Society, Manners and Politics in the United States - Michel Chevalier - ebook

Mr. Chevalier's chief merits as a traveller consist in the fact, that he directs his attention to the most important concerns and interests of the people, among whom he travels. He has a profound sense of the worth of Humanity, and he values manners, politics, institutions, only as they bear on its progress. He clearly perceives that industry must hold the chief rank among the material interests of mankind, and consequently he bestows, as he ought, the greater part of his attention upon the state of industry and the industrious classes. We wish every traveller would do the same, not in our own country only, but in every other. By so doing the materials might at length be collected for a real history of mankind.

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Society, Manners and Politics in the United States







Society, Manners and Politics in the United States, M. Chevalier

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849651541

[email protected]


Translator: Thomas G. Bradford (1802 – 1887)
















































NOTES. 293


M. Chevalier was sent to this country in 1834, under the patronage of Thiers, then Minister of the Interior, in France, to inspect our public works. But attracted by the novel spectacle presented by society in the United States, he extended the time of his stay and the sphere of his observations amongst us, and spent two years in visiting nearly all parts of the Union, and studying the workings of our social and political machinery. His letters give the results of his observations, the impressions made on his mind, his speculations in regard to the future destiny of our institutions, rather than a detailed narrative of facts and events, which, however, is introduced when necessary for illustration or proof. The translator is not, of course, to be considered responsible for all the opinions and statements of the original; but it will be found, in his judgment, that M. Chevalier has studied with diligence and sagacity, drawn his conclusions with caution and discrimination, and stated his views in a clear, forcible, and interesting manner. He seems to be perfectly free from any narrowness or prejudice, ready to recognise whatever is good or of good tendency, whether [iv] in character, manners, modes of life, political and social institutions, habits, or opinions, without regard to mere personal likes and dislikes; and to be equally frank in condemning, whenever he perceives, in our practices, a violation of our own principles, or of those of an enlightened philosophy. He tells many home truths to all parties and classes. Some passages of the letters and many of the notes, which have no particular interest in this country, have been omitted. M. Chevalier’s work has been very favourably received in his own country, where it has passed through several editions.

T. G. Bradford.

Boston, October, 1839





1. That form of civilization which has prevailed among the European nations, has moved, in its march over the globe, from east to west. From its cradles in the depths of old Asia and Upper Egypt, it advanced, by successive stages, to the shores of the Atlantic, along which it spread itself from the southern point of Spain to the northern extremity of the British Isles and the Scandinavian peninsula. It seemed to have here reached its goal when Christopher Columbus showed it the way to the New World. At each stage it has taken up a new faith, new manners, new laws, new customs, a different language, dress, and food, different modes of life, public and private. The great questions touching the relation of man to God, to his fellows, and to the universe, and domestic, social, and political order, which had all been solved at the beginning of the halt, were, after a while, brought again into discussion, and then civilization, starting again on her march, has moved onward toward the west, to give them a new solution.

This stream, setting from the east toward the west, is formed by the junction of two others flowing from the two great Bible races of Japhet and Shem; which, coming from the north and the south, meet and mingle together, and are replenished from their respective sources, during each period of our civilization, through all the episodes, which obstruct and chequer this majestic pilgrimage. By turns, each of these forces, whose combined action constitutes the motive power that carries mankind forward in its course, has been overborne by the other. Thence it is, that our civilization, instead of advancing in a straight line from east to west, has swerved in its march, either from the north toward the south, or from the south toward the north, taking a winding and devious course, and gathering up, by turns, purer drops from the blood of Shem or of Japhet. There has been, however, this difference between the North and the South; that the South has most often acted upon the North by sending to it the germs of civilization, without overrunning it with a new race; while the North has awakened the slumbering civilization of the South by pouring over it swarms of hardy barbarians, audax Japeti genus. Thus is fulfilled the great prophecy concerning Japhet, that “he shall dwell in the tents of Shem.”

2. Independent of our civilization and distinct from it, there is another in the furthest East, whose centre is China, and whose outposts are Japan, and which embraces its hundreds of millions of men. It moves in a direction contrary to our own, from west to east, and its locomotive powers are slight; we might compare the respective speed of these two civilizations to the two great revolutions of the globe, the annual revolution in its orbit, and that which gives rise to the precession of the equinoxes. This oriental civilization, like that of the west, has repeatedly regenerated itself by a new mixture of the man of the North with the man of the South. The race of Japhet, which gave us our Barbarians, and, before the Barbarians, had given us the Pelasgians, Scythians, Celts, and Thracians, and has since given us the Turks and Sclavonians, has also furnished the East with its Mongols and Manchoos. The family of Gengis Khan, which conquered the East, also pushed its victorious hordes, at the same time, to the Rhine.

