« AnteriorContinuar »
and, collecting dry wood, we made a noble fire. There was a mattress for the lady, a bearskin for myself, and the load of the packhorse as a pallet for the boy. Thus, by means of great coats and blankets, and our umbrellas spread over our heads, we made our quarters comfortable ; and placing ourselves to the leeward of the fire, with our feet towards it, we lay more at ease than in the generality of taverns. Our horses fared rather worse; but we took care to tie them where they could browse a little, and occasionally shifted th, ir quarters. We had a few biscuits, a small bottle of spirits, and a phial of oil : with the latter we contrived, by twisting some twine very hard, and dipping it in the oil, to make torches ; and after several fruitless attempts we succeeded in finding water ; we also collected plenty of dry wood. Camping out when the tents are pitched by daylight, and the party is ready furnished with the articles which we were obliged to supply by expedients, is quite pleasant in fine weather. My companion was exceedingly ill, which was, in fact, the cause of our being benighted; and never was the night's charge of a sick friend undertaken with more dismal forebodings, especially during our ineffectual efforts to obtain fre, the first blaze of which was unspeakably delightful: After this, the rain ceased, and the invalid passed the night in safety; so that the morning found us more comfortable than we could have anticipated.' pp. 95-97.
Mr Birkbeck, almost from the moment of his entering the Ohio country, was surrounded by temptations to stop and settle. He found cleared lands, at a moderate price; comforts in the neighbourhood ; pleasant society:-But he was resolved to push on till he came to a station where the lowest Government price of two dollars an acre might suffice; aware that a crowd of neighbouring settlers would soon follow, to give the land a higher value, and to bring along with them the comforts and pleasures of social life. At length, in the south-east district of the Illinois territory, this judicious person fixed upon an allotment of 1440 acres, by advancing one-fourth of the price, or 720 dollars; and Mr Flower, his friend and the companion of his fortunes, made an equal and similar purchase adjoining to
These allotments form part of a rich and beautiful prairie, six miles from the Big Wabash, and as far from the Little Wabash rivers, both of which are navigable. The reader may naturally be desiroụs of learning how these land sales are carried on by the American government, and how the vast tracts of territory at its disposal are parcelled out to new settlers. Mr Birkbeck has given this information in the following passage, with his accustomed accuracy and conciseness.
The tract of country, which is to be disposed of, is surveyed, and laid out in sections of a mile square, containing six hundred and forty acres, and these are subdivided into quarters, and, in particular situations, half-quarters. The country is also laid out in counties of
about twenty miles square, and townships of six miles square in some instances, and in others eight. The townships are numbered in ranges, from north to south, and the ranges are numbered from west to east ; and lastly, the sections in each township are marked numerically. All these lines are well-defined in the woods, by marks on the trees. This done at a period, of which public notice is given, the lands in question are put up to auction, excepting the sixteenth section in every township, which is reserved for the support of schools, and the maintenance of the poor. There are also sundry reserves of entire townships, as funds for the support of seminaries on a more extensive scale; and sometimes for other purposes of general interest. No government lands are sold under two dollars per acre; and I believe they are put up at this price in quarter sections, at the auction ; and if there be no bidding, they pass on.
The best lands and most favourable situations are sometimes run up to ten or twelve dollars, and in some late instances much higher. The lots which remain unsold are, from that time, open to the public, at the price of two dol. lars per acre; one fourth to be paid down, and the remaining threefourths to be paid by instalments in five years ; at which time, if the payments are not completed, the lands revert to the State, and the prior advances are forfeited.
" When a purchaser has made his election of one, or any number of vacant quarters, he repairs to the land office, pays eighty dollars, or as many times that sum as he purchases quarters, and receives a certificate, which is the basis of the complete title, which will be given him when he pays all : this he may do immediately, and receive eight per cent. interest for prompt payment. The sections thus sold are marked immediately on the general plan, which is always open at the land office to public inspection, with the letters A. P." advance paid.” There is a receiver and a register at each land office, who, are checks on each other, and are remunerated by a per-centage on the receipts.' p. 70, 71.
When a person has, in this manner, obtained possession of part of a prairie, it only wants fencing, and water for the livestock, to make at once rich pasture land; and from this to arable land the
transition is easy, expeditious, and profitable as it proceeds. The whole cost of purchase, fencing and watering, that is, of buying the land, and then making it begin to yield a profit, is only eighteen shillings an acre. The cost of buildings and stocking is of course more difficult to estimate; but Mr Birkbeck calculates that 20001. would suffice for 640 acres; so that for 30001. an English farmer, who was but indifferently off on a farm of 6001. or 7001. a year
find himself owner of a fine estate of 600 or 700 acres in America, capable of almost unlimited improvement, and in the neighbourhood of rich, cheap land, in which he may invest his surplus profits.
