« PreviousContinue »
The first landing at New York however was calculated to impress our author with better hopes. A lad having called a hackney-coach was liberally rewarded, as Mr. Fearon thought, with the offer of a shilling, which the young republican however refused to take, ' for as how, (said he) I guess, it is not of value; I have been slick in going to the stand right away. The tone of independence (impudence-for which Mr. Fearon would probably have longed to kick a poor water-man in Farringdon Ward, Without) with which this was uttered, though somewhat displeasing to Mr. Fearon's pride, was not so, he tells us, to his judgment, more especially on observing that there was no sense of having received a favour in the boy's countenance or manner, when Mr. Adams gave him half a dollar. Our traveller, however, is in some dilemma in making up his mind to this first essay of republican independence, and is disposed to think that a simple 'I thank you, Sir,' would not derogate from a freeman's dignity: yet, after all,' he concludes, even cold independence is preferable to warm servility.' Here, as every where else, he is the dupe of words : the question, with his leave, is not between cold independence and warm servility, but between downright impudence and
courtesy : for, surely,' I thank you' has nothing servile in it. In fact, Mr. Fearon's pride peeps out through the holes of his ragged republicanism. He was evidently mortified. The first observation made by our author on the quay of New
that the labouring class were not better clothed than men of the same condition in England, 'but more erect in their posture; less care-worn in their countenances' and that
among them there were no beggars.'-Mr. Fearon, we suspect, would not look for beggars on the quays of London. The next was, that the mercantile and genteel orders wore large straw hats, that trowsers were universal, and that the general costame of these classes was inferior to men in the same rank of life in England - Their whole appearance was loose, slovenly, careless, and not remarkable for cleanliness. One striking feature of the street population consisted in the multitude of blacks. The white men, women, and children were all sallow, and Mr.
soon learned that to have colour in the cheeks is an infallible criterion by which to be discovered as an Englishman.' The people here (he says) seem all of one family, and though not quite“ a drab-coloured creation,” the feelings they excite are not many degrees removed from the uninteresting sensations generated by that expression.' Old men are rarely to be seen. The streets are narrow and dirty, and much infested with pigs—circumstances which, to our author, seemed to indicate a lax police. "Upon the whole, a walk through New York will disappoint an Eng
lishman: there is, on the surface of society, a carelessness, a laziness,' (what is become of the erect posture of the people, which so edified Mr. Fearon a few lines above ?) • an unsocial indifference, which freezes the blood and disgusts the judgment. An evening stroll along Broadway when the lamps are alight, will please more than one at noon-day. The shops then look rather better, though their proprietors, of course, remain the same: their cold indifference may, by themselves, be mistaken for independence, but no person of thought and observation will ever concede to them that they have selected a wise mode of exhibiting that dignified feeling :—this, however, is precisely the mistake which Mr. Fearon made in the case of the young gentleman who called the coach.- I disapprove most decidedly of the obsequious servility of many London shopkeepers,' (the London shopkeepers are infinitely obliged to Mr. Fearon) — but I am not prepared to go the length of those in New York, who stand with their hats on, or sit or lie along their counters, smoking segars, and spitting in every direction, to a degree offensive to any man of decent feelings.'—p. 11.
