, is no more than the world of a dream; yet, long as we are held in it by the transport of our delusion, we live, not in de light only, but in the conscious exaltation of our nature. It is in this world that the spirit of Byron must work a reformation for itself. He knows, far better than we can tell him, what have been the most hallowed objects of love and of passion to the souls of great poets in the most splendid eras of poetry, and he also knows well, that those objects, if worshipped by him with becoming and steadfast reverence, will repay the worship which they receive, by the more fervent and divine inspiration which they kindle.
ART. IV. Notes on a Journey in America, from the Coast of
Virginia to the Territory of the Illinois. By MORRIS BIRK-
London. Ridg way, 1818.
E have no hesitation in pronouncing this one of the most
interesting and instructive books that have appeared for many years. The subject is curious and important in the highest degree; the rapid growth of one country, still in its early infancy, and the formation of another in its neighbourhood, by the overflowings of its population. The author is an eyewitness of every thing he describes; and, with a good sense extremely rare among authors, he is content to tell what is material, with out tedious dissertations or trifling details, and to tell it in the plainest language. His matter is condensed, and his style is unexceptionable. We think he deseryes peculiar credit, too, for the unassuming appearance, and moderate price of his book. What he has given for a few shillings, in the form of a pamphlet, would have swelled to a guinea quarto in the hands of a regular bookmaker. Indeed, which of the costly volumes for the last twenty years poured upon the publick by travellers of all descriptions, can vie with this modest little tract, in the importance, the novelty, or the interest of its contents ?
We have heard much said of Mr Birkbeck's work; and its merits have been very generally allowed. But we have found, that this tribute is most reluctantly paid in certain quarters, where his statements, and their effect on the publick mind, have given great umbrage, and even excited considerable alarm.
They who hate America, as it were, personally; who meanly regard with jealousy every step she advances in renown, or foolishly view with apprehension each accession to her power,
or ridiculously consider all that she gains of wealth as taken from England—this class of reasoners (if the term may be so applied) can with difficulty conceal their dismay at the testimony borne by Mr Birkbeck, to the prodigious rapidity with which that marvellous community is advancing in every direction. Their favourite course of argument, indeed, had always been a little inconsistent. To make the Americans the more detested, they often represented them as dangerous competitors for wealth and power, and actually succeeded in producing a war with them by spreading the alarm. But the same feeling that made them hate those rivals, induced a strong desire to make them also the objects of contempt; and, forgetting that it was difficult at once to dread and despise any thing, they used every means to underrate the importance of the United States. This last course of attack proved, in the end, the most gratifying both to the senseless feelings of animosity against the Americans, and to the sense of national pride: Accordingly, when required to chuse between the two inconsistent arguments, it was preferred; and of late years the tone assumed by the party has been that of unsparing detraction and bitter sneering at every thing beyond the Atlantic,-except the province of Canada, which the same judicious authorities represent upon all occasions as the very right arm of British strength. These contemptuous feelings seem to have augmented pretty nearly in proportion as their object was rising in importance and power; and they appeared to be approaching their acme, if indeed they had not reached it, when, unhappily, Mr Birkbeck's plain tale' comes forth to put them down. So untoward an event has not often happened in such controversies; and the rage and disappointment excited by it have been proportioned to its de cisive influence upon the question, and to the necessity which existed for stifling the outward expression of it. The remains of stubborn pride and dignified contempt for America forbade that; and the inoffensive modest character of the much hated volume seemed equally to prescribe, at least, the semblance of moderation to its adversaries. Accordingly, while they mutter curses both loud and deep, they are beginning already to change the manner of attack, and, precluded from indulging their spleen in the shape of contempt, they are preparing to seek relief by venting it in open hatred, drawing, from Mr Birkbeck's statements, the materials of alarm.
The spectacle presented by America during the last thirty or forty years,--ever since her emancipation began to produce its full effect, and since she fairly entered the lists as an independent nation with a completely popular government has been, beyond every thing formerly known in the history of mankind, imposing and instructive. In order to contemplate its wonders with complete advantage, an observer ought to have visited the New World twice in the course of a few years. A single view is insufficient to exhibit this progress in the States already settled; for there, quickly as the changes are going on, the procese of creation is not actually seen at once, or disclosed, as it were, to the eye; some interval of time must be allowed, and the comparison then shows the extent of the wonderful change. But the extraordinary state of things in the Western part of the Union, developed by Mr Birkbeck, shows us the process both of colonization and increase at one glance:-We see exposed to the naked eye, the whole mystery of the generation as well as the growth of nations; we at once behold in what manner the settled parts of America are increasing with unparalleled rapidity; and how new and extensive communities are daily created in the plains and the forests of the West, by the superfluous population of the Eastern settlements. Those settlements assume a novel and a striking aspect ;-they no longer are to be regarded as new colonies, to which other communities send their overflowing numbers they are already fully peopled States, which having reached maturity in a few years, cannot stop in their growth; but become in their turn the officina gentium, and send off their countless swarms to the hardly more recent, but infinitely less peopled, regions that surround them. The new community of the United States is, in fact, already the source of an emigration beyond all comparison more extensive than ever was known in the most confined and overpeopled portions of the old world. A broad, deep, and rapid stream of population is running constantly towards the western parts of the Continent; and vast states are forming towards the Pacific Ocean, the growth of which as much exceeds in rapidity what we have been wont to admire on the shores of the Atlantic, as this leaves at an immeasureable distance the scarcely perceptible progress of our European societie
Mr Birkbeck is not a professed author, although he is most creditably known by a work, in plan similar to the present, upon France. He is himself a practical man, having devoted his life to agriculture; and he begins with stating the reasons which induced him to change the condition of an English farmer for that of an American proprietor. Political principles seem to have had some weight among these.
