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Atwater, Caleb. Remarks Made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien; Thence to Washington City, in 1829 . Columbus, OH: Isaac N. Whiting, 1831. [format: book], [genre: history; narrative; travelogue]. Permission: Illinois State University
Were I to say, what I sincerely believe, beyond, even a shadow of a doubt, concerning this people, that they are the most moral the most learned, the most scientific, the best read, the kindest, the most polite, the most hospitable, the most liberal in their opinions, the most benevolent and at the same time, the best fed, cloathed the best, and the happiest community of sixty five thousand persons living within so small a space, as Philadelphia proper, covers, I should say, the literal truth and nothing more; but, that I may be the means of transferring of transplanting some of these trees of Paradise, so to speak, to the West, and especially to the soil of Ohio but if the reader will not permit me, even to endeavor to do so much, then, I will endeavor, in as few words, as possible, to tell my children, so dear to my heart, some particulars, relating to the people of Philadelphia, and I seriously recommend it to them to gravely consider, what I am about to say, for their benefit, in after life, and I pray them to study the character of a people, whose example, I wish them to follow.
In the first place, the Philadelphians, are the most moral people in the world. Moral principle, is the great fountain, from which, so many streams of felicity descend, branching out, as they run, into countless rills, fertilizing and adorning the whole field of human life.
No matter what honest calling, any man may follow for a living, so long as he conducts himself honestly, and honorably in it, is industrious and economical (if he be poor,) is attentive to his business, unless it be overdone, as professional business truly is, upright in all his dealings, moral in his habits, performing all his duties to himself, his family, his friends and the world; he will be sustained in his business, assisted in adversity, (if necessary,) and all his interests will be advanced; But, if on a careful, patient, and righteous scrutiny into his conduct, it is clearly ascertained, beyond a doubt, that he is, either dishonest, lazy, indolent, inattentive
to his business, immoral in his life, vicious in his habits, or is wicked of heart THAT MAN is RUINED, forever, in Philadelphia, unless he repent and reform himself.
He may have an independent fortune, and live here, in defiance of the public scorn, if vicious, so as he voilates no law of the land, but he cannot, and he will not, be encouraged, in his vicious career, by the citizens of Philadelphia. Such a man, may live here, and amass a fortune, as a certain quack doctor has done, but the citizens of this place, will not lend their aid, to the accomplishment of his dishonest purposes.
Strangers who come here, may do it, though, but the people here, will do all they legally can, to counteract an evil, beyond their entire control.
No mechanic, were he dishonest enough at heart, to wish to do so, dare cheat his customer, either in his work, or in the materials upon which, that labor is bestowed. He dare not promise to do work, by a particular time, merely to obtain the customer's patronage, and then, not perform his promise but tell a hundred lies, to excuse and cover his guilt. Once guilty of such a trick, and from the time it is fairly proved against him, he may shut up his shop, and remove from Philadelphia, because, to the longest day he lives, unless he remunerates the injured party, and reforms himself, his business is ruined here, forever.
There is, there certainly must be, I think, (because no one told me there was one,) a secret police, that watches every person, and every action, in the place. When I landed in the city, I rode in a hack, from the wharf, to the United States' Hotel, and on inquiring of the driver, on the steps of the inn, what he charged me, for riding in his carriage, he said "one dollar," which I paid, and made no complaint, either then or afterwards, of the charge, though I thought it a high one. Next forenoon, that man, came to me, out of breath, and at his wit's end, almost, informing me, "that he was the person, who had conveyed me to the inn, and begged of me, to take back, one half of what he had taken, for my riding in his carriage, otherwise, he said, he was ruined, because his license would be taken from him, instantly!" A person may give away, as much money as he pleases, because that is his own matter, but if there be
any fraud or imposition used to defraud, any one, the impostor and swindler is instantly ruined with the whole people.
From the operation of moral causes, I have no doubt, that if any stranger should go into Philadelphia; for instance, to purchase a store of goods, who knew no one in the city, and if he were entirely ignorant of the quality and value of the goods; yet by making his case folly known, to any man, almost, in the city, of respectable standing in society, he would soon find around him, men, who would see that he was not wronged in any way, either in the quality, quantity or price of the goods purchased.
