[letter xviii][p. 398]
Philadelphia, June 23d.
AT length, my sweet little Agatha, I have a moment's calm in which to converse with you; but it has been hard to find in this friendly city of the Friends.
I left Charleston the fifteenth of this month, overwhelmed, as in all other places, with presents, and an infinity of kindness and attentions. But ah! how weary and worn out I was during the last days there with the labor of incessant society. Sea-bathing kept me alive, as well as a few hours of rest in the kind house of my friend, Mrs. W. H.
My last evening at Charleston was spent in company with a lively little astronomer, Mr. Gibbs, brother of the natural historian at Columbia, and in contemplating from the piazza the starry heavens. The three great constellations, Scorpio, with its fiery-red heart, Antares, Sagittarius, and Capricornus, as well as the Southern Crown (insignificant), shone brightly in the southern heavens, and the zodiacal light cast its white splendor up toward the Milky Way. We directed the telescope upon a nebulous spot in the latter, and then to that place where-- we found ourselves, ah! lost in immensity, like the animalculæ in the ocean. But I can now look upon this relative condition without being depressed, without its producing uneasy thoughts. Gersted's treatise on the "Entirety of [p. 399] Reason in the whole Universe," and the data upon which he founds his argument, has given me the feeling of home in this universe, and made me a citizen of the world. The whole universe is to me now merely the world and home of man. The night was very dark, and the stars, therefore, all the brighter; yet they were not as bright as with us, nor yet did they appear so large. The atmosphere was full of fragrance, and was so calm that the strokes of the oars and the songs from the negroes' boats on the river were plainly heard. It was not till half past twelve that I went to rest.
The following day I took leave of my excellent and beloved home in South Carolina. My good Mrs. W. H. took a sisterly, nay, a motherly, care of me to the last. My little hand-basket was filled with beautiful fruit, oranges and bananas, by her "fruit-woman," a handsome mulatto, who always wore a handkerchief tied picturesquely on her head, and a sketch of whom I made in my album. Old Romeo gave me flowers. At half past three in the afternoon I went on board the steam-boat, the "Osprey"--the steam company of Philadelphia and Charleston, the proprietors of this vessel, having sent me a free ticket, so that I went to Philadelphia free of cost; it was thus a gift to me of twenty dollars, and could not have been made in a more polite manner.
The first four-and-twenty hours on board were extremely hot. Both the air and the sea were still, as if the wind was dead. And I felt how people might die of heat. A number of Spaniards from Cuba were on board; and it was amusing to watch them, from their peculiar physiognomy and demeanor, so unlike that of Americans. The vivacity of their action, their strongly-accentuated, melodious language, the peculiarity of feature, seemed to indicate a more important race than that of the Anglo-Saxon; and yet it is not so, at least not at the present time. The Spaniards, particularly in this hemisphere, stand far behind the Americans [p. 400] in moral and scientific cultivation. One portion of these Spaniards was said to be escaping from the investigations which the unsuccessful expedition of Lopez had occasioned in the island; others were going to New York to consult physicians, or to avoid the summer in the tropics. A young couple of a high family, and near relations, were going to be married, as the Spanish law is said to place impediments in the way of marriage between near relatives, and that with reason, as the children or grandchildren of such frequently become idiotic, or unfortunate beings in some other way. The young bridegroom was handsome, but looked ill-tempered, with a good deal of hauteur. The bride and her sister were young and pretty, but too stout. An old count, who was evidently suffering from asthma, was waited upon with the greatest tenderness by a negro. Little children were amusing by their lively antics and talk. The voyage was calm, and, upon the whole, good. Mr. Linton, from the city of the Friends, took charge of me with chivalric politeness. The sea sent us flocks of flying-fish as entertainment on the voyage. Pelicans, with immense beaks, floated like our gulls through the air, on search for prey, while a large whale stopped on his journey through the ocean, as if to let us witness various beautiful waterspouts.
The sailing up the River Delaware on Tuesday morning was very agreeable to me, although the weather was misty. But the mist lifted up again and again its heavy draperies, and revealed bright green shores of idyllian beauty, with lofty hills, wooden country houses, grazing cattle, and a character of landscape wholly unlike that which had been lately familiar to me in the South.
I was met at Philadelphia by the polite Professor Hart, who took me to his house; and there have I been ever since, and there am I still, occupied, both soul and body, by social life and company, and by a great deal which is interesting, although laborious.[p. 401]
The Quakers--the Friends, as they are commonly called--are especially kind to me, take me by the hand, call me Fredrika, and address me with thou, or, rather, thee, and convey me, in easy carriages, to see all that is remarkable and beautiful, as well in the city as out of it. And what large and excellent institutions there are here for the public good! The heart is enlarged by the contemplation of them, and by the manner in which they are maintained. One can not help being struck here, in a high degree, by the contrast between the Slave States and the Free States; between the state whose principle is selfishness and the state whose principle is human love; between the state where labor is slavery and the state where labor is free, and the free are honored. And here, where one sees white women sweeping before the doors, how well kept is every thing, how ornamental, how flourishing within the city as well as in the country! And these public institutions, these flowers of human love--ah! the magnolia blossoms of the primeval forests are devoid of fragrance in comparison with them; they stand as far behind these dwellings, these asylums for the unfortunate and for the old, as the outer court of the Sanctuary did to the holy of holies.
I could not help weeping tears of joy when I visited, the other day, the great Philadelphia Lunatic Asylum--so grand, so noble appeared the human heart to me here, the work and the tenderness of which seemed to present itself in every thing. The Asylum is situated in large and beautiful grounds, in which are shady alleys, seats, and flower-gardens. The whole demesne is surrounded by a wall, so managed as to be concealed by the rising ground, both from the park and the house, so that the poor captives may fancy themselves in perfect freedom. There is also a beautiful museum of stuffed birds and other animals, with collections of shells and minerals, where the diseased mind may divert itself and derive instruction, occupation [p. 402] and amusement being the principal means employed for the improvement of these unfortunates. For this reason, lectures are delivered two or three times a week in a large hall. They frequently meet for general amusement, as for concerts, dances, and so on, and the appliances for various kinds of games, such as billiards, chess, &c .,are provided. I heard on all hands music in the house. Music is especially an effective means of cure. Many of the patients played on the piano remarkably well. They showed me an elderly lady, who had been brought hither in a state of perfect fatuity. They gave her a piano, and encouraged her to play some little simple pieces, such as she had played in her youth. By degrees the memory of many of these early pieces reawoke, until the whole of her childhood's music revived within her, and with it, as it seemed, the world of her childhood. She played to me, and went with visible delight from one little piece to another, while her countenance became as bright and as innocently gay as that of a happy child. She will probably never become perfectly well and strong in mind; but she spends here a happy, harmless life in the music of her early years. Many of the ladies, and in particular the younger ones, occupy themselves in making artificial flowers, some of which they gave me, and very well done they were. The men are much employed in field labor and gardening. A niece of the great Washington's was here: a handsome old lady, with features greatly resembling those of the president, and well-bred manners. She was very pale, and was said to be rather weak than diseased in mind. The number of beautiful flowers here, particularly of roses, was extraordinary; and even the incurables, if they have a moment of sane consciousness, find themselves surrounded by roses.
While my conductor hither, an agreeable and humorous Quaker, and one of the directors of the asylum, was listening with much attention and apparent interest to [p. 403] an old lady's communication to him respecting her affairs in Jerusalem, another whispered to me, ironically, "A magnificent place this is; yes, quite a paradise! Don't you think so?"-- and added, with some reserve, and in a lower voice, "It is a hell! dreadful things are done here!"
Alas! the poor unfortunates can not always occupy themselves with music and flowers. Some compulsion must at times be made use of; but it is enough that the former means preponderate, and the fact of so many patients being cured proves it; and that the latter are made use of as seldom, and in as mild a form as possible.
A young, good-looking officer said to me, "Ah! I see that you are come to liberate me, and that we shall go out together arm in arm!" Then added he, "Tell me now, if you had a sister whom you loved better than any thing else in the world, and you were kept shut up to prevent your getting to her, how should you like it?" I said that, if I were not well, and it was right for me to take care of my health for a time, I would be patient. "Yes, but I am well," said he; "I have been a little unwell, a little tête montée,as they say; but I am altogether right again, and these people are certainly gone mad who can not see it, who obstinately keep me here."
The insane have commonly this resemblance to wise people, that they consider themselves to be wiser than others. My young colonel was evidently tête montée still, and accompanied us with warm expressions in favor of ladies.
Gerard College is a large school, in which three hundred boys, otherwise unprovided for, are instructed in every kind of handcraft trade. A naturalized Frenchman, a Mr. Gerard, left the whole of his large property for the establishment of this school. The building itself, which is not yet completed, is of white marble, and in imitation of the Grecian temple of Minerva; it has cost an unheard of sum of money, and many persons disapprove of expending [p. 404] so much on mere outward show, by which means the real benefits of the institution are deferred. As yet there are scarcely one hundred boys in the school.