Mr. Fearon went, as strangers usually do, to a boarding-house. He occupied a small room in the attic story with two small beds in it, which he shared with the rats and musquitoes. The furniture consisted of two old chairs, as many temporary bedsteads, a mattress, cotton sheets and coverlid-no bell in the
room, which indeed (says he) would be useless, as the attendance of servants is perfectly unattainable.'-For these splendid accommodations, he paid something more than four guineas a week—this, however, he gaily adds, troubles me but little. If there be but a good government, a healthy and fertile country, and an enlightened people, I for one, and I am sure you all will join with me, shall be contented and happy.' He was somewhat staggered, however, in his preconceived ideas as to the good government,' on hearing, at the dinner table, a conversation between Commodore Decatur, who is a member of the Navy Board, and a gentleman of the town, respecting favouritism in disposing of the government contracts. The policy of giving away good things to the supporters of government was stoutly defended by one person, and assented to partially by Commodore Decatur, while another complained, with some feeling, of jobs and peculation. “These,' says Mr. Fearon, with the simplicity of a sucking child, were terms which I had imagined were unknown in the language of the United States; I had hoped that this refined order of things would never be imported from our great but oppressed country to this land, at the emancipation of which from tyranny and taxation every free mind throughout the world joined in exultation and triumph.? For a man so utterly ignorant of the history of both countries as Mr. Fearon, the intrepidity with which he delivers his judgment is any thing but laudable. America was subjected to no tyranny be
fore the era of her rebellion; and she certainly has not been emancipated from taxation since. The triumph' of this gentleman and his friends therefore, if not premature is, at least, unwarranted.
Another circumstance that surprised our simple traveller was, the great number of black slaves in this free state. The boarding house was full of them— female blacks (he says) often obstructed my passage up and down stairs; they lie about clinging to the boards as though that had been the spot on which they had vegetated. Soon after landing he had an excellent practical specimen of that liberty and equality which he had so fondly anticipated in the land of promise.' He called at a hair-dresser's shop; the man within was a negro. · A black man, very respectably dressed, came into the shop and sat down. On the black shaver inquiring what he wanted, the reply was, he wished to have his hair cut-the rest of the scene is excellent.
My man turned upon his heel, and with the greatest contempt, muttered in a tone of proud importance, “ We do not cut coloured men here, Sir.” The poor fellow walked out without replying, exhibiting in his countenance confusion, humiliation, and mortification. I immediately requested that if the refusal was on account of my being present, he might be called back. The hair-dresser was astonished: “You cannot be in earnest, Sir?” he said. I assured him that I was so, and that I was much concerned in witnessing the refusal from no other cause than that his skin was of a darker tinge than my own.
He stopped the motion of his scissars; and after a pause of some seconds, in which his eyes were fixed upon my face, he said,
Why, I guess as how, Sir, what you say is mighty elegant, and you're an elegant man; but I guess you are not of these parts.”—“I am from England,” said I," where we have neither so cheap nor so enlightened a government as your's, but we have no slaves.”—“ Ay, I guessed you were not raised here; you salt-water people are mighty grand to coloured people; you are not so proud, and. I guess you have more to be proud of; now I reckon you do not know that my boss would not have a single ugly or clever gentleman come to his store, if he cut coloured men; now my boss, I guess, ordered me to turn out every coloured man from the store right away, and if I did not, he would send me off slick; for the slimmest gentleman in York would not come to his, store if coloured men were let in; but you know all that, Sir, I guess, without my telling you; you are an elegant gentleman too, Sir." I assured him that I was ignorant of the fact which he stated; but which, from the earnestness of his manner, I concluded must be true. you come all the way right away from England. Well! I would not have supposed, I guess, that you come from there from your tongue; you have no hardness like, I guess, in your speaking; you talk almost as well as we do, and that is what I never see, I guess, in a gentleman so lately from England. I guess that your talk is within a grade as good as ours. You are a mighty elegant gentleman, and if you will tell me where you keep, I will bring some of my coloured friends to visit
VOL. XXI. NO, XLI.
you. Well, you must be a smart man to come from England, and talk English as well as we do that were raised in this country.” At the dinner-table I commenced a relation of this occurrence to three American gentlemen, one of whom was a doctor, the others were in the law: they were men of education and of liberal opinions. When I arrived at the point of the black being turned out, they exclaimed,
Ay, right, perfectly right, I would never go to a barber's where a coloured man was cut!" Observe, these gentlemen were not from the south ; they are residents of New York, and I believe were born there. I was upon the point of expressing my opinion, but withheld it, thinking it was wise to look at every thing as it stood, and form a deliberate judgment when every feature was finally before me.'-pp. 59, 60.
