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Art. VIT. The Stranger in America: Containing Observations made during a Long Residence in that Country, on the Genius, Manners, and Customs of the People of the United States; icith Biographical Particulars of Public Characters; Hints and Facts relative to the Arts, Sciences, Commerce, Agriculture, Manufactures, Emigration, and the Slave Trade. By Charles William Janson Esq., lute of the State of Rhode Island, Counsellor at Law. 4to. pp.500. London. Cundee. 1807.
•"phis large and most ill arranged volume contains, apparently, whatever Mr Janson could recollect of America, aiding his memory by a few notes and memorandums: for he went thither without any view of becoming an author; made no regular tour; and kept no constant journal of his excursions, or register of his observations. He repaired to the New World to gratify a longing which he had to see it: he wap soon tired of it as a sight, and engaged in different speculations ;—a land speculation, which failed ;—a trading adventure, which shared the same fate and, most strange of all, a law speculation,—for he was, in the course of his rambles, called to the bar, and to practice, but found it did not answer. He resided, in this way, above thirteen years in the United States; and on his return, as the custom is, he wrote his book. According to another still more ancient custom, he begins by appealing to the ' persuasions of friends ' as an apology for publishing it. 'Year after year, it seems, the desire of communicating to the public the result of his observations respecting our once transatlantic brethren' has been restrained, by * contemplating the many volumes which have appeared on the subject.' This struggle, however, during successive years, must have happened in America; for as he was above thirteen years there, and left Europe in May 1793, he must have returned to England late in 1806, and his book is in the shops early in 1807. It is indeed a most hasty performance; by a person neither accustomed to laborious composition, nor qualified to write without labour; neither capable of selecting his materials, nor of arranging them; and not very eminent in that acuteness, which enables a man well to observe, or profitably to reflect, on what he has witnessed.
A vast mass of anecdotes, facts, declamations, pictures, quotations from noted works, excerpts from unknown books, songs and other verses, newspaper advertisements, and many other articles, are thrown together by a sort of manual exertion; then made into chapters by the same kind of labour, adorned with 'preface, index, and title-pages; and then advertised for sale. In
'Gl . all all this the hand is more employed than the head; and the reader's mental fatigue is perhaps nearly equal to the author's, A little amusement he may derive from wading through the volume; a stray fact of some value he may catch here and there; hut he must not hope, for that average proportion between the number of pages and the amount of instruction, which encourages him in his perusal of ordinary books. We shall endeavour to save our readers a part of this labour, and to communicate a fair and just share of the profit.
Mr Janson left England in a very incommodious merchant vessel, commanded by a captain who treated him ill, and kept him nearly the whole voyage on short allowance; and filled with passengers, for whom he seems to have contracted no great degree of friendship. The voyage presented nothing remarkable, except a visit from a French privateer, and a squall. The former occurrence threw our author into a violent passion; the latter gave him a great fright. The behaviour of the captain, tooj kept him in constant bad humour; and one of the passengers, an American, provoked him, by shewing a dislike of England ;. and Bob, the cook-boy, comported himself rudely ;—all which irritations had so visible an effect on Mr Janson, that he obtained the appellation of the * Grumbleri' a name which, from the temper of his whole remarks on America, and indeed on. every thing he discusses, we must admit to be sufficiently applicable to him, both on shore and at sea. He asserts, it is true, that his present unfavourable opinion of America and the Americans must be founded in justice, because he went over with the strongest prepossessions in their favour. But such prepossessions are as likely to mislead minds of a certain description, as the most violent prejudices of an unfavourable sort. And we cannot help impute ing a great deal of the invective against the manners and produc.r tions of the United States, which is so prevalent both in English society and in late books of travels, tp this very circumstance— that the persons who speak from their own observation, instead of making up their minds, when they left Europe, to a privation of many comforts, for the sake of other advantages, formed ridiculous expectations of enjoying in the New World something superadded to the best of what they had ever tasted in the Old, If a man desires to contemplate the spectacle of an infant community rising to enormpus wealth and power, with a celerity dis*. tinctly visible, or is curious to see large forests, lakes and rivers, he must not repine at a temporary exclusion from the refined society of London and Paris. If an emigrant seeks the region of <;heap land, he must lay his account with finding labour and manufactures costly. What were Mr Jahson's motives for visiting
• America America we need not inquire. He belongs to one or to both of these classes; and he has committed exactly the error which we formerly pointed out in noticing Mr Parkinson's travels, of expecting impossibilities, and grumbling because contradictions were not reconciled for his convenience or advantage.