The fancy which the Americans have for the temple-style in their buildings is very striking. For my part, I have nothing to say against it, even though the use of the colonnade and other ornaments is sometimes carried to an excess not in accordance with the idea of the building, particularly as regards private houses; nevertheless, this magnificent style proves that the popular feeling has advanced beyond the stage when the dwelling was merely a shelter for the body, without any further intention. The desire is now that the habitation should be symbolic of the soul within; and when one sees any grand and magnificent building, like a Grecian temple or Pantheon, or a Gothic castle, one may then be sure that it is not a private dwelling, but a public institution; either an academy, a school, a senate-house, a church, or an--hotel.
Mr. Gerard, in his will, expressly ordered that no religious instruction should be given in his institution to the young, and that no teacher of religion should have a place, either among the teachers or the directors of his establishment. Yet so decided is the view which these people take of the necessary relationship of religious instruction both with the man and the school, and so strong their attachment to it, that they always find some expedient for evading such prohibitions; and although they have adhered to the testator's wishes with regard to the exclusion of religious teachers and instruction, yet every morning in Girard College, as in all other American schools, a chapter of the New Testament is read aloud to the assembled youths of the college before they begin their daily work.
The statue of Mr. Gerard, in white marble, stands in one of the magnificent galleries of this scholastic temple. It is an excellent work, as the faithful portraiture of a simple townsman in his every-day attire; yet an extremely [p. 405] prosaic figure, presented without any idealization, but which pleases by its powerful reality, although it stands almost like a something which is out of place in that beautiful temple.
I must also say a few words about the Philadelphia Penitentiary. In the centre of the large rotunda, into which run all the various passages with their prison-cells, like radii to one common centre, sat, in an arm-chair, comfortable and precise, in his drab coat with large buttons and broad-brimmed hat, the Quaker, Mr. S., like a great spider watching the flies which had been caught in the net. But no! this simile does not at all accord with the thing and the man-- that kind, elderly gentleman, with a remarkably sensible and somewhat humorous exterior. A more excellent guide no one can imagine. He accompanied us to the cells of the prisoners. The prisoners live here quite solitary, without intercourse with their fellow-prisoners; they work, however, and they read. The library is considerable, and contains, besides religious books, works of natural history, travels, and even a good selection of polite literature. It is with no niggard hand that the nobler seed of cultivation is scattered among the children of imprisonment, "those who sit in darkness." The spirit of the New World is neither timid nor niggardly, and fears not to do too much where it would do good. It is careful merely to select the right seed, and gives of such with a liberal heart and a liberal hand. I have often thought that beautiful stories, sketches of human life, biographies, in particular of the guilty who have become reformed, of prisoners, who, after being liberated, have become virtuous members of society, might do more toward the improvement of the prisoner's state of mind and heart than sermons and religious books --except always the books of the New Testament--and I have therefore wished much to do something of this kind myself. And I now found my belief strengthened by what "Friend S." [p. 406] told me of the effect of good stories upon the minds of the prisoners. He had lately visited one of the male prisoners, a man noted for his hard and impenetrable disposition during the whole time that he had been in prison, upward of twelve months. This morning, however, he appeared much changed, very mild, and almost tender.
"How is this?" asked the Quaker; "you are not like yourself! What is the meaning of it?"
"Hem! I hardly know myself," said the prisoner, "but that there book"--and he pointed to a little book with the title of "Little Jane"--"has made me feel quite queer! It is many a year since I shed a tear; but--that there story!"--and he turned away annoyed because the stupid tears would again come into his eyes at the recollection of "that there story."
Thus had the history of the beautiful soul of a little child softened the stony heart of the sinner--the man had committed murder.
A young prisoner, who had now been in prison for two years, and who when he came in could neither read nor write, and had not the slightest religious knowledge, now wrote an excellent hand, and reading was his great delight. He was now shortly to leave the prison, and would go thence a much more intelligent and better human being than he entered it. His countenance, in the first instance, had indicated a coarse nature, but it now had a good expression, and his voice and language showed considerable cultivation.
Another prisoner had, with some artistic feeling, painted his cell, and planted a bower in the passage where he went once a day for fresh air. All the prisoners have this refreshment once a day in one of the passages which strike out like rays from the prison, and separated from the other passages by a high wall. The sight of Friend S. was evidently a sight of gladness to all the prisoners. It was plain that they saw their friend in the Friend, and [p. 407] his good-tempered, sensible countenance put them in good humor. One young woman, who was soon to leave the prison, declared that she should do so unwillingly, because she should then no longer see good Mr. S.
In the cells of the female prisoners, among whom were two negro women, I saw fresh flowers in glasses. Their female keeper had given them these. They all praised her.
I left this prison more edified than I had often been on leaving a church. Friend S. told me that the number of the prisoners had not increased since the commencement of the prison, but continued very much about the same, which is a pleasing fact, as the population of the city has considerably increased during this time, and increases every year. Less pleasing and satisfactory is it, as regards the effect of the system, that the same prisoners not unfrequently return, and for the same kind of crime. But this is natural enough. It is not easy to amend a fault which has become habitual through many years, nor easy to amend old criminals. Hence the hope of the New World is not to reform so much through prisons as through schools, and still more through the homes; when all homes become that which they ought to be, and that which many already are, the great reformatory work will be done.
Two houses of refuge, asylums for neglected boys, which I have visited, seem to be well-conceived and well-managed institutions. The boys here, as well as in the great establishment at Westboro', in Massachusetts, which I visited with the S.s last autumn, are treated according to the same plan. They are kept in these establishments but a few months, receive instruction, and are well disciplined, and then are placed out in good families in the country, principally in the West, where there is plenty of room for all kinds of working people.
The Sailors' Home is an institution set on foot by private individuals, and intended to furnish a good home at [p. 408] a low price to seamen of all nations during the time that they remain in the city and their vessels in harbor. I visited it in company with Mrs. Hale, the author of "Miriam," a lady with a practical, intellectual brow, and frank, and most agreeable manners. She is now occupied in the publication of a work on the position of women in society, a work not sufficiently liberal in its tendency, according to my opinion.
Of all the public institutions which I visited I was least satisfied with the great Philadelphia Poor-house, an immense establishment for about three thousand persons, which costs the city an immense sum, and yet which can not possibly answer its purpose. Every thing is done too much in a massive, manufacturing way; the individual becomes lost in the mass, and can not receive his proper degree of attention. The lazy mendicant receives as much as the unfortunate, the lame, and the blind, and they can not have that individual care which they require. At least so it appeared to me. Neither did it seem to me that the guardian spirit of the place was so generous and so full of tenderness as in the other institutions, and I failed to find places of repose under the open sky, with trees, and green space, and flowers for the aged. The little court with a few trees was nothing to speak of. For the rest, the institution was remarkable for its order and cleanliness, which are distinguishing features of all the public institutions of the New World. Large, light halls, in the walls of which were formed small, dark rooms, like niches or cells, the sleeping-rooms of the aged, and which thus gave to every person his own little apartment, with a door opening into the common hall, in which an iron stove diffused warmth to all, seemed to me the prevailing arrangement for the poor. And it is certainly a good arrangement, as the old people can thus, when they will, be alone, and also can, when they will, enjoy society and books in a large, light, warm room, furnished with tables, chairs, or benches.[p. 409]
I have also heard of various other benevolent institutions in the city, which I yet hope to visit. And in every one of these the Quakers take part, either as founders or directors, and in every case the same spirit of human love is observable as animated the first lawgiver of Pennsylvania, the founder of Philadelphia, William Penn; and the more I see of the Quakers the better I like them. The men have something sly and humorous about them, a sort of dry humor which is very capital; they are fond of telling a good story, commonly illustrative of the peace-principle, and which is to prove how well this and worldly wisdom may go together, and how triumphantly they are doing battle in the world. Christian love shows itself in them, seasoned with a little innocent, worldly cunning in manner, and a delicate sharpness of temper. The women please me particularly, from that quiet refinement of demeanor, both inward and outward, which I have already observed; their expression is sensible; nobody ever hears them ask senseless questions. One meets with many striking countenances among them, with remarkably lovely eyes, purely cut features, and clear complexions. The interest which the Quaker women take in the affairs of their native land, and especially in those which have a great human purpose, is also a feature which distinguishes them from the ordinary class of ladies.
The Quakers have always been the best friends of the negro slave, and the fugitive slaves from the Slave States find, at the present time, their most powerful protectors and advocates among the Friends. Many of the Quaker women are distinguished by their gifts as public speakers, and have often come forward in public assemblies as forcible advocates of some question of humanity. At the present time they take the lead in the anti-slavery party, and a celebrated speaker on this subject, Lucretia Mott, was among one of my late visitors here. She is a handsome lady, of about fifty, with fine features, splendid eyes, [p. 410] and a very clear, quiet, but decided manner--crystal-like, I might say.