All this is very well; but where was this sage reflection when, with a meanness that wants a name, Mr. Fearon stooped to flatter the vanity of an ignorant journeyman hairdresser at the expense of truth and his country?- To return to the negro: nothing indeed can be more deplorable than his condition, whether free or in slavery, in this · land of liberty. The poor wretch dares not shew himself within the doors of any place of public worship where white persons attend. If he goes to the theatre, a corner of the gallery is railed off for him; and even in the jails the white culprit will not eat with a black offender-in short, we are told that in the free states of New York and Jersey, 'the treatment of Americans of colour, by their white countrymen, is worse than that of the brute creation.'
* There exists (continues Mr. Fearon) a penal law, deeply written in the minds of the whole white population, which subjects their coloured fellow-citizens to unconditional contumely and never-ceasing insult. No respectability, however unquestionable, --no property, however large,-no character, however unblemished, will gain a man, whose body is in American estimation) cursed with even a twentieth portion of the blood of his African ancestry, admission into society! They are considered as mere Pariahs—as out-casts and vagrants upon the face of the earth! I make no reflection upon these things, but leave the facts for your consideration.-p. 168.
These statements are heart-sickening, and, to do Mr. Fearon justice, he speaks of them with merited reprobation: but was it necessary for him to cross the Atlantic to become acquainted with them, and to excite the astonishment of a poor negro barber at his want of the most common kind of information - Here,' he exclaims on reaching New York, Here I am in the land of liberty! These are his first words; and he actually seems surprized, when, on going ashore, he finds, good easy man, such triumphant justifications of his exclamation as these, in the first American paper which he takes up. TO BE SOLD. A servant woman, acquainted both with city and
country business, and sold because she wishes to change her place. Enquire at the office of the New York Daily Advertiser.'
• FOR SALE OR HIRE. A likely young man, sober, honest, and wellbehaved. He would suit very well for a house servant or gentleman's waiter. Enquire at this office.'-p. 57.
What,' subjoins Mr. Fearon, with an amiable warmth of feeling, 'what should we say, if in England we saw such advertise ments in the Times Newspaper? Should we not conclude that freedom existed only in words? Such would, indeed, be a legitimate conclusion; but it was not that of the we's to whom Mr. Fearon so confidently appeals. They might, and, according to his own statements, must have seen columns of such advertisements,' not, thank heaven! in the Times, or any other English Newspaper, but in the countless American papers with which every coffeehouse in London is supplied; yet, (so' essential was freedom to the happiness of these conscientious persons'--p.iv.) that, in spite of their knowledge, they dispatched an agent to inquire in what part of this New Goshen, over which the light of liberty was so equally and so happily diffused, they might sit down with the fairest prospects of turning their property to account.
In plain truth, however, conscience had as little to do with the meditated flight of these people, as the rights of man.' The democratic writers, on whom they relied, had assured them that bankruptey and ruin were advancing upon England with giant strides, and therefore it became ' essential to their happiness' to get out of the way as fast as they could. "They apprehended,' says Mr. Fearon,' approaching evils'; and they were anxious to secure their gains. All beyond this, is sheer hypocrisy. No man, valuing genuine freedom, or possessing real sentiments of humanity, could tolerate for a moment the idea of passing his days in a country where such brutalizing scenes as those which we have noticed, and which, Mr. Fearon says, his friends had often lamented, must be perpetually before his eyes :—and they exist, with few exceptions, in every part of North America, from the eastern shore to the Illinois, and from New York to New Orleans.
But while Mr. Fearon reprobates these abominable practices, he might, we think, have had the candour to contrast the conduct of England, as he never fails to do when he imagines that he has any thing to produce to her disadvantage, with that of the United States on this subject:-it might have occurred to him that
Slaves cannot breathe in England:--if their lungs
And jealous of the blessing.