The Eastern civilization, less active and less easily set in motion than the Western, probably because it has not enough of the blood of Shem, and has too much of that of the inferior races, has not risen to the same degree of improvement with its sister. But we must do it the justice to confess, that to it belongs the honor of several capital inventions and discoveries, such as the mariners’ compass, printing, and gun-powder, on which we pride ourselves; and we must moreover acknowledge that it has solved the problem, to keep under one law, for an indefinite number of ages, a population greater than that of all Europe. The Roman empire, whose population was less than that of China, stood whole only three hundred years. The spiritual authority of the Pope extended over less territory than that of the Roman empire, and was absolutely acknowledged only from Charlemagne to Luther.

3. The two civilizations, thus gathered together at the two extremities of the old continent, and turning their backs upon each other, were separated by an immense space before the western had fixed itself in America; now, more than half the intervening distance is passed; Mexico and South America are covered with offsets from the latter, on the side which looks toward Asia, as well as on that which fronts us: the United States cannot long delay to extend themselves from sea to sea; the Islands of the South Sea are beginning to be peopled by Europeans. From this point of view, it is clear that America, placed between the two civilizations, is reserved for high destinies, and that the progress of population in the New World is a matter of the deepest interest to the whole human race.

The connecting of the two civilizations is certainly the broadest subject that can occupy the human mind; it is, in the eyes of the friend of man, an event of all others most big with hope. It embraces, politically, the association of all peoples, the balance of the world, of which the balance of Europe is only a part; in religion, the whole law of the human family, the true catholicism: morally, the most harmonious reciprocal action of the two opposite natures, which divide each race, each sex, each people, and each family, and which are typified in the Bible by Cain and Abel; intellectually, the complete encyclopædia and the universal language; industrially, a definite plan for developing the resources of the globe. In our time this question is no longer merely speculative; it is now something more than merely food for the dreams of philosophers; it should be the subject of the meditations of statesmen.

Since the age of Louis XIV., the merchants, who are the pioneers of state policy, have striven with a constantly increasing ardor, to open relations with China, because they have felt the importance of a regular system of exchanges between Europe and a mass of two hundred million of producers and consumers. The emancipation of North America, and quite lately the abolition of the English East India Company’s monopoly, have given to the efforts of commerce an irresistible force; before this power, the laws which close up the celestial empire are nothing. China is encircled, on the south, by the English and their tributaries; on the north, by the Cossacks, the van-guard of Russia; British and American fleets prowl along her coasts; the sleepy Spaniards of Mexico and the Philippines think of the days of the galleons, and keep their half-opened eyes fixed upon her. The human race has just come into possession of new means of communication, which shorten distance in an unexpected degree. The two civilizations will soon reach each other and mingle together; it will be the greatest event in the history of man.

4. Before the art of navigation was brought to perfection, before Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama, Europe had had communications with China through the medium of the Arabs, independently of the cavarans which traversed Central Asia. The Arabs, conquerors and missionaries placed between the two civilizations, had spread themselves by turns toward the East and the West. That people, so active by starts, has been to the East the messenger of the West, and to the West, the courier and factor of the East. Unhappily since the Western civilization has shone with the greatest brilliancy in Europe, Arabia has flung out but feeble gleams of light; since Providence has filled us with a devouring activity, the Arabians are fallen into a deep lethargy; on that side, therefore, the intercourse, which was never complete nor speedy, has almost ceased. But if, as some suppose, the Arab race is about to rouse itself from its long stupor, at the voice and by the aid of Europe, the latter will then have a powerful ally in its efforts to seize and hold Asia, or to transmit to her the means of working out her own restoration, and this illustrious race will thus contribute essentially to the marriage of the two civilizations.

5. Our civilization, in its march westward, has sometimes turned back towards the East; thus it has had its Argonauts, its Agamemnons, and its Alexanders, and more lately its heroes of the crusades and its Portuguese captains. These partial movements were but temporary interruptions of its solemn march toward the West; they were merely countercurrents, resembling the eddies which always exist in the currents of rivers. Until our own time, Europe has founded no durable and important establishment in Asia; in proportion as our civilization advanced westwards, the countries which it left behind escaped from its influence, and the distance between it and the oriental civilization, became greater. Alexander is the only person of whom China could feel any fear, and he passed away like the lightning flash. The Parthians, the Saracens, or the Turks, were the impregnable bulwarks of eastern Asia. The mission of Europe was, above all things, to reach and settle a new hemisphere.