June 25th. Yesterday, midsummer-day, I visited the old Swedish church here; for the Swedes were the first settlers on the River Delaware, and were possessed of land from Trenton Falls to the sea, and it was from them that William Penn bought the ground on which Philadelphia now stands. It was the great Gustavus Adolphus who, together with Oxenstjerna, sketched out a plan for a Swedish colony in the New World, and the king himself became surety to the royal treasury for the sum of 400,000 rix-dollars for the carrying it out. Persons of all conditions were invited to co-operate in the undertaking. The colony was to exist by free labor. "Slaves," said they, "cost a great deal, work unwillingly, and soon perish from hard usage. The Swedish people are laborious and intelligent, and we shall certainly gain more by a free people with wives and children." The Swedes found a new paradise in the New World, and believed that the proposed colony would become a secure asylum for the wives and daughters of those who had become fugitives by religious persecution or war; would be a blessing at once for individual man and the whole Protestant world. "It may prove an advantage to the whole of oppressed Christendom," said the great monarch, who, in his schemes for the honor of Sweden, always united with them the well-being of humanity.
After the king's death this plan was carried out under the direction of Oxenstjerna. Land was purchased along the southern banks of the Delaware, and peopled by Swedish emigrants. The colony called itself New Sweden, and enjoyed a period of prosperity and increasing importance, engaged in agriculture and other peaceful employment, during which it erected the fortress of Christiana, as a defense against. the Dutch who inhabited the northern banks of the river. The number of Swedes did not [p. 411] exceed seven hundred, and when contests arose with the more powerful colony of New Netherland, and the Swedish governor, Rising, attacked the Dutch fortress Casimir, the Dutch avenged themselves by surprising the Swedish colony with an overwhelming force, and they submitted. The Swedish arms in Europe had by this time ceased to inspire respect on the other side the Atlantic, and spite of their protests the Swedes were brought under the jurisdiction of the Dutch. The connection with the mother country ceased by degrees. And after the death of the last Swedish clergyman who emigrated hither--Collin--and who died at a great age, the Swedish congregation and church have been under the care of an American clergyman. Mr. Clay, the present minister, invited me to meet at his house all the descendants of the earliest Swedish settlers whom he knew. It was a company of from fifty to sixty, and I shook hands with many agreeable persons, but who had nothing Swedish about them, excepting their family names, of which I recognized many. But no traditions of their emigration hither remained; language, appearance, all had entirely merged into that of the now prevailing Anglo-Saxon race. The church clock alone had something truly Swedish about it, something of the character of the peasant's clock in its physiognomy, and was called Jockum.
The church, a handsome and substantial, though small building of brick, was ancient only in its exterior. The interior was new, and very much ornamented. A large book was placed upon a sort of tall stand in the middle of the church, and upon its page might be read in large letters, which however had been somewhat altered by restoration, "The people who dwelt in darkness have seen a great light." And this inscription, together with the old church at Wilmington, in Delaware, and a few family names, are all that remain of the colony of New Sweden on the eastern shores of the New World. Yet no! not [p. 412] all. A peaceful, noble memory of its life continues to exist on the page of history, like a lovely episode of idyllian purity and freshness. The Pilgrims of New England stained its soil with blood by their injustice and cruelty to the Indians. The Swedish pilgrims, in their treatment of the natives, were so just and wise, that during the whole time when this coast was under the Swedish dominion not one drop of Indian blood was shed by them, and the Indians loved them, and called them "our own people." "The Swedes are a God-fearing people," say the old chronicles of those times. "They are industrious and contented, and much attached to the customs and manners of the mother country. They live by agriculture and the breeding of cattle; the women are good housewives, spin and weave, take care of their families, and bring up their children well."
William Penn, in his letter to the tradesmen of London, August 6, 1633, wrote thus of them:
"The Swedes and the Finns inhabit the tracts by the River Delaware, where the water rises high. They are a simple, strong, and industrious people, but do not appear to make much progress in agriculture and planting. They seem rather to desire to have enough than to have abundance or to carry on trade. I can not but commend them for their hearty good-will toward the English. They have not degenerated from the old friendship which existed between the two kingdoms. As they are a moral, strong, and healthy people, they have handsome children, and every house seems full of them. It is seldom that you find any family without three or four lads, and as many girls too; some have six, seven, or eight sons. And I must do them the justice to say that I have seen few young men more useful or more industrious."
Thus spoke the earliest witness of the old Swedish colony. They and the old Swedish church stand there still. A new Swedish church is now rising in the valley of the Mississippi, in the West. I must see it.[p. 413]
I visited also yesterday Franklin's grave, and bound clover and other field-flowers into a garland for it. Franklin belongs to the group of fortunate men who are the heroes of peace, and the quiet benefactors of the human race. He was the third man in that great triumvirate (Fox, Penn, Franklin), and the first man in the battle of the press for freedom of thought in America, and for American independence.
Franklin, with his quiet demeanor, his simple habits, his free, searching glance, directed always upon the simplest and the most common laws as regarded every thing, who "played with the lightning as with a brother," and "without noise or tumult drew the lightning down from the sky"--Franklin, with his practical philosophy of life, which, however, was broad rather than deep; his great activity and his excellent temper--seems to me a fine representative of one phase of American character.
But I must tell you a little more about the Quakers, who not only founded Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and gave to the state and the city their peculiar character, but who exercised a deep and lasting influence upon the spiritual life of the people, both of England and New England. In Sweden we know the Quakers merely as a strange sect which says thou to every body, will not take an oath, and wear their broad-brimmed hats in the presence of every one. We know them only from little outward peculiarities. I have here become acquainted with their inward significance for the whole of humanity.
It is about two hundred years since George Fox was born in England. His father, who was called "Righteous Christopher," was a weaver of Leicestershire, and his mother was descended from the stock of the martyrs. As a boy Fox was early distinguished by deep religious feeling, and an inflexible and upright disposition. He was put apprentice to a shoemaker in Nottingham, who also owned some land, and by him was employed to keep his [p. 414] sheep. Reading the Bible, prayer, and fasting occupied him while so engaged. His young soul thirsted after perfection, and was excited by a vague longing for the supreme good, for the steadfast, true light. His youth was passed during one of the most stormy periods, when Church and State were alike shaken by hostile parties, and the different religious sects were divided among themselves, and opposed the one to the other. The youth, who longed for the immovable truth, for a foundation which would sustain him, a clearness which would guide him and all men to the truth, to the supreme good, heard around him merely the strife of opinion and war. These darkened his soul still more.
Driven, as it were, by inexpressible anguish, he forsook his business and his flock, and burying himself in the solitudes of woods, he yearned after a revelation of God. He went to many priests for consolation, but obtained none.
He went to London to seek for the light; but there contending sects and the great professors encompassed him only with a deeper darkness. He returned to the country, where some advised him to get married; others, to go into Cromwell's army. But his restless spirit drove him into solitude and out into the fields, where he wandered about for many nights in anguish of mind "too great to be described." Yet, nevertheless, now and then a ray of heavenly joy beamed in his soul, and he seemed to rest in peace in Abraham's bosom.
He had been brought up in the Church of England. But he now saw that a man might be educated in Oxford and in Cambridge, and yet be in no condition to solve the great problem of existence. He thought also that God did not live in temples made of stone, but in the living human heart. From the Church he went over to the Dissenters. But neither with them did he find "the fixed truth," the firm foundation for that moral conviction which he sought.
He gave up, therefore, all religious sects, and the seeking [p. 415] for the truth among them, and, although shaken by tempests of opinion, he confided his heart to a Power superior to the storm, and found the anchorage of the Spirit.
One morning, as Fox sat silently musing by the fire and glancing into his own soul, a cloud came over his mind, and he thought he heard a voice, which said, "All things come by nature!" And a pantheistic vision darkened and troubled his soul. But as he continued musing, another voice arose from the depths of his soul, which said, "There is a living God!" All at once it became light in his inmost being; all clouds, all doubts fled; he felt himself irradiated, and raised upward by an infinite conviction of truth, and an unspeakable joy.
And the light and the conviction of truth which had enlightened his soul, which had arisen in him without the help of any man, spake thus: "There is in every man an inner light, which is God's revelation to man; an inner voice which witnesses of the truth, and which is God's voice in the soul of man, and which guides it to all truth. In order to come at the truth, it is only needful for man to turn attentively toward that inner light--to listen to that inner voice."
That inner light! that inner voice bade him go forth and proclaim that message to the human race. It commanded him to go into the churches, and in the midst of divine service to cry aloud against the priests--"The Scriptures are not the rule, but the Spirit, which is above the Scriptures!" It bade him stand against the hired ministers of religion, as against wolves in sheeps' clothing.
I shall not tell you of all the persecution which raged against this man, who thus opposed himself to old belief and custom, of the stones which were flung at him, who in the power of the Spirit made the walls of the Church to quake, although nothing is more interesting than to follow this divinely possessed man, and to see him, after ill usage, imprisonment, danger of death, again stand [p. 416] forth, always the same, only stronger and more resolute, and with a more fervent zeal; to see the crowd of disciples increasing around him, drunken with that flood of inner light, while the servants of the State Church feared and trembled, when it was said, "The man in the leathern breeches is come!"