In this frame of mind, however, Mr Janson arrived at Boston. He was presently shocked with the vulgarity of the people, and teazed by their familiar way of treating him, and by their perpetual interrogatories. He next suffered from the excessive civilities of his hosts and hostesses; from the heat of the climate, and 'that aggravating and poisonous insect,' the musquito. He walked about, nevertheless, and visited Bunker's Hill, which introduces some anecdotes of the battle, and an apostrophe to those who fell in it, which we shall not quote. From some uninteresting notes, chiefly on the distilleries, theatres," and' breweries of Boston, a transition is made to the general subject of America, the statistics of which are rapidly disposed of in four pages, and followed by unconnected notices of its history in a few pages more. After this he observes, ' the reader will doubtless think it high time to return to my narrative.' The heat drives him from Boston to New-London, which he marvels at finding much smaller than the old city of that name. Mention is here made of two different lobsters; one, upon which ten hungry men supped, and left enough for an eleventh; another, on which seven persons dined, yet left sufficient to satisfy a hungry man. Approaching now to the brink of a precipice, he recollects Shakespeare's description of Dover Cliffs, and presents us with the following improvement upon that celebrated passage. 'Ours, however, was a land prospect. The cattle grazing in the plain appeared no larger than sheep. Horses at plough at a further distance, were diminished to the size of a child's toy; the driver to an atom scarcely visible.'
At this part of the narrative is introduced a curious account of the adventures which befel three of Charles the First's judges. Generals Goffe and Whalley, and Colonel Dixwcll. They took refuge in Connecticut, and wandered from place to place over other parts of New England, remaining in concealment for many years; the two former frequently in caves and woods; the latter, by changing his name, and getting into the crowd of society. Their story forms one of the oldest and most interesting of the NewEngland traditions; and our thanks are due to Mr Janson for inserting several particulars, from what he heard, and from some American publications upon the subject. These, and other American books which he quotes, have never, we presume, reached Europe; and there is not, in the bulky volume before us, any thing more curious than the specimens which it contains of transatlantic literature. We shall afterwards extract a few of those passages for the sake of illustrating this point. It may be better, here, to insert one of the passages concerning the judges, in the words of Goffe. The following is a letter from that person, describing his old companion's second childhood. There is something touching in the tenderness which mingles itself with the fanaticism of this piece.