And let any man, be his business what it may, provided it be honest, laudable and correct, come to this city, and need aid in it, to get it accomplished, he would have that aid spontaneously, and without fee or reward, tendered to him. I mean not, legal and medical aid, where the applicant was able to pay for it, but if not able, even that, would be given to him gratis.
I have said, this people are moral and religious, and a remark or two, on their morality is all I can find space in my book for but I can say, as to their temperance, in not drinking to excess, that during five weeks, I traversed this city, through every street and alley in it, during the whole day; and as I passed alone, stopping in very often, every where almost, in the city, I never saw during that time, but three intoxicated persons. One was a lunatic, in the street, who was instantly taken up and placed in the asylum for such persons. Of the other two, one was a male, and the other a female, who did not belong to the city. The man, after I saw him in the street, was not permitted to go four rods, before he was arrested and carried off by the police, out of my sight, and I never saw him again. The woman, on account of the delicacy felt for her sex, got nearly twenty rods, along the street, when she was arrested, and carried off, and never appeared in the street again. I took special notice of these instances, because I had heard so much, of the vigilance of the police, in such cases.
There may be vice, in the city, there must be indeed, among sixty-five thousand people, but it is not seen in public, otherwise, I certainly should have seen it, somewhere.
The criminal court was in session while I was there and there were several criminal cases, on the docket. I was particularly careful to examine into the nature of the offences charged, and the parts of the city, where laid to have been committed. They were committed in the outskirts of the city, and the principal affair, was a riot. It appeared that a captain of militia had been training his company in the street, annoying the people in the vicinity, with his drumming and noise; and they had chased him out of their way, very righteously, I thought, and little or no harm was done on the occasion, to any body. Those found guilty were fined, a trifle, each.
Though the Friends or Quakers, now compose about one twelfth portion of the whole population, yet their spirit, still animates this community to a considerable degree, and they think not very highly of militia officers.
They are not a quarrelsome people, certainly, because, during all my stay there, I never heard even one angry word, from any human being, except from the drunkards before alluded to.
They are not a litigious people, because, in almost any small county, in one of our new states, west of Ohio, there are probably, more law-suits of a litigious character, in any three months, than there are in Philadelphia, in a whole year.
The crimes committed there, are committed by villains, who prowl about, for plunder, visiting, in turn, almost every Atlantic city, whenever they wander off from their real home, the city of New-York. Indeed, I heard it every where asserted, that under the name of private military schools, located in New Hampshire, New York, &c. the arts of robbing, house-breaking, &c. were taught. From several facts, I suspect it is so.
The state of the intercourse between the sexes, is as pure, as holy wedlock can make it, and I never saw an indecent act, or gesture, nor heard an immodest expression, while I was in the city.
I never heard, during the whole time, either, a profane oath; uttered, by any person.
All I have to say, of the female character, in this city, is, that to me, It appeared to, be perfect, in all the relations
of life. I know of no imperfections in them, as mothers, as sisters, wives, or friends. Their forms are perfect, and their minds are more highly cultivated, than any I ever became acquainted with, any where else. Without one particle of squeamishness about them, there is something about them, so sober, so modest, so unaffected, moral, and good, like an etherial spirit, hovering around them, that no pen, and no tongue can describe them. I had heard of them all my life time, as being superior to all others, of their sex, but on seeing them, and conversing with them, I discovered, at once, that I had never formed as exalted an opinion of them, as they truly merited.
More pains are taken to educate them, here, than in any other place, ever visited by me. In every conversation I ever had with any of them, whether old or young, I was constantly surprised, at their acquirements, their sagacity, good sense, good breeding, and the entire, and perfect propriety of all they said, and of all their actions; of every look, of every gesture they made, and of every thought, that entered into their minds. That heart must be one of pure adamant, which they could not melt into a liquid mass.
Nearly, I believe, quite every family, which I visited, employed private instructors for their children, and every house, was indeed, a school house, several hours, every day. So much care, labor and attention, bestowed constantly, with the view to prepare the mind and body, for future usefulness, are rarely seen, among any other people, in the world.