And nothing is more interesting than to see these unlearned disciples of that revelation of the inner light and the inner voice stand forth in the power of that incorruptible seed which lives in every human soul, and deliver the oracles of conscience. Plowmen and milkmaids became preachers, and sent forth their voices through the world, calling upon the Pope and the Sultan, upon Puritans and Cavaliers, negroes and Hindoos, all to listen to the solemn judgment of the inner voice.
That light which had enlightened the noblest of the heathens, which had enlightened Socrates and Seneca, as the surest foundation of moral determination, as the clearest spring of life in heathenism, this had, by means of the shepherd, George Fox, been diffused among the people, and had become their possession; even the meanest might be participant thereof. For the teacher said, "Sit down, whoever thou art, sit down on thy own hearth, and read the divine word in thy heart. Some seek for the truth in books, others from learned men. But that which they are seeking for is within themselves; for man is an epitome of the whole world; and for us to understand it, we need only to read ourselves aright."
The bursting forth of these opinions at a time when old ascendencies were tottering to their fall, and old oracles gave only confused answers, will explain the enthusiasm, bordering upon insane fanaticism, with which many of George Fox's adherents promulgated his doctrines. They believed themselves designed to be the founders of a world's religion, and went forth to preach the revelation of the inner light "in Rome and Jerusalem, in America and Egypt, in China and Japan."[p. 417]
Fox, led and guided by the inner light, still proceeded onward with innovation on the usages of the world. That inner voice, which commanded him to set the Spirit above the Scriptures, bade him say thee and thou to all men, commanded him to swear no oath, and not to approve of any form of government which was not in accordance with the dictates of the inner voice. On the contrary, it commanded him to inclose all mankind in an embrace of brotherly love, and to treat even animals with tenderness. He voyaged to the New World, and said to the Indian, "Thou art my brother!"
Wherever he went preaching his doctrines, the inner beauty of his soul, and his love for eternal goodness and truth, were felt by all; and every where crowds accompanied him, and he made innumerable converts to a which seemed so clear and so easy; for George Fox taught that the human soul was by nature good, and a pure child of God. William Penn, a young man of extraordinary powers, handsome person, and high and wealthy family, became one of George Fox's most zealous disciples. He also suffered for his opinions, and strengthened them by becoming one of his most powerful apostles.
The weapons of persecution and ridicule had long been directed against the increasing multitude of Quakers; human reason, too, directed her arguments to oppose them. They were charged with self-deception. "How can you know that you are not mistaking the fancies of a heated brain for the manifestation of the Spirit of God?" said the caviller.
"By the same spirit," replied Penn. "The Spirit witnesseth with our spirit."
"The Bible was the guide and rule of the Protestants. Had the Quakers a better guide?"
The Quakers answered that truth was one. God's revealed word can not be opposed to God's voice in the conscience. But the Spirit is the criterion, and the Spirit [p. 418] dwells in the spirit of man. The letter is not the spirit. "The Bible is not religion, but the history of religion.. The Scriptures are a declaration of the fountain, but not the fountain itself." "God's light in our souls bears witness to the truth of God in the Scriptures and in Christianity."
The Christian Quaker maintained his relationship to all the children of light in all ages, and received the revelation of the light of Christianity only because it became strengthened by the inner light in his soul. His faith was founded upon the universal testimony of the conscience. This assisted him through all knotty controversy. When they propounded to him the doctrines of predestination, the questions of free will and necessity, the Quaker laid his hand upon his breast. The inner voice there testified of free will and responsibility; and it said more than that; it said, "All men are equal, because the inner light enlightens all. And all government is to be rejected which is not based upon the laws of universal reason. There is no difference between priest and layman, between man and woman. The inner light enlightens all, and knows no distinction of class or of sex."
But I must not go to greater length in these doctrines of the Quakers, or I should extend my letter too far. I must instead pass over to the establishment of this Quaker State.
In proportion as the sect protested more and more vehemently against Church and State, persecution and hatred increased, and thousands of the Quakers died in prison from cold and ill usage.
Amid these sufferings the oppressed people cast their eyes toward the New World as a place of refuge. Fox returned from his missionary journey through the Eastern States, from Rhode Island to Carolina, where he had sown the seed of his doctrines in thousands of willing souls.[p. 419]
Several Quaker families in England united to prepare for themselves and their friends an asylum on the other side of the Atlantic--in that land which had given a home to George Fox. They purchased, therefore, land along the banks of the Delaware, and set out with a large number of adherents to establish there a community whose one law and rule should be the inner law of the heart, enlightened by the inner light. To this party William Penn soon attached himself, and took the lead in the colony as its natural head and governor.
In the fundamental principles of their legislation the Friends adhered to that of the Puritan colony of New Hampshire; "their concessions were such as Friends could approve of," because, said they, the power is vested in the people.
But the Quakers went further than the Pilgrim Fathers in their understanding of and application of this principle. The Puritans had made the Scriptures their guide and rule. The Friends made the Spirit the interpreter of the Scriptures. The Puritans had given the congregation a right to select their own ministers. The Friends would not have any priests at all. Every human being, man or woman, was a priest, and had the right to preach to others if the Spirit moved them, and the inner voice admonished them to give utterance to any truths; for the inner light was sent to all.
The Puritans had given the right of vote to every man in the community, and all questions of law or judgment were to be decided by a majority of voices. The Friends, believing in the power of the inner light, and the final unanimity of the inner light in all, allowed in their councils any questions under discussion to be dealt with again and again, until all became voluntarily and unanimously agreed.
The Puritans had built their churches without ornaments or pictures.[p. 420]
The Friends built no churches. They assembled in halls or houses, called meeting-rooms, and sat there together in silence, listening to the revelation of the inner voice, and speaking merely when this admonished them to say any thing.
The Puritans regarded woman as the helper of man, and his companion in the house and on the private path of life.
The Friends regarded woman as man's helper also in his life as a citizen, as his helper in the business of his public as well as his private life, and acknowledged the right of woman to speak, as well in the Senate as the Church. The Female Assemblies of Council were of as much weight as those of the men, and the inspiration of woman was listened to with reverence when she stood forth, at the call of the Spirit, in their meeting-houses.
The Puritans had simplified the marriage ceremony. The Friends rejected marriage by a priest, and it became a civil rite. If a man and woman declared themselves willing to live together as a married pair, that sufficed to constitute the marriage. The inner voice was enough to sanctify the union, and to make it firm; the inner voice alone could point out the way, and keep the heart pure.
Thus pure, thus sublime were the principles which guided this little people, who went over to the New World to make that "holy experiment," as William Penn terms it; to found a community wholly and entirely based upon that which is most inward and most spiritual in human life.
Thus began the colony which, under the guidance of William Penn, extended itself into the most flourishing condition, and received the name of Pennsylvania. Penn desired in it to found a free colony for all mankind.
The fame of that holy experiment resounded afar. The sons of the forest, the chiefs of the Indian tribes, came to meet the Quaker king. Penn met them beneath the open [p. 421] sky, in the depths of the forest, now leafless by the frosts of autumn, and proclaimed to them the same message of the nobility of man, and of the unity and truth of the inner light, which Fox had announced to Cromwell, and Mary Fisher to the Grand Sultan. The Englishmen and the Indians must regard the same moral law, and every quarrel between them be adjusted by a peaceful tribunal composed of an equal number of men of each race.
"We meet," said Penn, "upon the broad pathway of good faith and good will; no one shall seek to take advantage of the other, but all shall be done with candor and with love."
'We are all one flesh and blood.'
The Indians were affected by these noble words. "We will live," said they, "in love with William Penn and his children as long as sun and moon shall endure."
And the sun, and the forest, and the river witnessed the treaty of peace and friendship which was made on the shores of the Delaware; the first treaty, says an historian, which was not ratified by an oath, and the only one which never was broken.
The Quakers said, "We have done a better work than if we, like the proud Spaniards, had gained the mines of Potosi. We have taught to the darkened souls around us their rights as men."
Upon a stretch of land between the Rivers Schuylkill and Delaware, purchased from the Swedes, and blessed with pure springs of water and a healthful atmosphere, Penn laid the foundation of the city of Philadelphia, an asylum for the persecuted, a habitation for freedom, a home for all mankind. "Here," said the Friends, "we will worship God according to His pure law and light; here will we lead an innocent life upon an elysian, virgin soil."
That Philadelphia was later to become the birth-place of American independence, and of that Declaration which [p. 422] proclaimed it to all the world, and united all the individual states of the Union in the great name of humanity--of this the Friends thought not.
My dear heart, I have written out the above for you, partly from books, partly from myself, from my own observation and thoughts; for I have been greatly fascinated by this episode in the history of man, and I see traces of its life still quite fresh around me.
Looking now at the principles of Quakerism in and for themselves, I see clearly that they are the same doctrines for which Socrates died and Luther lived, and for which the great Gustavus Adolphus fought and conquered, and died the death of the hero--the right of freedom of thought, of faith in the light and voice of God in the soul of man; this principle, arising in George Fox from the very heart of the people, and thence becoming the vital principle of people, Church, and State, constitutes the peculiarity of Quakerism, thoroughly permeating social life.