This is unquestionably one of the most tempting points of view
in which emigration has ever yet been represented to men of moderate fortunes and industrious habits. Yet we are not of the number of those who view with alarm the probable consequences of such a temptation being held oụt. After all, says Dr Smith, man is, of all luggage, the most difficult to be transported. In truth, he takes such root wherever he has been planted, that, long after almost all nourishment has been extracted from it, we find him cling to its bare rocks, and rather wither than be torn away. It is in vain to remind him how bleak the sky, how scanty the nutriment, how exposed to tempests the position. We find him rebuilding his cottage upon the half cooled lava which has swept all his possessions away, and obstinately refusing to quit a spot of earth which the perpetual conflicts of the elements hardly leave at rest for a day. Not even the pestilential swamps of Guiana and Java can frighten him from his home, and dissolve the most powerful of all tieslocal attachment. In vain we remind him of his privations, his sufferings, his risks. He knows it all; he feels it to be a dear price;- but his home he deems above all price, and he willingly pays it. In vain we paint to his imagination the delights of happier climates, and the rich abundance of more luxuriant soils. He admits it all; but in those lands he feels he would ever be a stranger, and against all these enjoyments he sets one word
-home. Even when he leaves it for a season, he fondly dwells upon its pleasures, now magnified in his imagination ; while the friendly treachery of his memory sinks every unpleasing reality which fancy has failed to varnish over with fairy colours. And, in the midst of distant pursuits, which leave hardly a possibility that his connexion with the sacred spot should ever be other than nominal, he refuses to give it up, be it but a naine; and his heart loudly protests against any final step that may dispel what he knows all the while to be a mere illusion of the brain. If Providence had not, by so powerful an instinct, set its canon against emigration, all the laws of man coule never have tied the bulk of any community to a country where they are doomed to pine in want—while ease and comfort are within their reach, and to be purchased by the single act of changing their place of abode. Nay, with the vast majority of mankind, those feelings, which the rudest climate and meanest lot cannot subdue, are too strong even for the ruder hand of the Government and its agents,what shape soever they may assume-whether of inquisitors, or spies, or mercenary troops, or collectors of taxes.
It thus happens, that unless in circumstances the most extraordinary, the number of emigrants from any community must always bear a very small proportion to the whole population.
The United States appear at present to be placed in circumstances of this description. The rapid multiplication of the inhabitants, which began when the country was almost a wilderness, has apparently gone on without being retarded by the cultivation and consequent scarcity of the land. Had there been no unsettled territory in the neighbourhood, the checks to population would soon have begun to operate; but the possibility of always finding a vent in those boundless and fertile regions, has seemingly kept the velocity of increase in the United States at its original rate. Accordingly, the emigration bears a sensible proportion, if not to the whole numbers of the people, at least to the yearly augmentation of those numbers. The rapidity with which new settlements are formed in this manner, is illustrated by Mr Birkbeck's whole book; but nothing tends more clearly to show it than the state of society which he found at Princeton, where he took up his abode while his land was preparing to receive him. This is a small town, placed at the further limit of Indiana, and founded only two years before our author's arrival. It contained fifty houses; was the county town of the district; and contained (says Mr B.) as many • well informed, genteel people, in proportion to the number • of inhabitants, as any county town I am acquainted with.' • I think,' (he adds), there are half as many individuals who
entitled to that distinction as there are houses; and not one decidedly vicious character, nor one that is not able and • willing to maintain himself.'
Though these settlements are apparently locked up in the interior of a vast continent, they have, by the aid of navigable rivers, an easy communication with the ocean; and the invention of the steam-boat renders the
voyage, in either direction, sure and expeditious. Shawnee Town, about forty-five miles from Mr Birkbeck's plantation, is connected with it by the Wabash river, at a distance of only six miles. From Shawnee to New Orleans is 1200 miles, and this distance is performed in twenty days. The whole addition to the voyage across the Atlantic amounts to no more than one month. The settlement has communication also to the north, by means of the Wabash river, for about four hundred miles, and is thus connected with the whole trade of the settlements behind Canada. No situation can be more promising for future wealth and greatness. A frugal and industrious people, here established, is morally certain of rising to the
rank of a great state in the course of a few generations. Mr Birkbeck states distinctly, that, although he is desirous of assisting any person in settling upon this territory, he will be agent to no man who intends to remain at home, and
embark his capital in purchases, from the prospect of gain by the rise in the value of land. We believe that the effect of reading his book has pretty uniformly been to excite a strong desire of emigrating in the first instance; and then, as this ardour cooled, to engender a plan of investing capital in purchases near the sagacious author's settlement. Reading, howa ever, to the end, we are disappointed to find, that he will not facilitate such schemes, and that no one can hope for help from him, or benefit from his settlement through him, who will not remove thither himself, with his household gods.
It is impossible to close this interesting volume, without casting our eyes upon the marvellous empire of which Mr Birkbeck paints the growth in colours far more striking than any heretofore used in portraying it. Where is this prodigious increase of numbers, this vast extension of dominion, to end? What bounds has Nature set to the progress of this mighty nation? Let our jealousy burn as it may; let our intolerance of America be as unreasonably violent as we please; still it is plain, that she is a power in spite of us, rapidly rising to supremacy; or, at least, that each year so mightily augments her strength, as to overtake, by a most sensible distance, even the most formidable of her competitors. In foreign commerce, she comes nearer to England than
any other maritime power; and already her mercantile navy is within a few thousand tons of our own! If she
goes on as rapidly for two or three years, she must overtake and outstrip us. Men's minds are naturally turned towards the chances of her being retarded ; and the first and most obvious has been, the prospect of her dividing into several states.
The war has proved this expectation to be in a great measure chimerical. Those who indulged it held, that how well soever adapted to the purposes of internal government, the Federal Constitution must fall to pieces before a foreign enemy; that war must be the end of the Union. A war with England, the power most likely to divide the States--the only power having a natural interest and party among the American people was, happily for the Union, begun on principles so extravagant, and conducted with such want of moderation, as to strengthen the party opposed to the English government, and to knit in one indissoluble body the whole States of America.
What chance, then, is there of time effecting, by its silent pace, that which the ruder shock of foreign conflict has failed to accomplish? The question of the dissolution is intimately connected with the causes of the peaceable union of this great empire.
We perceive a nation rapidly progressing (as they themselves