! A nation, with half its population supported by alms, or poor-rates, and one fourth of its income derived from taxes, many of which are Stied up in their sources, or speedily becoming so, must teem with
p. 8, 9.
emigrants from one end to the other : and, for such as myself, who have had “ nothing to do with the laws but to obey them,” it is quite reasonable and just to secure a timely retreat froin the approaching crisis either of anarchy or despotism.
An English farmer, to which class I had the honour to belong, is in possession of the same rights and privileges with the villeins of old time, and exhibits for the most part, a suitable political character. He has no voice in the appointment of the legislature unless he happen to possess a freehold of forty shillings a year, and he is then expected to vote in the interest of his landlord. He has no concern with public affairs excepting as a tax-payer, a parish officer, or a militia man. He has no right to appear at a county meeting, unless the word inhabitant should find its way into the sheriff's invitation : in this case he may show his face among the nobility, clergy, and freeholders :—a felicity which once occurred to myself, when the inhabitants of Surrey were invited to assist the gentry in crying down the Income Tax.
• Thus, having no elective franchise, an English farmer can scarcely be said to have a political existence; and political duties he has none, except such as, under existing circumstances, would inevitably consign him to the special guardianship of the Secretary of State for the home department.
Upon the soundness of these reasonings in behalf of emigration, there
may be some difference of opinion; there can be none as to the other inducements which operated upon his mind, and which, we may reasonably presume, turned the balance in favour of America. With all its excellences, the English government is a most expensive one; protection to person and property is nowhere so dearly purchased; and the follies of the people, and the corruption of their rulers, have entailed such a load of debt upon us, that whoever prefers his own to any other country as a place of residence, must be content to pay an enormous price for the gratification of his wish. In truth, a temptation to emigrate is now held out to all persons of moderate fortune, which must, in very many cases, prove altogether irresistible. Nor can any thing be more senseless than the wonder testified by some zealous lovers of their native land, at any family, of small income, seeking a more fruitful soil and a better climate, where half their means may not be seized to pay the state and the poorexcept perhaps the indignation which such a change of residence usually excites in the same sagacious personages. Mr Birkbeck appears not to have been at ail deterred by such feelings, and to have decided upon emigrating with his family and his capi, tal, not because he overlooked the many inconveniences to which the removal must expose him, but because he was desirous of purchasing," by a great sacrifice of present case, an exemption,
in the decline of life, from that wearisome solicitude about * pecuniary affairs, from which even the affluent find no refuge s in England.' He expected also to obtain for his children
a career of enterprise, and wholesome family connexion, in a
society whose institutions are favourable to virtue;' and to have the consolation of leaving them efficient members of a
flourishing, public spirited, energetic community, where the ' insolence of wealth and the servility of pauperism, between • which, in England, there is scarcely an interval remaining, • are alike unknown. We notice these sentiments for the purpose of remarking, first, that they are calculated to excite very great indignation among the thoughtless optimists of this coun try, who would be far less irritated if they were not conscious that the offensive observations have at least some foundation in fact; and, secondly, that the state of our finances and poor laws onght, instead of discouraging a true lover of his country from all attempts at restoring a healthful order of things, only to animate his efforts, by reminding him of the necessity which exists for a reformation. Mr Birkbeck, as a moderate capitalist and the father of a large family, may be justified in every point of view for leaving this country; but those who remain in it are only the more loud to redouble their exertions in favour of a ner cessary reform; because such persons as Mr Birkbeck are induced to emigrate by the defects which at present exist in our system of administration; and they certainly are the most shallow, as well as the most unjust of all reasoners, who, while they loudly blame emigration, strenuously resist every attempt at removing the evils which produce it.
Our emigrants, after a favourable voyage in a large vessel, arrived at Norfolk in Virginia, about the beginning of May. Every thing they at first saw made them regret the country they had left. The market place was filled with negroes selling the worst butcher's meat at high prices; miserable horses drew all the vehicles of the farmer; and the horrors of negro slavery appeared in every corner. As they ascended the river, the great beauty of the scenery somewhat reconciled them to their new abode. By degrees the character of the country improved; the soil was rich and well cultivated; and the habitations of the farmers wore an appearance of ease and comfort, which the practice of domestic slavery alone interrupted. They arrived at Petersburg during the time of the races; and the following passage deserves attention.
' A Virginian tavern resembles a French one with its table d'hôte, (though not in the excellence of the cookery) but somewhat exceeds it in filth, as it does an English one in charges. The daily number