New it is not; neither is it sufficient in the one-sided view in which Quakers comprehend it. What if that inner light illumines a dark desire in the human soul? if the inward voice finds itself opposed by a debased or evil impulse of the heart? The Quakers have forgotten, or have not regarded the old saying, that "there is a drop of black blood in every man's heart." And in order to make this pure, neither light nor admonishing voice avails any thing, but only another drop of blood of divine power and purity. The Quakers may, in the mysteries of Quaker life, find proofs enough of the existence of this black drop, even among the children of the inner light; perhaps no bloody proofs, no burning spot, but dark histories of gloomy, silent, bitter quarrels among "the Friends;" secret oppression, secret, long misery, irreconcilable misunderstandings, and all those dark fiends which, when I see them imbittering family or social life, remind me of the old Northern hell, with its dark, poisonous rivers, cruel witchcraft, rainy [p. 423] clouds, venomous serpents, and so on. But Quakerism, in its first arisings, saw nothing of this, and perhaps possessed nothing of it. Enthusiasm for a beautiful idea changes the soul to a spring morning, with a clear heaven and the purest air, full of the song of birds amid flowery meadows. Later in the day the clouds arise. Quakerism, in its earliest morning freshness, was itself a pure, unfathomed river, derived from pure fountains, and which baptized the world anew with the purifying waters of truth, and faith in the voice and power of truth. That was and that is its good work in mankind. And its awakening cry has penetrated with purifying power into millions of souls. Waldo Emerson, in his belief in the power of this inner light and truth, is a Quaker.
It was a mistake in the Quakers to believe that man has sufficient of this inner light in himself, nay of his own strength, to attain to perfection, and it still remains a mistake to this day. For this reason they make too little use of prayer, too little of the Lord's Supper, too little of all those means which the All-good Father has afforded to His children, in order to bring them into connection with Him, and Him with them, that He might impart to them His life and His strength, and which, therefore, are so properly called means of grace. Therefore is it, also, that they are deficient in that reliance and freedom with which a child of God moves through the whole circle of his creation, regarding nothing as unclean, and nothing as hurtful, which is enjoyed with a pure mind. They look with suspicions glances upon all free beauty and art, and are afraid of joy; nay, they mistrust even the beauty of nature, and are deficient in that universal sense which belongs to the Scandinavians--though it sometimes a little oversteps itself with them--and which made your somewhat eccentric acquaintance, L., say, "One should eat in God; one should play and sing in God; nay, one should dance in God."
But peace be with Quakerism! It has accomplished [p. 424] its mission, and borne the torch of light before mankind for a season, during its passage "out of darkness, and through the shadows to the light." It has had its time. There is an end of the earlier power of the sect. But its influence still exists, and is in force in the New World, especially as the principle of stern uprightness and public benevolence, and it will yet by this open new paths for the people of the New World. The doctrine of the inner light died not, but seeks a union with another higher light. It has, especially in its declared equality of man and woman, a rich seed which must germinate through a wider sphere. How little danger there is in this avowed equality, and how little outward change is produced by it in society, the Quaker community has practically shown. Men and women have there the same privileges, and exercise them alike. But in all this they have remained true to their nature; she turns rather into the home; he, more outward, to the community. The women have remained equally feminine, but have become more marked in character. The different characteristics of the two have, in that which was the best, remained unchanged, but have been improved, elevated where they were worst. That "holy experiment" proves itself to have been in this respect wholly successful, and ought to have led to a yet more grand experiment.
The present younger generation of Quakers unites itself more to the world by poetry and music, and begins to light up the old gray and drab attire by a still more cheerful hue. The change is prepared in the mind. The world has become purified through the purity of the Quakers, and its innocent joy and beauty now begin to find their way to them. A young girl of Quaker family, of my acquaintance here, wore pale pink ribbon, and had her bonnet made in a prettier form than that in use among the Quakers, and when reproached by her mother for seeking to please man rather than God, she replied:[p. 425]
"Oh, my mother! He made the flowers and the rainbow!"
The exclusiveness of Quakerism is at an end. And yet it is so peculiar and so beautiful in its simple, gentle, outward forms, that I am afraid for it, and would not lose it for a great deal. I am fond of its "thee and thou;" its silent meetings; its dress, in particular the woman's dress, with its chaste, dew-like purity and delicacy. And under this attire there dwells still many a noble soul, in the brightness of that inner light, illumined by the sun of Christian revelation, deriving thence, for themselves and others, oracles which the distracted eye and ear of the world can not perceive. And poets such as WHITTIER, and speakers such as LUCRETIA MOTT, show that the Spirit with its rich gifts still rests upon the assembly of Friends.
The Quakers of the United States are at this time split into two parties, and have separated, with not exactly the most friendly feelings, into two bodies. The so-called "Hicksite Quakers" have separated themselves from the Orthodox class. These latter are allied, as formerly, rather to the Puritan creed; the former to the Unitarian.
July 27th. I yesterday was present at a meeting of the Orthodox Quakers. About two hundred persons were assembled in a large, light hall without the slightest ornament, the men on one side, the women on the other, and with these a number of children. The people sat on benches quite silent, and looking straight before them, all except myself, who looked a little about me, but very quietly. It was a very hot day, and the silence and the immovability of the assembly was oppressive to me. And I kept thinking the whole time, "will not the Spirit move some of the assembly?" But no! the Spirit moved not one. An old gentleman coughed, and I sneezed, and the leaves of the trees moved softly outside the window. This was the only movement I perceived. There sat the women, with their drab bonnets all of one color and form, like [p. 426] upturned, flat-bottomed boats, and appearing less agreeable to me than common. Nevertheless, I saw in many countenances and eyes an expression which evidently testified of the depth of the Spirit, although in this depth I failed to find--light. And the children, the poor little children, who were obliged to sit still and keep awake, without occupation and without any object for their childish attention--what could they think of? thought I, who can not think deeply on a subject unless when I am walking. Thus sat we, in heat and silence, certainly for an hour, until two of the elders, who sat in the gallery, rose up and extended to each other their hands, which was the signal for the general breaking up, and I was glad to get out into the open air. On Sunday I shall visit the meeting of the Unitarian Quakers, and see whether the Spirit is more alive among them. Here it was deep, perhaps, but it did not come out of the depth into the day. As discipline, these silent meetings may, in any case, be excellent. Of the undisciplined, who talk at random, without purpose or effect, one has enough in the world.
Sunday. Yes, of a truth the Spirit was alive there, and moved first a man and then a woman, and I heard the Spirit speak from the heart of Quakerism itself. The preacher, whose name I have forgotten, an elderly gentleman with an animated, yet serious countenance, admonished his hearers to keep the will and the mind in a state of integrity and purity. From this pure light, he said, light went forth through the whole life, directing all its actions. The discourse was good, animated, clear, true. But I thought of the words, "Man must be regenerated by water and the Spirit." Here was the water, but--nothing more. It was the human purification. The Spirit of heaven, love, the inspiration of life, had nothing to do with it. After this preacher sat down, and all had been silent again for a time, there arose from her seat a short, handsome lady, with fine features, and beautiful, clear [p. 427] eyes. It was Lucretia Mott. With a low, but very sweet voice, and an eloquence of expression which made me not lose a single word, she spoke for certainly an hour, without interruption, without repetition, and in a manner which made one wish her to continue, so lucid and powerful was her delineation of the principles of non-conformity (the Quaker principles), so logical and excellent was the application of these to the practical questions of life, now so much contested, and which the speaker represented as being peace, slavery, and the rights of woman. I listened with the greatest pleasure to this excellent discourse, which was permeated by the inner life of the speaker as by a strong though somewhat imprisoned fire. There was talent, power, clearness, light. Yet for all that, the warmth of inspiration was wanting. I am, in the mean time, glad to have heard a female speaker, perfect in her way. The room was quite full, and she was listened to with evident admiration.
I have heard speak of two young ladies who in this assembly utter sometimes inspired words. But I did not hear them. This meeting closed, as the former had done, by two of the elders rising and shaking hands with each other.
Monday. I have to-day, my little heart, read for the first time in its entirety the American Declaration of Independence, about which the world has heard so much, and I with them. I read it in the very same hall where it was subscribed; and you must also hear it, that is to say, its first principles, because they contain the rights and privileges of the new humanity in the New World. It says:
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, [p. 428] a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that wherever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
After this are enumerated all the grievances which the American colonies had to complain of against the English government, and which had led to their taking the reins of government into their own hands. The colonies which at that time united themselves into one States' Alliance were thirteen in number. Jefferson, assisted, as I have heard, by Thomas Paine, drew up the memorial, and the hand of the worshiper of nature may be seen; but even in the work of the worshiper of nature, the guidance of a higher Providence is evident. It was on the Fourth of July, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence received the votes, and passed the American Congress. It was the dawn of a new epoch which then arose; an epoch of great thoughts and struggles which then was proclaimed to the world. It was while war was raging with England, and while the result of that war was uncertain, that this Declaration was drawn up and signed; and on the day before a battle it was read to the whole republican army by the desire of its great commander, General Washington.