The Philadelphians, have studied Natural History, more than any other people. This knowledge exhibits to us, the operations of infinite wisdom, goodness and power soothes the mind, into tranquility and peace checks the aspirations of unholy ambition promotes cheerfulness drives away the mists of error, ignorance and superstition, and tends strongly to place man, where he was designed to be, at the head of the creation.
This fair city contains the ashes of many, who, from the humblest origin, and with the humblest means, by their own industry, zeal, perseverance, enterprize and energy, encouraged as they were, by this people, raised themselves
to the very summits of science, learning, wealth and power To a mind determined to succeed, in Philadelphia, there is no Alps, which cannot here be climbed, to its very highest peak.
The younger professional men, all complained to me-that, they found it very difficult to get into business enough, more, than to support them. To them, I would say, cross the Alleghanies, and locate yourselves in the valley of the Mississippi. There is room enough, for you all here. You will be missionaries, among us, of science, of learning, of good breeding, spreading all around you, correct moral and political principles, and diffusing happiness in fine, you will plant trees of Paradise, that will grow, flourish, bloom and bear fruit, in this vale, forever. Come along hasten your footsteps into the West. Welcome thrice welcome into the delightful regions of the West.
The kindness, politeness and hospitality of the Philadelphians, are extended to all, who visit their city, and I was treated by them, precisely as they treated every other decent stranger, then in the city. I went there, exactly as I always do, to Baltimore, or to any other city, without one particle of lofty pretension or parade was still, unostentatious and in as plain a dress, as I wear at home. I advanced no claims to any great attention, respect or confidence. I carried no recommendation, of any sort, but my own, plain, unostentatious self. I stopped near the centre of the city though, as I always do, when I travel, and sought only to become acquainted with the innocent and virtuous persons of both sexes, who treated me, exactly as they do all others, who visit the city, as I did. The same persons who treated me so kindly, treat all others, similarly situated, in the same way.
Though I became intimately acquainted with a great many families, besides the Biddles, Dr. Chapman's &c. (at whose houses, I attended Wistar parties,) yet I had never seen them, until I went to the city; and in five minutes, after I was introduced to them, I felt as if I had been acquainted with them, all my life time.
I take the liberty of presenting to the reader, a few remarks upon ROBERT WALSH, Esq. Being a professed author, and in that way, a public man, he must not
complain, if I say something of one, who is a kind of public property.
Mr. Walsh, is well known, as an author, to all my readers. He is a man of the common size, and he must be somewhat more than forty years of age, and is, I believe, a widower. Though educated and brought up in the Catholic religion, yet he is liberal in his opinions and feelings towards all other Christian sects, as any one need be.
Living in affluence, his life is one of regularity, itself. After breakfast, he studies until three in the afternoon, when he dines, with his large and most interesting family, and such friends as happen to be at his house. Soon after I visited him, on my very first day's visit to the city, he kindly invited me, to dine with him every day, while I remained in the city, of which invitation, I often availed myself. His children, are several of them, most accomplished young ladies and gentlemen, and every way prepared to shine, not only, in the social circle, and continue to be a source of happiness to their father and friends; but, to become ornaments of human nature, in the several walks of life.
The life of a scholar, generally affords less happiness, than any other. To any one devoted wholly to the cultivation of letters; who labors, many times, until soul and body are worn out, exhausted and ready to sink under their load; relaxation, amusement, gentle exercise, and agreeable society are absolutely necessary. Mr. Walsh finds all these things, under his own roof, in the society too, of his own innocent, well informed, well bred and accomplished sons and daughters.
After amusing himself, in this little, innocent and happy circle, during two or three hours, he and they go to their studies again or, sometimes he goes to the Wistar party to the Philosophical society, or to some other place, where the literati of the city are assembled. Thus his days pass off, as regularly, as any one's can do.
I particularly looked into his mode of living, with a view, to follow, so far as I could, a path, which has led to such acquirements, as his.