"Your old friend, Mr R. (Whalley) is yet living, but continues in that weak condition of which I have formerly given you an account; and I have not much to add. He is fcarce capable of any rational difcourfe: his underftanding, memory and fpeech, doth fo much fail him, that he feems not to take much notice of any thing that is either done or faid, but patiently bears all things, and never complains of any thing, though 1 fear it is fome trouble to him that he hath had no letter for a long time from his coufm Rich; but he fpeaks not one word concerning it, nor any thing you wrote in your laft ; only, after I had read your letters to him, being afked whether it was not a great refrefhmerit to him to hear fuch a gracious fpirit breathing in your letters, he faid it was none of his leaft comforts; and indeed, he fcarce fpeaks of anything but in anfvver to the questions that are put to him, which are not of many kinds, became he is not capable to anfwer them. The common and very frequent queilion is, to know how he doth; and his anfwer, for the moft part, is, Very well, I praife God; which he utters in a very low and weak voice. But fometimes he faith, not very well, or very ill; and then if it be further faid, do you feel pain any where? to that he always anfwereth, No. When he wants any thing, he cannot fpeak well for it, becaufe be forgets the name of it, and fometimes afks for one thing, when he means another, fo that his eye or his finger is his tongue; but his ordinary wants are fo well known to us, that moft of them are fupplied without afkiiig or making figns for them. Some help he ftands in need of in every thing to which any motion is required, having not been able for a long time to drefs or undrefs himfelf, nor to feed, nor eafe nature either way, orderly, without help, and it's a very great mercy to him tiiat he hath a friend that takes pleafure in being helpful to him. I blefs the Lord that gives me fuch a good meafure of health and ftrength, and an opportunity and a heart to ufe it in fo good and neceffary a work; for though my help be poor and weak, yet that ancient fervant of Chrift could not well fubfift without it; and I do believe, as you are pleafcd to fay very well, that I do enjoy the more health for his fake. I have fometimes wondered much at this difpenfation of the Lord towards him, and have fome expedlar tions of more than ordinary iffne. The Lord help us to profit by all, and to wait with patience upon him, till we fee what end he will make with us.
"Thus far I write for myfelf. I will now aflc him what he would have me fay to his friends concerning him. The qutllion being alked, he faith, I am better than I was'. And being afked what I (hould fay more to his coufin R. or any other friends; after a long paufe, he again faid, the Lord hath vifited me in much mercy, and hath anfwered his vifitation upon me. (I give you his own words.) Being defirous to draw more from him, I propofed feveral queftions; and the fum of his anfwers was, that he earneftly defires the continuance of the fervent prayers of all friends for him." p. 49, 50. The following anecdote is in Mr Janson's own words.
• During their abode at Hadley, the moll famous and memorable Indian war of New England took place. This was called King Philip's war. Philip was a powerful fachem, and refided at Mount Hope, in Rhode Ifland; where he was foon after this war put to death by Colonel Church. All the new frontier towns of New England were attacked, and Hadley was then expofed as a place of that defcription. The time the favages fixed upon to make the affault, was while the inhabitants were afiembled in the meeting-houfe to obferve a faft-day; but fortunately it had been fome time a cuftom for the men to attend public worihip, armed. Had the town been taken, the difcovery of Whalley and Goffe would have been inevitable. The men took up their arms, and attempted a defence, but were foon thrown into confufion, when (as it is related to this day) a ftranger fuddenly appeared among them, of venerable afpect, and different in his apparei from the inhabitants; who rallied, and difpofing them in the beft military manner, led them to the charge, routed the Indians, and faved the town. In the moment of victory their deliverer vanimed. The inhabitants, unable to account for the phenomenon, believed that they had been commanded by an angel, fent from heaven for their protection.
* This fuppofed angel was Goffe, who never before ventured from his concealment. Whalley was then in a ftate of fecond childhood. Such was their caution to prevent a difcovery of their retreat, that the inhabitants never knew them, or who it was that fo ably led them againft the favages, until they both had paid the debt of nature.' p. 51.
The next chapter consists of miscellaneous observations on the climate of North America. It is made up of extracts from books, bits of meteorological registers, loose imperfect tables, and proofs that clearing a country affects its atmosphere. A sudden step is then made to the '. multiplication of wild pigeons,' which is prodigious in New England; ' their abundance,' which is great in Carolina; and the • fecundity of fish,' which is also astonishing. And so ends the eighth chapter, making way for the ninth, which opens with a remark, that ' Nature is exhibited upon a large scale in America,' and is devoted to many well-known statements respecting the size of the lakes and mountains.
Our author now gives us a relation of his excurfion in Connecticut, which prefents nothing at all remarkable, unlefs it be the badnefs of the accommodation for travellers, the familiarity of fervants, and the general rudenefs of the inferior ckuTes. AH this is