Every thing in the hall, where it was subscribed by the [p. 429] leading men, is preserved as it was then, to this day. The green table still stands around which the members of the government sat, and upon which the Declaration of Independence was signed.
I was told an amusing expression of Franklin's on this occasion. When the document was to be signed, some of those present appeared dubious, and ready to draw back. One voice said, "Now, gentlemen, let us all hang together!" "Yes," said Franklin, in his quiet way, "or else we shall all have to hang separately!" They laughed, and signed.
This splendid declaration of the inalienable freedom and rights of humanity is now, however, opposed to many things in this country. How long will it be so?
I must now tell you a little about some of my friends and acquaintance here. First, my entertainers, in whose good home I live as a member of the family. Professor Hart and his wife are quiet, God-fearing people, very kind, and of an excellent class for me to be with. They two, and their sweet little ten-years' old son, Morgan, constitute the whole family. Hart is an interesting and estimable man; it would certainly be difficult to find any one of a more gentle and mild disposition and manner, combined with greater energy and more capacity for work. To this is added a fine humor, and a mild, but singularly penetrative glance. He is unusually systematic in all that he undertakes, and is distinguished as the teacher and superintendent of a high school in Philadelphia for five hundred boys. He is also the editor of an extensively-read literary magazine, "Sartain's Union Magazine;" he is able to accomplish so much by an exact distribution of his time, and by doing every thing at the moment when it should be done; hence he does so much, seems never to be in a hurry, or to have much to do.
My most agreeable acquaintance are the family of the Danish chargé d'affaires here. The daughters are inexpressibly [p. 430] charming, lively, and full of intellect. It is very delightful to me to converse with them in my native tongue, to talk about Denmark and good friends there. The death of Öhlenschläger was astonishing news to me. He was so strong and well a year ago when I saw him at his country house, and he was more amiable than usual, and drank to the success of my journey to the New World, which was just then decided upon. One of the young ladies read that piece, which he desired to be read aloud to him as a preparation for death, a monologue of Socrates in his hour of death, written by Öhlenschläger himself. That was in the true Stoic spirit. But how extraordinary at such an hour to have his own verses read to him! Far better was the feeling of our Bishop Wallin, when at his death-bed they began to sing one of his own beautiful hymns, he interrupted them and said, "No, no! not that now!" and took pleasure only in hearing read the Gospel of St. John.
But I was going to tell of my acquaintance.
Among my good friends here I reckon also a Quaker couple--but of the somewhat worldly class of Quakers--Mr. and Mrs. E. T., agreeable and wealthy people, who have shown me much kindness, and who have driven me about to places both in and out of the city. Mrs. T.'s paternal home, a strict Quaker home, interests me especially, from a young girl there who wrote to me, some time since, a charming little letter. I knew that she was very delicate from a spinal complaint, which had confined her to her bed for some years. When I was taken into her chamber, I saw laid upon a bed, in white garments arranged artistically in broad, full folds, a being--never had I seen any thing so like an angel! That beautiful, pure countenance was lighted by a pair of large eyes, which beamed with really supernatural brightness. She made no movement to raise her head when I bent over her to speak, but laid her arms quietly around my neck. That [p. 431] fascinating countenance bore not a trace of the disease and nervous weakness of which she is the prey, and which she bears like a patient lamb; neither do they enfeeble her spiritual life. God has given wings to her spirit, and the physically-bound young girl has sent forth from her sick-bed instructive teachings to the world from her observations of the wonderful mechanism of life in nature. Her little book for youth, "Life in the Insect World," is to me a welcome gift, because it shows me a young girl who has made nice investigation into one of the natural sciences, which I have often endeavored to excite young ladies to do, but, as far as I know, without success; that is to say, biographical observations with regard to animals and plants. The turn for minute detail, acute perception of the lesser world, which is peculiar to woman, together with a poetic feeling which allies it to the spiritual--the universal, and which can discern in all things symbols of purpose rich in thought; these are all natural endowments which seem singularly to befit woman for that portion of science, and should, in their pursuit and their application, tend to make the searching soul richer in its daily life. Mary Townsend has treated her subject in this biographic and poetic manner, and given in her work the history of the insect metamorphoses. The little book is ornamented with copper-plates, in which various kinds of insects are shown in various stages of their existence, especially in that in which they burst from their pupa state, and unfold their wings in space. It is not wonderful that the beautiful human spirit, sternly imprisoned in its earthly pupa, should feel especially enamored of this movement of transformation.
Mary Townsend, and a young sister of hers, also richly gifted, and delicate also in health --yet not in the same way as Mary--are now occupied in preparing a rhymed chronicle of the History of England for children's easy committal to memory. And thus that meagre Quaker [p. 432] home incloses a rich poetical life, and in that a being which is almost an angel already, and which waits only for its transformation to become fully so. The parents are an old classical Quaker couple. The old man's principal object and delight seems to be to take care of his daughters.
I have dined with Lucretia Mott, in company with all her children and grandchildren, a handsome, flourishing multitude. She interests, rather than attaches me. Her husband, Mr. Mott, is a strong old gentleman, who seems to maintain his place, though he is obscured somewhat by the publicity of his wife's glory. It is said that he is pleased by it, and it does him honor.
At a public lecture, lately delivered by a distinguished littérateur, Mr. Dana, on Shakspeare, he instanced Desdemona as the ideal of woman in all ages, beyond which none higher could be found. When, however, the lecture was ended, Lucretia Mott rose, and said, "Friend Dana, I consider that thou art wrong in thy representation of what woman ought to be, and I will endeavor to prove it."
She therefore proposed to the assembly to meet her on a certain day in that same room. The assembly did not fail to be present, and Lucretia M. delivered an excellent lecture, permeated by that love of truth and integrity which is the very foundation of Quakerism. Lucretia is a splendid woman and speaker, and would be still more splendid if she listened a little more attentively to other people's observations and thoughts, especially on the slave question; but that she does not.
Among others who have invited me to their houses is the wife of the British consul. I called on her to thank her, and found her a warm-hearted, lively lady, particularly zealous on the subject of the development of her sex to a more independent life, both as regards body and soul. She had established a drawing-school for her young girls, [p. 433] where they could learn drawing, the making of designs, wood-engraving, &c., and she showed me various beautiful works of these young people. She had also endeavored to establish other good institutions for women, but was annoyed by the want of sympathy which she met with, especially among women themselves. She said, "They do not stand by their sex!"
She thought that as the world now went on, the best service one could do to any new-born female child was to--drown it. I laughed at this extraordinary proof of love, but could not agree with this warm-hearted lady, that is to say, unless the world should not become more just and enlightened on these subjects than it now is. But in America it seems to me that there is no reason to doubt about this, and no reason at all to drown little girls.
I have here received visits merely in the evenings, but have then seen a great many people, among whom many that interested me. I received yesterday a present from some agreeable young girls of a gigantic cactus, just in bloom, one of that species which merely flowers once in thirty years. No one can imagine a more glorious creation of sunshine--the sun has wished to reflect himself in this flower.
I have received, my little Agatha, your letter of May: it is charming that you have at length vernal weather at Stockholm, and that mamma and you are well. When you spoke of how we should meet at Marstrand, I was not a little tempted to pack up my things and set off; but it would have been folly in me, my little heart, to have left my work only half finished, after having dared so much, and even suffered so much, to advance it thus far. I feel that my life and experience here are of great importance to me, and believe that I can so evidently see the hand of a guiding Providence in this my journey, that I should both grieve and be angry with myself if, without absolute necessity, I were to interrupt or cut it short. I [p. 434] greatly desire to remain on this side the ocean through the next winter. In June I could then return home, and then could I go with my little heart, and we could climb together the May-pole at Marstrand!
Spite of the great heat which now prevails here, I feel myself becoming more acclimated, and more capable than hitherto of reflecting upon and profiting by my experience in this country.
You ask me about the position of women with regard to schools. Yes, my child, I have much to say to you on that subject, and have already told you a little. Their position in that respect is indubitably one of the most beautiful aspects of the New World. They are acknowledged, still more and more unreservedly, to be the best instructors of childhood and youth, and they are employer for this purpose in public schools for boys, even of thirteen or fourteen, or even more. I have spoken with young ladies who were teachers of youths of seventeen or eighteen, and they told me that they never experienced any thing from them but attention and esteem. True is it that these young girls were remarkably noble, and had great self-possession of manner. Female teachers are not nearly so well remunerated as male; but every one acknowledges the injustice of this, as the health of women suffers more from that laborious employment than that of men, and prevents their being able to continue it so long. It is hoped, however, that this unequal division may be remedied as new paths of industry are opened to women. And this is beginning more and more to be the case. A remarkable young woman in this city, Elizabeth Blackwell, has opened, as a physician, a career to her sex. She has done this so resolutely, amid opposition, and infinite difficulty and prejudice (which exist even in this country), and so triumphantly by her talent, that a medical college is now about to be established here, solely for women, in which they may study and graduate as physicians. [p. 435] This has pleased me greatly. How useful will these female physicians be in the treatment of their own sex and of children; yes, there are divers diseases for the treatment of which they seem to be peculiarly calculated.