The waywardness and eccentricity of genius, are
proverbial, and the reason is found, I suspect, in the want of proper and agreeable company, in hours devoted to relaxation. Not wanting this company, makes Mr. Walsh, what he is, happy, though a hard student whose life is regularity itself, though he is a man, of great genius. As I watched him narrowly for my own benefit, so I tell others, how he lives, that they may profit by it.
During his studying hours, no female's cap, is every few minutes, thrust into his room, and no broom or brush raises a dust under his nose, either to drive him away from his labours, or to suffocate him.
Mr. Walsh's happiness, is truly his own he has so educated his sons and his daughters, as to make them a constant source of happiness to him. Long may he and they live, to enjoy the society, the friendship, and affection, they now do, of each other be happy themselves and make all happy about them.
"The Indian man" (as the youngest, the darling little son, always called me, when he ran from room to room, to assemble them all, in the parlor, to receive me,) will call to see them all again, in the same parlour. The picture of a horse, which my young friend gave me, on parting, was stolen from me, on board of the Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
I have said, the waywardness of genius is proverbial, but I suspect, the cause may be found, in most of the men, who possess that high gift of Heaven, having been, either unmarried, or they have been married to women, who, did not possess the faculty of soothing a mind, worn down, by the severest of alt labour, which is mental Sleepless nights, want of bodily exercise, inattention to diet, taken at the proper times too, a total abstraction from every thing else in the universe, except the subject, on which the mind is deeply, constantly and for a long time employed, prostrate the bodily powers, and melt down the mind into a liquid mass. Then it is, in the power of the grasshopper, almost, by its weight, to crush the sufferer to the earth.
So circumstanced, there is nothing so soothing to the mind, so renovating to the soul, as the sight of innocent children, at their innocent sports. I have sat for hours,
after such toll exhilerated into mental life again; always, when at home, and at Mr. Walsh's, when in that city. The author, who has children, should train them, as Mr. Walsh has his, and thus render happy himself and them. These innocent amusements, prepare the parent and the child, for further labours, both of body and mind.
Next to the sight of innocent children at their innocent plays, is the sight of the landscape, diversified by the works of nature and of art.
Surrounded as he is, every moment in Philadelphia, no author has any excuse for not writing any thing he pleases, so as to immortalize his name.
It was in that city, without putting pen upon paper, this little volume was planned and without consulting any one about it, or informing even one human being what I was studying.
If there be in it, any vivacity, it was caught from the young men there and if there be any thing wise, I caught it, in the society of the Wistar party, at the mansions of Vaux, Biddle, Chapman, Walsh, and Mease, and in the company of Vaughan, Duponceau, Rawie, and a long list of names, which their modesty, only, prevents my presenting to my friends. Could I have written my book, in their city, it would have lived, a long time as it is, unless revised there, it must sink, I fear, into forgetfulness.
Growing among these trees of Paradise, metaphorically speaking, I found two individuals, in this garden, of the genuine bohon upas species a clergyman and a quack doctor; their fame had reached me in Ohio, and I here carefully informed myself, as to their true histories, as I had determined to do, before I left home.
While sitting at my boarding house, in conversation with several truly pious people, a newspaper carrier, threw into our room, a religious paper, edited by the very parson, whose true character, I so earnestly desired to learn. It was left, for a lady then in the room. Instantly I seized this sheet, and on turning to the editorial head, I read a libel on the Catholics, in the United States, expressed in language so beastly immodest, and so scandalously false, that I instantly tossed it from me, as I would
a rattle-snake, or a scorpion, had it fallen into my hands. My very blood ran cold through my whole system, and I shuddered with horror, at the ideas produced in my mind. The language used, was too scandalous to be placed in my book, and I feel a chilliness in my veins, on remembering it, even now.
As soon as the laugh had passed off, which my treatment of this scandalous paper, created; I carefully questioned the supporter of it, about the miserable wretch, who was its editor. From this lady and others, then and there assembled, I was informed, that this Doctor of Divinity, though, meagre and gaunt, as any wolf ever was, had married an orphan girl, who, and a younger sister, [whose guardian he was,] possessed an immense fortune, of nearly a million dollars; that, on taking possession of this property, he became, as independent in his feelings, as he was in fortune and, that he cared not whose feelings he wounded, or whom he pleased. It appeared too, that when the freak came over him, he could be charitable, educating several poor young men, for the ministry, one of whom, he had recently, I well knew, led into such erroneous and improper conduct, towards several of his church members, that he had been dismissed from his church. It appeared too, that he had contrived, by wringing out confidential secrets of some church members, and then instantly revealing these secrets, to create enmities that would endure as long as the injured parties lived.
