Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

States, will probably think with us that only after the greatest familiarity with the early history of America, can the traveller arrive at a very satisfactory opinion concerning its present state, and the causes to which it owes its distinct and individual character; and that the practicability of applying the simple principles on which the government of this country is based, must necessarily depend on the degree of knowledge and morality to be found among the different classes of its population.

I was impressed in a very lively manner with the truth of these remarks, when, shortly after my excursions into the interior of the states of Pennsylvania and New York, I made a short journey through some of the New England states. We meet no longer here with the mistaken views concerning the relations of religion and society which gave rise to the promulgation of the law “that no one shall be a freeman or give a vote, unless he be converted, and a member in full communion of one of the churches allowed in this Dominion.” “Quaker and Adamite" are no longer left without food or lodging, and the aversion to the established church, which caused the pilgrim fathers to proclaim that no one should read common prayer, or keep saints' days, and which induced them to include even Christmas day in this general condemnation, has given way to a more liberal and tolerant spirit, which does not pretend to make religious belief and prac

[ocr errors]

tice subject to human legislation, as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others.

But in abandoning those mistaken views of the original settlers, many of their peculiar and endearing customs are faithfully retained, and serve as a sacred bond of union between the present and the past. It is from this point of view that the Stranger regards with deep interest the day which sees all the members of a family collecting around their head, in order to join in the enjoyments of social intercourse, and to dwell with a filial spirit on the day when their forefathers, with thankful hearts, first assembled around the festive board. From similar reasons, the custom of devoting Saturday eve to contemplation aud religious exercises has been endeared to him,-a custom which prevails in most of the New England states; and when he hears the chiming of the bells in the evening, he sympathizes with the sons of New England, who are reminded by that sound of the hour when their forefathers ceased from their labors, and with a prayerful spirit committed their cares to the Lord.

It was not, however, by these religious customs alone, that on my first tour through New England I was strongly reminded of the peculiar character of the original settlers of this part of the country. In the political and social life, as well as in many personal peculiarities of the New Englander, you recognize in various forms that spirit of fearless

inquiry, of daring enterprize, and of incessant industry, which characterized the pilgrim fathers.

On a fine spring morning, and at that quiet hour when

" The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,

And 'gins to pale his ineffectual fire,”

I had started on foot from Hartford, with the intention of visiting some of the most interesting places in New England. The quotation might be applied literally to my case, when, by a sudden turn of my road, I had come in sight of a host of fire-flies, which were now rising in sparkling clouds, and now in serpentine flights partly disappearing in the forest, so that I found it at first somewhat difficult to persuade myself that it was not a conflagration which I saw before nie. Soon, however, I felt at home among these bright and quiet companions, particularly as they seemed to be the only inhabitants of the silent forest. In Germany at that season of the year, and at that hour, it is the nightingale which, with her most plaintive and soul-like tones, seems to express a conscious regret in giving up her dominion to the lark, which, gradually rising in a beautiful spiral line, ushers in the new morn with a triumphal hymn.

The American forests, like the Americans themselves, seem to be without national music and song, and many of the beautiful references to the inhabi

tants of the air with which we meet in the English poets, can but little interest the American, who is a stranger to those birds, while they remind the German of the delightful hour in which at home he listened to their songs. It is probably owing to this circumstance that the mocking-bird, the “Magnus Apollo" of the American forest, has been called the American nightingale, though this bird is almost entirely wanting in originality and individuality, and copies his fellow beings with so little discrimination, that whilst now, perhaps, you listen to his sweet imitations of the robin or the thrush, you may hear him, in the next moment, barking like a dog.

The light of the morning presented to me a series of pictures, which were not wanting in novel and very striking features. The numberless meetinghouses, which in New England far more than in other parts of the Union are generally adorned with spires and steeples, remind the traveller here again of the religious spirit by which the community is pervaded, and by the power of which, all these institutions of the gospel are supported by voluntary contributions. The neat school-houses which are seen from time to time at some distance from the road, and the very appearance of teachers and scholars, seem to speak well of the attention paid to elementary instruction, and almost at every step instances of the active and enterprising spirit present

themselves, by which the New Englander is enabled to avail himself of every opportunity of improving his situation, and of adding taste and comfort to the necessaries of life.

I had not proceeded very far on my journey, when I was joined by another pedestrian, who with very little ceremony introduced himself to me as a child of New England. "I know it is a Yankee question," said he, “but I cannot help asking, where do you come from?” Having been set at ease by the readiness with which I replied, he did not fail to express various suppositions and inferences concerning my person.

My knapsack, and two books which I carried in my hand, induced him to believe that I was engaged in selling some popular work; the admiration with which I spoke of the beautiful scenery on the banks of the Connecticut, made him exclaim, in a voice that bespoke his anticipation of success, “Surely you are a painter;" and finally, when I happened to make some inquiries about the state of the public schools, he expressed the positive conclusion, that I must be a teacher!

I was more pleased than astonished or vexed with this inquisitiveness, since it was not by any means confined to personalities. Wherever we meet with a scattered population of active mental habits, without the means of acquiring extensive information, we shall find the same characteristic feature. Ulysses is always found ready to satisfy the ques

« AnteriorContinuar »