The education of women for the industrial employments is, I think, greatly neglected even here; and they ought, much more than they do, to learn book-keeping. In France, women have, in this respect, greatly the advantage of those in this country; and here, where two thirds of the people follow trade, it would be of great importance if the women could keep books. Still, their principal office is in the home, as the instructors of youth. I saw lately a young girl of about twenty give a lesson in elocution to a class of young men, some of whom were above twenty. Her talent was remarkable in this branch of art, and the youths obeyed her directions like good children. They had voluntarily formed this class that they might be taught by her.
I shall now shortly leave this friendly City of the Friends to go to Washington, where Congress is now sitting, and where a furious war is going forward about California and slavery. You know already, from description, that Philadelphia is remarkable for its regularity and order. It has in this respect the character of the Quakers, and is a quiet city in comparison with New York, has no palaces or remarkable buildings, but is every where well built, has beautiful broad streets planted with trees, and behind these broad causeways and many magnificent private houses, with marble steps and door-ways, and particularly so in the fashionable streets. In each of the great quarters there is a large green market, planted with trees like a park, where it is delightful to walk or sit.
Behind this exterior of order, cleanliness, and regularity, there is, I understand, a considerable proportion of irregularity; and quarrels and affrays not unfrequently take place between the less civilized portion of the population, in particular between the lower class of work-people and [p. 436] the free negroes, who are mostly fugitive slaves, and often very disorderly.
A portion of the male youth in the Quaker city seem like certain fermenting drinks in bottles, which make the cork fly out of the bottle when it becomes too small for them; I tell that which has been told to me; and the thing seems natural enough. If my spirit had been bottled up in the strict Quaker formula, I should have become either a St. Theresa, or have gone mad, or-- I dare not say what.
In company with the amiable B. family I visited the beautiful Philadelphia church-yard, Laurel Hill, on the banks of the Schuylkill, which last, people say, is a name descended from the times of the Scandinavians here, from the Danish Skjulto Kilder, Hidden Fountains. I also visited, in company with the T.'s, some of the beautiful environs of the town, and among these the rocky and picturesque banks of the Schuylkill. The land is fertile on all sides; one sees fields of Indian corn (maize) and wheat, and beautiful meadows; every thing testifies of care and industry. Chestnut and walnut trees, the ash, the oak of many kinds, the elm, the maple, and the lime, are very general. One sees commonly the beautiful little Virginian pine, a pyramidal, dark little tree with pine-tree leaves, besides a great variety of shrubs; plantations of fruit trees, mostly peach-trees, ornament the fields. The country round Philadelphia is a pleasing alternation of hill and dale, and idyllian landscape; the trees are large and branching. No tree, however, equals the magnolia and the live oak of the South. I have also seen the tulip-tree here. Pennsylvania is called the Keystone State, I suppose from its central position among the first states of the Union. Pennsylvania takes the second place among the states of the Union as regards population and wealth. It has immense beds of coal in its soil, and great natural beauty in the interior of the country. Susquehanna River [p. 437] and the valley of the Wyoming are celebrated for their romantic beauty. Philadelphia is second to New York in size and population, the population of Philadelphia being about three hundred thousand. The disorders in the city may, in great measure, arise from the vastly increasing population upon which no educational influences have yet operated. Latterly, however, the Quaker State has aroused itself to a sense of this neglect, and, following the example of the Pilgrim State, has organized a system of schools similar to those of Massachusetts, and now flatters itself with having excelled them; but if with justice I can not say.
And now adieu to Philadelphia! Bergfalk has returned to Sweden. He was to sail from Boston on the 26th of June. He has been extremely ill in Philadelphia of inflammation of the lungs, but was cured by homeopathy treatment. During his illness and convalescence he has experienced something of the abundant kindness of this people, who did all they could for the sufferer, and knew no bounds to their good will. Of this I am glad. Bergfalk has lived in America as a good Swede, laboring and investigating the state of the laws and questions connected therewith; never losing sight of the important inquiry, what can be good and advantageous to Sweden? He has inquired into every thing. He longed very much for his home. It grieved me greatly not to be able to see him before he set off, and that strangers, and not his country-woman, sat by his sick-bed: but his letter tells me that in these strangers he found affectionate brothers and sisters.
Washington, July 1st.
I felt a little thrill of joy when, in the evening of yesterday, I beheld from the top of the Capitol of the United States the glorious panorama of the country around, through which wound the Potomac River, the whole lighted up by the golden light of evening: it was a magnificent sight. The situation of the Senate House, its environs, and the views from it are certainly the most beautiful [p. 438] which can be met with. And the representatives, who here make speeches for the country and the people, can not avoid being inspired by the view which is presented to their gaze; they must feel joy and pride that this is their country, and that it is in their power to work for its well-being.
I spent the evening in company with the American consul in Canada, a pleasant young man, Mr. Andrews, and with Miss Lynch. This agreeable young poetess is now in Washington, endeavoring to obtain from Congress a pension for her mother, the widow of a naval officer. The following day I visited, with her and Dr. Hebbe, a Swede who has resided several years in America, the Senate House, and the House of Representatives. The day was beautiful; the United States banner with its thirty-three stars, a star for each state, waved from the top of the Capitol, as is customary while Congress is sitting. It looked quite festal. The Senators sat in a large rotunda, well lighted by lofty windows, occupying one half of the room, and produced altogether a good and honest effect. The greater number of these gentlemen were of noble form, with a somewhat peculiar physiognomy and bearing, which, on the whole, was calm and dignified, but which nevertheless does not prevent occurrence of scenes which are considerably disturbing and unworthy of senatorial dignity. During the present session even, on one occasion, a strange and rather comic scene occurred between the senator from Missouri, Mr. Benton, and the senator from Mississippi, Mr. Foote, in which the former, a strong-built man, with an expression and beak-like countenance resembling a bird of prey, presented himself before the latter with a look and gesture that made the other, a little man of nervous excitability, draw forth a pistol, which he placed against Benton's breast. With this, the senator of Alabama said, quite coolly, "Give me that instrument," and forthwith disarmed Foote, when behold the pistol was [p. 439] --unloaded! The hawk and the dove were now both of them in their places in the Senate, and the quarrel between them seemed to be at an end; but I should not depend upon the hawk.
The two great statesmen, Clay and Webster, were both in the Senate, but neither of them spoke. I have already described to you the appearance of Clay; Daniel Webster bears a remarkable likeness to our deceased Archbishop Wallin, especially in the large deep-set eyes, and the strong, magnificent, arched forehead; but he is a handsomer man, and looks more massive. His head is really magnificent. Webster represents Massachusetts, and Clay Kentucky, in the Senate. As regards the great questions of contention between the North and the South in this country, Webster appears to be the representative of the moderate party in the North, and Clay of the moderate party in the South. The Senate is divided in the house into two portions. Each senator has a little desk before him, upon which paper and books are placed. The vice-president, who is speaker, and who sits upon a somewhat elevated platform in front of both parties, with the American eagle displayed above him, is a handsome, powerful figure, with an open, manly countenance. In the gallery appropriated to the public, and which inns round the house above the heads of the senators, the front seat, according to American politeness, is left for ladies, and one hears remarkably well from this gallery.
The House of Representatives produces a less striking effect. The space is much larger, and not so well lighted as that of the senators; the throng of people is much greater also, and they talk and behave in a much less dignified manner. The whole produced a chaotic impression on my mind; nor could I hear one single word from the gallery. The sound does not ascend clearly, and the worthy members talked with the rapidity of a torrent. I shook hands with many, both of the senators and the [p. 440] representatives They were all particularly polite and merry.
In the afternoon, the senator from New Hampshire took Miss Lynch and myself to the White House, the residence of the president, General Taylor, just out of the city, and where, in the Park, every Saturday afternoon, there is military music, and the people walk about at pleasure. The president was out among the crowd. I was introduced to him, and we shook hands. He is kind and agreeable, both in appearance and manner, and was simply, almost negligently, dressed. He is not considered to possess any great talent as a statesman, but is universally esteemed for the spotless purity of his character, and for his ability and humanity as a general. It was the Mexican war which made him president. His demeanor struck me as civil rather than military. Vice-president Fillmore, with whom also I became acquainted this evening, looks more of a president than Taylor.
The presidential residence is a handsome, palace-like house, yet of too simple a style to be called a palace, near the Potomac River. The situation and views are beautiful. The band played "The Star-spangled Banner," and other national airs. From three to four hundred persons, ladies, gentlemen, and children, strolled about on the grass and amid the trees; the evening was beautiful, the scene gay and delightful, and one of a true republican character: I enjoyed it, wandering arm in arm, now with one, now with another member of Congress, and shaking hands right and left. When people knew that I was fond of little children, many mothers and fathers brought their little ones to shake hands with me; this pleased me. The president was delighted with the children who leaped about so joyously and so free from care, or seated themselves on the green-sward. He seems to be between fifty and sixty, and is said to be tired of, and distressed by, the state of things and the contentions in the Union at this moment.[p. 441]
Later. I have just returned from the Capitol, where I have passed the forenoon, but where we walked about arm in arm with the senators, and talked with them much more than we listened to the speeches in the Senate; but I will do that before long. The entrance of California into the Union, with or without slavery, is the great contested question of the day, and which splits the North and the South into two hostile parties. No one knows as yet how the contest will end, and it is reported that the president said lately that all was dark. Henry Clay, who is endeavoring to bring about a compromise, and who has long labored for this purpose, has latterly set the whole Senate against him, it is said, by his despotic and overbearing behavior, and he is now quite worn out by the opposition he meets with from his colleagues. He complained bitterly of this to-day, when Anne Lynch and I called upon him before Congress. I had seen him the day before at the White House.