His common, every-day conversation, was as imprudent, false, libellous and malignant, as his editorial matter. Austere, sour, vain, hollow hearted, deceitful, ambitious and designing, he had openly broached the idea, that the millenium was about to commence, when all earthly government, would be in the hands of the church! As a beginning of this ghastly, ghostly, priestly millenium, he advocated an union of all the churches, of all the sects; and in that way, through the elections, engross all the offices, civil, naval and military in the nation.
Having so far succeeded, and should there be any opposition to this state of things, an army would be raised, and the "GREAT BATTLE OF THE LORD" would be fought, and one third of the whole human race be slain, in mortal
combat! As preparatory steps, the Sunday mails, were to be stopped by Congress, and the people urged, under various pretexts, to elect, no man, who would not blindly, earnestly and devoutly enter into these views. If the present generation would not fully accomplish all these things, the Sunday schools were to train up the next one, for that purpose, by suffering them to learn nothing useful to them in this life, and in the meantime, undervalue this world, and instil into them a religions frenzy. His intended operations were to be carried into the valley of the Mississippi, and there consummated. His plan too, I learned, embraced the idea, that he was to be at the head of the government, within a few years! Such is a brief outline of this learned doctor's views and intentions.
I learned also, that when he travelled about the country, as he often did, he took care, to enter, on tavern registers, in addition to his proper name, and place of abode, "D.D.," and under the head of destination the kingdom of heaven." No, reverend and learned doctor, you are not travelling there. Jesus, himself has told us, that his kingdom is not of this world." By their fruits we are to know his followers they are meek and lowly of heart they slander no one they break up no churches they spread no mischiefs through their neighborhoods tell no tales tell no lies call no hard names stir up no strifes create no heart burnings divulge no confidential secrets burst no bands of friendship, and convulse no community, by intermeddling with what is not their business. They pull down no earthly government. As a man, Jesus loved his nation, then enslaved by the Roman Empire, but neither he, nor his disciples opposed it, but honoured Caesar, obeyed all the laws of the land, and taught others to do so. The history of those times, when the church assumed the reins of civil government, is written in letters of human blood. While man remains what he is, and what God intended him to be, and so formed him, that he never can be any thing but what he is, priests of any sort, are the last men of the world to be civil rulers, and religion, is the very last thing, to be in any wise connected with civil government. It may be religion, but it is not, it never can be, the Christian Religion, but exactly the reverse.
The great Author of Christianity, went about doing good to mankind.
He never delivered, in his lifetime, but one sermon, and the only time he spent in any prayer, that was overheard, even by his disciples, was just before his death, and in the near view of his approaching dissolution. He condemned, in severe terms long prayers, as heathenish. In his own expressive language, "His yoke is easy, and his burden light."
His own bright example too, throws a strong and enduring light, on the Christian's path. Wherever he went, he healed the sick, fed the hungry, restored the lame to the full use of their limbs, and the lunatic to the right use of his reason; cleansed the leper, gave the dumb his speech, made the deaf hear, and opened the blind man's eyes.
He did all these things, without ostentation, and without reward. He courted no popular favor, and exacted no tythes
He was always kind to the female sex, and caressed and loved, their innocent children, "for of such," he has told us, "is the kingdom of heaven." Though he neither hated, nor shunned the rich, yet he best loved the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted, either in body or mind.
In relieving human misery, many times brought on, by vicious habits, no doubt, he never inquired how induced, but promptly and cheerfully relieved it, whenever and wherever he found it.
Such as had, through human frailty, erred from the path of rectitude, he cheerfully forgave, when penitent, telling them, "to go, and sin no more."
