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an extensive vocabulary. Their manner of speech is grave, apparently earnest, and adapted to business more than to intellectual enjoyment. It is seldom that any thing jocular, or any play of words, or circumlocution, or repartee, is uttered by them." If a question is put, it is usually answered in the shortest manner possible. Sometimes abridgments are made that render expressions inconclusive, and give them the form of the inuendo, even where ambiguity is not intended, and by people who, if they were accosted in ironical terms, would make no other reply than an astonished gaze. Technical language is, for obvious reasons, much limited. I have had opportunities of seeing a number of Americans and Irish, who were engaged in the same sort of employment, and could not omit noticing the contrast formed. Where work was let by the piece, the Irish (although previously strangers to one another) uniformly joined in working together in large groupes, and amused themselves by conversation, occasionally introducing the song, the pun, and the bull; while Americans, under similar conditions, preferred working alone, or in parties not exceeding three, and attended to their business in silence. The conversation of those whom you would call the lower orders, shows that they have a very considerable knowledge of the institutions of their country, and that they set a high value on them. Their discourse is usually intermix-' ed with the provincialisms of England and Ireland, and a few Scotticisms. This might be expected, since America has been partly peopled by the natives of these countries. They also use some expressions the original applications of which I have not been able to discover. These I must call Americanisms, and will subjoin some examples.
Carry the horse to water
A part of a river that continues for a considerable distance nearly in a straight line.
- Bred or reared, the participle passive of to breed, (frequently applied to the human species.)
Carry. This is said to be of negro origin.
-To take or lead the horse to the water.
Probably derived from chars ; little, odd, detached or miscellaneous pieces of business. Blackguard.
Culinary vegetables; sometimes applied to baggage.
Rooster, or he-bird
Cock, the male of the hen,
Miscellaneous Remarks on the Manners and Habits of the People.
Jeffersonville, (Indiana,) Sep. 11, 1820. IN your letter of the 15th of May last, you mention your apprehension that I am living amongst a half civilized people. Perhaps this is partly occasioned by my having, in former letters, mentioned a considerable number of disagreeable incidents,
Matters of public notoriety always attract attention, while the more gratifying affairs of private life, as the most pleasant family scenes, the strictest integrity, and even acts of the most disinterested generosity, are, from their more frequent occurrence, omitted as less interesting. Hence it is, that the stories of travellers, however authentic they may be, and however amusing to their readers, are often more calculated to promote prejudices than to convey accurate information regarding society and morals. It is the energy and the tendency of public institutions that form the best index to national character.
I have at different times called your attention to the disadvantages here in respect of opportunities of education, and the influx of immoral strangers. In these respects the back-woods are mere colonies in comparison with the better state of society in the eastern country. Had I lived in Connecticut or Massachusetts, instead of Indiana, I might have met with fewer irregularities to relate. My acquaintance with many persons from the older communities of the Union, causes me to entertain the highest opinion of the attainments there, and convinces me that it would be nearly as unfair to collect the ingredients for forming the character of the British people in their foreign possessions, as it is to infer the state of American society from the habits and manners of people in new settlements. Adopting this view of the matter, it may be asked, in which of the British colonies is a thirty-sixth part of the soil set apart for the support of schools? which of them make their own laws, and appoint their own governors? or which has produced such an example of availing themselves of the lights of the age, as has the new State of Alabana, in rejecting usury laws.
There is no course of conduct that would belie my feelings more than by attempting to misrepresent the character of the American people. From the time of my first landing in the country till the present, I have enjoyed intercourse with people of eminence in society, and have uniformly met with the most polite receptions, and, on many occasions, with such marks of kindness that I can never have sufficient opportunities to requite. Names would be altogether uninteresting to you, but there are many here that I cannot recal to recollection without associating them with those of the personages whom I most admire, and of the friends whom I most esteem.
The American community is not, like that of Britain, divided or formed into classes by the distinctions of title and rank, neither does political party seem to form such a complete separation amongst men, and the unequal distribution of property operates much less. The effects of these conditions are, that the individuals who compose our society are less mutually repellent to one another than with you, and the distinctions formed here are of a more natural kind, such as those founded on public services and talents, and the more uninterrupted associations that proceed from the sympathies of human nature. I am almost of opinion that the more extended bonds of American society are much strengthened by universal suffrage, and the frequent recurrence of elections, for this reason, that the candidates having no boroughs to be treated with in the wholesale way, and the constituents being too numerous, and come too often in the way, to admit of their being bought over, expectants are obliged to depend on their popularity, and do not find it their interest to repulse any one. It is only from these causes that I could at
tempt to account for the affability of manners which are almost universal. The inhabitants of American towns are not, like some of the people of your cities, ignorant of the names of the persons who live in the nearest adjoining houses, or who perhaps enter by the same outer door, and the new settler in the woods is soon so well known, among a wide circle of neighbours, that almost any person, within ten miles of him, can direct the stranger to his residence. The civilities exchanged by people who meet on the roads, or in taverns, and the readiness amongst strangers to converse together, are matters of surprise to natives of Britain.
A short time ago I went on business to the residence of a gentleman of high military rank, who has made a distinguished figure in Indian warfare, in the late war on the Canadian frontier, and by his eloquence in Congress. His hospitality and the urbanity of his manners are not less conspicuous than his other great qualities. His house, from the numbers of his visitors, has a great resemblance to a tavern. He has on his property a great number of people who rent land on shares, (a term formerly explained to you.) When one of these tenants, or when almost any other stranger of respectable appearance, happens to come to his house about the time of dinner, he usually invites him to table. Amongst his party at dinner I observed an old man, who joined in conversation for about half an hour after the cloth was removed. On his rising to depart the host politely accompanied him to his horse. It was not till after mounting that the stranger intimated the object of his call." I have," (said he,) "for a long time "wished to see General and now I am satis"fied." In the afternoon he walked over his farm, and gave directions to some people making hay,