At present, the incontestible superiority of the western nations in wealth, in mechanical skill, in means of transportation, in government, in the art of war, enables them to make their way across the Old World toward the remotest recesses of Asia. The nations whom we are accustomed to call oriental, but who are only inhabitants of the Lesser East, have ceased to be formidable adversaries to Europe; they delivered up their swords, at Heliopolis, Navarino, and Adrianople. The colonization of America is now at length completed from Hudson’s Bay to Cape Horn, but Europe can and ought to move towards the East as well as towards the West; the isthmus of Suez has as good a chance as the isthmus of Panama, to become the route of western civilization to the Greater East.

6. Our European civilization has a twofold source, the Romans and the Teutonic nations. Setting aside for the present Russia, who is a new comer, and who already, however, equals the most powerful of the elder states, it is subdivided into two families, each of which is marked by its strong likeness to one of the mother nations, which have contributed to give birth to both. Thus there is the Latin Europe, and the Teutonic Europe; the former comprises the south, the latter the people of the north; the former is Roman Catholic, the latter Protestant; the one speaks Teutonic languages, and the other, idioms, in which Latin is predominant. These two branches, Latin and German, re-appear in the New World; South America, like southern Europe, is Roman Catholic and Latin; North America belongs to the Protestant Anglo-Saxon population.

In the great enterprise of bringing together European and Asiatic civilization, the Teutonic and Latin nations may both find a field of action; both occupy in Europe and America, by land and sea, admirable outposts and excellent positions round that imperturbable Asia, into which it is their object to force their way. But, during the last age, the superiority which formerly belonged to the Latin family, has passed into the hands of the Teutonic race, owing partly to the energy of England in the Old World, and that of her sons in the New, and partly to the loosening of the old religious and moral ties among the Latin nations. The Sclavonic race, which has lately shown itself, and which now forms a third group of nations in Europe, seems ready to contest with the Latin race even the possession of the second rank; it is only the Russians and Anglo-Saxons that interest themselves about Further Asia, and press upon its frontiers by land and by sea. The people of the Latin stock must not, however, stand idle in the coming struggle, or the case will go against them by default; an excellent opportunity is now offered to regain their lost rank.

7. In our three-headed Europe, Teutonic, Latin, and Sclavonic, two nations, France and Austria, present themselves under less distinct features, and with less exclusive characters than the others. France shares in the Teutonic and Latin natures; in religion, she is Catholic in feeling, but Protestant out of caprice; she unites the nervous understanding of the Germans with the elegant taste of the southern nations. Austria, by the education and origin of the people of her different states, is half Sclavonic, half Teutonic, and she is connected with the Latin family by her religion. France and Austria are, then, the natural mediums of communication, the one between the Germans and Latins, and the other between the Germans and Sclavonians; Austria is chiefly Teutonic, as France is essentially Latin. From this mixed character of France and Austria, we may conclude, that whenever the balance of Europe, or the harmonious combination of all European nations in one common object, shall become subjects of discussion, both will exercise a decisive influence, and their hearty co-operation in a common cause will make them irresistible. Austria has a more central position than France; she has a greater number of points of contact with the different types of western civilization; but France combines the invaluable advantages of a more homogeneous constitution, and a more flexible temperament; she has a physiognomy more strongly marked, a mission more clearly defined, and above all, she has more of the social spirit. She is at the head of the Latin group; she is its protectress.

8. In the events which seem about to dawn upon us, France may, then, take a most important share; she is the depositary of the destinies of all the Latin nations of both continents. She alone can save the whole family from being swallowed up by a double flood of Sclavonians and Germans. To her it belongs to rouse them from the lethargy into which they are plunged in both hemispheres, to raise them to the level of other nations, and to enable them again to take a stand in the world; she also is called upon, perhaps more than any other power, to encourage the new spirit, which seems to be re-animating the Arabians, and through them to shake the East. Thus the political theatre, seen from a French point of view, shows, in a distant back-ground, the meeting of the Oriental and the Western civilizations, in which we are called upon to act as mediators, and in the fore-ground, the education, by France, of all the Latin nations, and of many of the Arab tribes living around the Mediterranean.

There may be a difference of opinion as to the time when these revolutions, which are to agitate the depths of Asia, will take place; I am one of those who think it not far off. I can easily conceive, also, that some persons should wish to lessen the circle of French influence, and confine it to the southern countries of Europe; although to me France seems called upon to exercise a benevolent and wholesome care over the people of South America, who are not yet fit to take care of themselves, and although the old traditions of the crusades, the conquest of Algiers, and the recollection of the expedition into Egypt, seem to promise us one of the first parts in the drama which will be acted on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean.