I am aware, how imperfect, is this outline, and I aim at neither eloquence, nor fine writing; but so far as it goes, I feel assured of its entire correctness and it is quite sufficient for my purpose, which is to prove that the reverend divine, in Philadelphia, is as far from pure and undented Christianity, as hell is from heaven. He may be fiendlike, but not godlike, he may have piety, but not Christian piety he may have malevolence, but not charity; he may be a mischief maker; but not a peace-maker he may be a pest, but not a blessing to mankind. I repeat it, reverend doctor, your destination, is not heaven, and even if now there, the same
fiendlike passions, whose dominion you are under, would create a hell all around you.
The blasphemous language you now use, and the scandalous epithets you unsparingly apply, to whole sects of Christians, show the blackness of your own heart. While such men as Robert Walsh, Duponceau, and hundreds, nay thousands whom I well know, belong to the Catholic church, your abuse of them, goes for nothing with me.
Their lives are as pure, as moral, as pious and as good, as any man's in the nation. Kind, friendly, generous, liberal and charitable, they are ornaments, not only to christianity, but to human nature itself. Their prayers are as pure, their purposes as good, their hearts as sincere, their lives as blameless, and their devotion as acceptable to God; as any men can offer, in this nation.
The name of this wretched divine, I consign to the same OBLIVION, where those of the Bucktail Bachelor, and the Old Maid of the Wisconsin, are gone before him. For the honour of human nature, there may all their names, remain forever.
There is a quack doctor too, in this city, without one particle of real medical skill, science or learning, but who has made, and is making, an independent fortune by his quackery.
The truth is, Philadelphia being so good, so honest and so moral a city the regular doctors of medicine, being so excellent, and who have established so good a reputation, for the city doctors, all over the world, that ignorant quacks, because living in this city, by their lofty pretensions, impose on people at a distance, and so make fortunes.
I am fearful, that the same remarks, might be applied to a few, lofty pretenders to religion and piety. At all events, I was told, and I believe it, that one man, has made forty thousand dollars, who was not, when he began his pious career, worth a cent, by the Sunday School Union business!!! There is another evil, in this city. While the honest, industrious portion of this community, are attending to their own honest callings for a living, there is a set of intriguing politicians, always plotting, and managing, how they may get into office.
The honest portion of the community, are taken by surprise,
out-witted and put in the minority, by the constant drilling of worthless partisans. In time, such men, as Dr. Hare, and thousands like him, get discouraged consider their votes worth nothing stay at home, from the elections, and persons, not the fittest for office, get into them and govern the community.
There is one consolation, at least, in such a case the office confers no honor, and, the holder of it, is treated with the contempt, he deserves to be.
Imperfect, as this view, of the people of this city certainly is, yet, so far as it goes, I feel assured of its correctness.
And that I may conclude, my remarks, or as a lawyer would say, sum up the evidence: The people of the city, need not fear the loss of their trade, with the West, so long as their merchants, conduct themselves, as they now do, with honour, fairness and liberality. Their trade with us in the West, will grow up with us.
While the American Philosophical Society, the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Atheneum, the Franklin Library, the Academy of Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, the Medical College, the Asylum of the Deaf and Dumb, and the Hospital, are conducted as they now are: while the youth of both sexes are trained up as they now are, in the ways of industry, knowledge and virtue while all their schools of every kind, send forth streams of useful knowledge; while this community continues to be, as it certainly is at this moment, more liberal in sentiment, more literary, more moral, more intellectual, than any other people dwelling on so small a spot of earth, in the world; no fears need be entertained for the perpetuity of their prosperity and their happiness. Their own Delaware and Schuylkill may cease to flow and dry up, but so long as this people cultivate every thing calculated to dignify, adorn, enoble and sanctify human nature, the sources of their prosperity, happiness and true glory will never fail.
That the people of this city, may continue their present career, and their city continue to be the head quarters, of science, art, morals, virtue and patriotism to the end of time, is the sincere and fervent prayer of him, whose pen writes these lines,
Atwater, Caleb. Remarks Made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien; Thence to Washington City, in 1829 . Columbus, OH: Isaac N. Whiting, 1831. [format: book], [genre: history; narrative; travelogue]. Permission: Illinois State University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=atwater.html