He now inquired from me about King Oscar, his character, his standing with the people, &c. So many trivial and insignificant questions are asked me, that it was now really refreshing to reply to inquiries which were earnest and had some purpose in them, and which were made with an earnest intention. And it was very pleasant to me to be able to tell Mr. Clay that we had in King Oscar a good and noble-minded monarch whom we loved. By what the American statesman knew respecting him and our Swedish political affairs, I could see the glance of genius, which requires but little knowledge to enable it to perceive and comprehend much.
While we were in the midst of this subject, the servant introduced an extraordinary little man with an extraordinary stick in his hand, which looked like a something between a knob-stick and an enchanter's wand--some sort of a curiosity out of the Great West! thought I. N.B. --We sat before the open door.[p. 442]
"Is this Henry Clay?" said the little man, planting himself with his great knob-stick just before the great statesman.
"Yes, sir, that is my name," said Clay, impatiently. "Sit down. What do you wish with me?"
The little man seated himself without any hesitation in an arm-chair, and I rose, saying that I feared to take up Mr. Clay's time.
"Oh, no, no!" said he, politely; "it is so refreshing to see ladies! But these fellows--I hate them!" and made a gesture toward the little man which would have sent him out of the room or have knocked him down if he could rightly have felt it. But he sat there, fast rooted to the ground, with his knob-stick in his hand, determined not to move, and I felt it necessary to leave the weary statesman to the witchcraft.
Clay, who is extremely popular, allows every one who comes to see him, and is thus overwhelmed by people who take up his time and make demands upon his services. He is at the present moment more irritable and impatient than he has ever been known before. The opposition he meets with may very well be the cause of it. What a life! And yet this it is for which men strive!
I visited the library of the Capitol to-day with the senator of Georgia, Judge Berrian, a witty and acute-minded man; a man who holds extreme pro-slavery views, but belonging to the class of patriarchs, I believe. The library is a large, handsome hall, with a glorious view; it is a public place of meeting during the sitting of Congress, where people may rest themselves from the affairs of state, talk with their acquaintances, &c. Here may be seen, every day, sitting in the recess of a window, at a table covered with books and papers, a lady of about middle age, an elegant figure, refined countenance, and agreeable expression. She seems to be always occupied, and to be in connection with several of the influential members of [p. 443] Congress, and there she sits watching the progress of her own affairs. What does she desire? What does she wish?
She wishes to have ten millions of dollars from the lands in the West, as an annual fund, to be appropriated for lunatic asylums and poor-houses in all the states of the Union.
It is Mrs. Dorothea Dix, who, during the last ten or twelve years, has traveled through most of the states, visited mad-houses and other asylums for the unfortunate, and done a great deal for their improvement, and in particular as regards the better treatment of the insane, through her influence, and the excellent memorials which she has drawn up and presented to the governors of the various states. Many asylums have been established where they formerly did not exist, and where the unfortunate were left to private care or in the most miserable neglect. The activity and influence of this lady is one of the most beautiful traits of female citizenship in the New World; but I shall tell you about her another time, perhaps, when we meet.
July 2d. Again home from the Capitol, where I have heard Clay and Webster, as well as several of the most distinguished senators. Clay speaks in an animated manner, and with strong feeling. I was not very much struck with his voice, of which I had heard so much praise. It seems to me that he often speaks too rapidly, so that the words are lost in the shrill sound of the voice. Webster speaks with great calmness, both in tone and demeanor, but there is an intensity of power in his manner. He has also this peculiarity as a speaker, and in this he also resembles Wallin, that he drops his voice and speaks all the lower, the deeper is the impression which he seeks to make. This is the very opposite of the general manner of American speakers, but it produces great effect. Other speakers interested me also; but I could hardly have any quietness to listen for introductions to and conversation [p. 444] with members of Congress. They were extremely polite, but I shall in future apply my ears to business, and leave to Anne Lynch that light conversation in which she is a mistress and I a bungler.
From the Capitol we drove to the house of the president, whose reception-day it was. We arrived late, so that we were alone with the old gentleman, who was very kind and affable, and related to us various things about the Southern Indians calculated to dissipate the somewhat too romantic idea of them entertained by Anne Lynch and myself. I fancied that I could see behind his polite affability a cloud of secret anxiety which he wished to suppress. His daughter, married to Colonel Bliss, appeared, in her white dress, unspeakably agreeable and lovely, with a quiet and refined manner.
I spent yesterday morning with Professor Henry, one of the most celebrated chemists in this country, and found in him a great admirer of Berzelius and Oersted, as well as an uncommonly amiable man. Vice-president Fillmore came in the evening; he is a very gentlemanly person, and shines greatly in conversation.
July 3d. I spent last evening with Daniel Webster at Mr. and Mrs. L.'s, the parents of Mrs. Schröder, a handsome old couple, together with various other persons. Webster does not look well; he has a sallow complexion, keeps himself much apart from others, is silent, and has a heavy and absent look. His charming and amiable wife placed herself beside me, wishing that I might have the pleasure of hearing him speak. He has extraordinary eyes; when they open and fix their gaze upon you, you seem to look into a catacomb full of ancient wisdom; but not much of this comes out into every-day conversation and social life, and that depth lies deep enough in that magnificently-formed head. The man himself seems to be perfectly simple, and without regard to the world's fashions--a very decided character; one which looks like [p. 445] what it is. He seems to me, however, to be one of those whose powers show themselves most beautifully on great and momentous occasions.
Anne Lynch said to-day that some one at the table d'hôte remarked, speaking of Daniel Webster, "That nobody was as wise as Webster looked." To which Judge Berrian immediately replied, "Not even Webster himself !" on which all laughed and applauded.
Anne Lynch and I sit at one corner of the table d'hôte, with Henry Clay between us, and on either hand various Southerners, so that I am, through my little friend, Anne, brought into the midst of the pro-slavery party. Yet Henry Clay can not be reckoned as belonging to that party.
I am living at present at the National Hotel, but shall soon remove to a private family, from which I received an invitation some time since. It is a horrible life of visiting here, and intolerably hot. But one has an opportunity of seeing and hearing various interesting people.
The senator of California--a man of giant stature, a magnificent specimen of the inhabitants of the Great West--has given me a breast-pin of Californian gold, the head of which is a nugget of gold in its native state, and in which, with a little help of the imagination, one can see an eagle about to raise its wings and fly from its eyrie.
And now, my little heart, I must close this long letter. I shall still remain fourteen days in Washington, after which I shall betake myself to the sea-side for a couple of weeks, and thus endeavor, by sea-bathing, to invigorate myself before I proceed further.
Instead of going hence westward, which would be dangerous and fatiguing in the great heats of summer, I now intend to go northward, to Maine and New Hampshire, perhaps also visit Canada, which young Mr. A. strongly advises, and then advance westward, by the great inland lakes to Chicago, and so on to the Scandinavian [p. 446] settlement, still further in the west; for I must ultimately visit them. Some riotous scenes have lately occurred in the Peasant Colony, and Erik Janssen, the prophet, has been killed by a Swede named Rooth. He might have maintained the respect of his people, but had a sad reputation around the colony.
Anne Lynch and I intend to spend to-morrow, the 4th of July, at Mount Vernon, the former country seat of Washington, and the place of his burial, and there quietly to celebrate the great day of the United States, the day on which the Declaration of Independence was made, and which is kept in all the states and cities with speechifying, drinking of toasts, and firing of guns.
In a week I shall leave the hotel, which is too hot and too populous for me, and where it is almost impossible to escape from company and company-life. My little friend, Miss Lynch, lives in it as in the breath of her life, and without the slightest coquetry, always attracts around her, by liveliness and good-humored wit, a crowd of people, mostly gentlemen. To these she often says many a little caustic truth, but so gayly that it seems to please them more than flattery. She has an especial facility for puns and sallies of wit, which always produce a lively effect, and infuse fresh air into the occasionally heavy or thunderous intellectual atmosphere. As for instance, on one occasion, when Clay, having excited himself against those who believed that, under his proposal of compromise, he concealed selfish views and designs for the presidentship, he added the protestation, "It is not in the power of mankind to offer any reward which would be a temptation to me!" On this Anne Lynch asked if he asserted the same as regarded "the power of womankind?" Clay smiled, and said that he would think about it; and his ill humor was gone.
Farewell, my child! I salute you and mamma.
I shall tell you in my next more about Congress and the gentlemen of Congress here.
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