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Stürzen wir uns in das Rauschen der Zeit,
denn Schmerz und Genuss,
It was a dark and stormy night of the autumn, 182–, when by the welcome sound of land ! land! the crew and passengers of a Hamburg vessel, bound to the harbor of New York, were joyfully assembled on the deck. Not satisfied with the certainty that they had arrived in sight of the continent, many of the passengers seemed to rival each other in eagerly inquiring, who first proclaimed the joyful tidings, what ocular proof might confirm to them this unexpected news, or how great a distance yet separated them from the land ; and even the most surly of the crew seemed softened by the joyful excitement, and condescended to satisfy those to whose inquiries he had many a time replied by sending them down to the steerage. Gradually, however, this tumultuous joy subsided, the voices were hushed, and most of the passengers seemed desirous of dwelling on the peculiar associations which that little light in the far distance, “the star in the
ocean, ” had suggested to them. As that light now appeared, and now again vanished, with every wave by which the vessel was tossed up or down, so did the feelings and views which it had excited in the breasts of the emigrants change and fluctuate unceasingly.
Though the number of Germans who had come over in that vessel was but small, the nature of their occupations, and of their intellectual cultivation, was probably far more different than is generally the case in those vessels which are almost filled with emigrants. The impressions, therefore, which a scene like the one referred to produced on them, after that first moment of general rejoicing, were almost as various as their different modes of life. There is one whom, from his dress and accoutrements, you would judge to be a sportsman by profession : he has stretched himself on the deck, reclining his head very unceremoniously on the body of his dog, who is to protect him against the savages in the American wilds, and to afford him support by hunting the beasts of the forest, if the importations from Europe should not prove sufficient. His head is filled with wild and pleasing anticipations, and the very indistinctness with which they present themselves to his mind, seems to form the principal cause of his joy. His foolish enterprise will hardly call forth a smile from you. But there are others who will better reward your
attention. The thoughts of that merchant, whom, from his peculiarly marked features, dark countenance, and the quick and calculating eye, you would think to be a lineal descendant of Abraham, have returned into their old channel, and with more comfort than ever does he take the last price-current from his pocket, and compare its data with the amount which he has laid out in the enterprise which now carries him to America; and the glittering and bright appearance of the light, which the vessel is now rapidly approaching, reminds him of the golden earnings which this adventurous passage of the Atlantic is to secure to him. Little is he disturbed by the loud and animated conversation of the peasant's family near him. It would hardly have left him unmoved at a moment of less excitement, for he is a kind-hearted man, and has often ministered to their little wants in the course of the voyage : at present, however, his mercantile speculations do not admit of any other thought. That peasant's family consists of father, mother, and seven children, who, as they readily tell you, if you speak to them, have left their native country on account of the multiplicity of oppressions to which they were there exposed. They are all honest, and strong, and willing to work; but their want of pecuniary means has troubled them greatly during the whole of their voyage.
Father and mother are far advanced in
years, and therefore not without anticipations of physical evils which may await them in the foreign clime, yet they console each other with the recollection, that they have not come over for their own sakes, but that their children might enjoy the blessings of a free country, and have the produce of their labors secured to them.
Such, and more various still were the thoughts and feelings which occupied the little group of Germans, while a favorable breeze wafted them nearer to the long-desired shore, and the little “sea star” vanished before the light of the rising sun. The multitude and variety of objects which were now presented to them in rapid succession, attracted their attention so greatly that they had little time for composed thought, until they had approached the wharves of New York, and in the crowd which seemed to welcome their arrival, took a hasty farewell of each other.
It was a few days after the scene just described, when one of the Germans who had arrived in that vessel was walking in the streets of Philadelphia, on one of those beautiful autumnal mornings, which in America give an almost unequalled charm to the parting year. It was a Sabbath morning. After having been entirely without the elevating influence of social worship during the whole time of his voyage, he had felt deeply desirous of attending the morning service in an Americo-German church.
The novelty of the scenes around him threatened, however, to prevent his indulging in the serious reflections which his peculiar situation naturally excited; for every new object seemed to him to suggest some inference concerning the habits and the character of the people. When his eye dwelt on the regular and simple structure of the private buildings, and he compared them with the splendor of the public edifices, he ascribed this contrast to the democratic principle which is hostile to every external distinction. He even welcomed this sameness, however wearisome it might be to the eye, since he regarded it merely as an outward type of that political equality, to which the Americans in a great measure, he thought, owe their present greatness. And when the streets became more and more crowded, and he saw the well dressed and sober looking multitudes, who, like him, were obviously proceeding to the house of the Lord, he judged from them of the general character of the people.
In these, and many other premature, though perhaps not entirely unfounded conclusions, he was interrupted by the familiar sounds of his native language, in which he was addressed by the peasant who had come over with him from Germany. The country in which both of them had just entered as strangers, became of course the subject of conversation ; but even the youthful and enthusiastic