As for the European nations of the Latin family, no one, I suppose, can have any doubts concerning our supremacy over them, or concerning our duties, both to them and to ourselves, in relation to them. We have been notoriously the head of the family since the time of Louis XIV., and we can neither shrink from the burdens, nor from the privileges of our situation. Our superiority is acknowledged by all its members, our protection has been accepted by all, whenever it has been offered without selfish views. Happy would it have been for France, if, content with this high prerogative, her princes, and above all he who has added new lustre to the name of Emperor, had not been obstinately bent on the unnatural purpose of extending their authority over the members of the Teutonic family!

9. Since the weight has been thrown into the Saxon scale, since the English race has overborne France and Spain in Asia, in America, and in Europe, new institutions, new rules of government, new ideas, new modes of action, in social, political, and individual life, have sprung up among the English, and more especially among their successors in the New World; everything connected with labor and the condition of the greater number of working men, has been carried to a degree of perfection before unheard of. It seems as if, by the aid of these improvements, the superiority of the Anglo-Saxons over the Latin family, must go on constantly increasing. The French, of all the Latin nations, are most favorably placed, and the only one well placed, to avail themselves of these improvements by adapting them to their own exigencies. We are full of energy; never has our mind been more fairly thrown open; never were our hearts more ready to throb for noble enterprises.

But we must set ourselves at work without delay; we must do this, setting aside all considerations of general policy, and of the contact, whether more or less remote, of the two civilizations. It is a matter of the last necessity in regard to ourselves, even supposing that we have not to transmit to the southern nations of Europe, of whom we are the eldest, and to the inhabitants of the Levant, those improvements which their situation demands, and which they are ready to receive at our hands; our own welfare, our own existence is at stake. How, and under what form shall we be able to make the innovations of the English race our own? This difficult and complicated question has been the chief object of my attention during my residence in the New World; I do not claim the honor of having even partially solved it. But I shall feel satisfied, if the thoughts suggested to me by the sight of an order of things so unlike our own, falling under the eyes of one more far-sighted than myself, shall put him in the way of its solution.




London, Nov. 1, 1833


While railroads are talked of at Paris, they are made here. That from London to Birmingham is already begun; it will be 112 miles in length, and all the stock, to the amount of 12,000,000 dollars, has been taken up by subscription; this road will be continued by another of nearly the same length, from Birmingham to Liverpool, and in five years Liverpool and London will be only eight hours apart. Whilst the English capitalists are executing these great undertakings, the Parisian capitalists look on, but do not stir; they do not even form projects. Not one of them seems to have seriously considered, that even in the present state of things, there is more than twice the number of travellers between Paris and Versailles, than between Liverpool and Manchester, although the railroad between the last named places has been opened three years. In London, therefore, they count little upon the aid of French capitalists in the construction of a railroad from that city to Paris; they desire it, they would be glad to be able to go from one capital to the other in fifteen hours, and at trifling expense; all classes are delighted with the idea of such a thing. But they feel that such a work is neither expedient nor feasible, without the joint action of both nations; and as they dare not hope for the co-operation of France, little is said about it as a serious affair.

Among all the acquisitions, which, since the end of the last century, have enriched the domain of science, none has opened a wider field than Volta’s discoveries relative to the motion of electricity, and its development by contact. The phenomena resulting from the two poles of the Voltaic battery offer an inexhaustible mine to the physical philosopher; there is no fact in science more general in its nature, for if any two bodies whatsoever touch each other, they form at once, by their mutual action and reaction, a Voltaic pile of greater or less energy. This physical fact has its counterpart in the moral order of things; if you bring together two men who have hitherto been separated from each other, in however slight a degree they may have any striking quality, their friction will certainly produce a spark. If instead of two men, the two poles of your battery are two nations, the result is greater in the proportion of a nation to an individual. If these two nations are England and France, that is to say, the two most enlightened and most powerful people in the world, this sort of Voltaic phenomenon then acquires a prodigious intensity; it involves nothing less than the safety of an old or the creation of a new civilization.

The predominant qualities, good or bad, of France and England, may be arranged in a series of parallels, the corresponding terms in each of which will be complements of each other. England is pre-eminent in affairs, and the qualities which belong to them, coolness, economy, precision, method, perseverance; taste and genius for the fine arts, with the enthusiasm, the recklessness, the caprice, the irregular habits, the wastefulness, at least in time and words, which characterise the artist, have fallen to the lot of France. On one side, is reason, cautious and sober, but sure-footed, good sense, creeping along the ground; on the other, imagination with her brilliant audacity, but also with her ignorance of things and method, her starts and trips. Here, an admirable energy in struggling against nature and metamorphosing the physical features of the globe; there, an unequalled intellectual activity, and the gift of warming the heart of mankind with its fires. In England, treasures of industry and heaps of gold; in France, treasures of thought, wells of science, torrents of inspiration. In proud Albion, staid, but cheerless manners, reserve pushed to a chilling excess; in our fair France, easiness of manners carried to licentiousness, the old Gaulish gaiety, often savoring somewhat of the camp, a something of the free and easy bordering on the promiscuous (un sans-façon expansif qui frise la promiscuité). On both sides a large dose of pride; among our neighbors, a calculating, ambitious pride; the pride of the statesman and the merchant, which feeds only on power and wealth; which for the country desires conquests, vast colonies, all the Gibraltars and St Helenas, eagle’s nests by which all seas and all shores are commanded; and which for oneself pants for riches, an aristocratic park, a seat in the House of Lords, a tomb in Westminster Abbey. Amongst us, a vain-glorious pride, which longs for the unreal, for ideal pleasures; a thirst after applause for self, after glory for our country; a pride, which, for France, would be satisfied with the admiration of the world, for self, with castles in the air, a ribband, an epaulet, a line of Béranger as a funeral oration; the pride of the actor on the stage, of the knight in the lists. On the north of the Channel, prevail religion and positive faith; on the south, scepticism, mingled with enthusiasm. There a deep sentiment of order and respect for rank, combined with a haughty feeling of the dignity of man; here, a people eager for equality, excitable, restless, turbulent, yet docile, often even to weakness, confiding, even to credulity, easily cajoled by its flatterers, submitting to be trampled under foot like a carcase, during the period of its lethargy, and at times given over to the most courtier-like obsequiousness. Among the English the reverence for tradition, among the French the passion for novelty, predominates; among the former respect for the law, and obedience to man, on condition that his supreme rule shall be the law; among the latter, the worship of great men, and submission to the laws if they are defended by the sword of Cæsar. On one side the ruler of the seas, on the other the arbiter of the continent, rousing the world at their pleasure, the one by its lever of gold, the other by the sound of its voice alone. Surely from the reciprocal influences of two nations thus constituted and thus situated on the globe, the most important effects should result, not only on the general cause of civilization, but on their own mutual improvement.

The industrial development is not, indeed, the development of the whole man, but since the beginning of the nineteenth century, no people can be allowed to reckon itself in the first rank of nations, if it is not advanced in the industrial career, if it cannot labor and produce. No people will be powerful that is not rich, and there is now no other way of growing rich but by work. In regard to production and labor, we have much to learn from England, and it is a lesson which is to be learned by the eyes rather than by the ears, by observation better than by reading. If, then, there were a railroad between London and Paris, the French, who have now little knowledge of business, would go to London, where the instinct of method is in the blood, to learn. Our speculators would go to see how simply, promptly, and plainly great enterprises are carried on; our shop-keepers and buyers have to learn from England that to overcharge and to haggle have no connexion with buying and selling advantageously; our capitalists and merchants, that there can be no durable commercial prosperity nor security for capital, where there is no system of credit; they would see the operations of the Bank of England with its branches and the private banks, and perhaps they might be incited to bring home, with the needful modification, institutions and practices so profitable at once to the share holders and to the public. They would here imbibe the spirit of association, which in London sweats at every pore. Ref002 All of us might here see in what consists and how is realised, that comfort, that care of the person, so essential to the peace and quiet of one’s life, and Paris might perhaps be led to free itself from the filth of centuries, which formerly gave it its name, and against which eighteen hundred years later, Voltaire, whom the ancient monarchy and the faith of our fathers could not withstand, warred in vain. As we are full of self-love, we should return from England ashamed of the wretched state of our agriculture, our roads, and our elementary schools, humbled at the insignificance of our foreign commerce, and solicitous to vie with our neighbors. I need not stop to point out what the English might come to seek among us, they are already converts in this matter, they swarm in Paris, while it would be easy to count up the Frenchmen who have been in London. Without saying what the English would get in Paris, I may affirm that they would leave plenty of sovereigns there. To Paris, the city of pleasures, the terrestrial paradise of strangers, the railroad would be a gold mine, and the English, getting familiar with France, would find profitable investments for their capital among us, which would give life and energy to useful enterprises.

The railroad from London to Paris would be a commercial enterprise of the first importance; it would also be a political instrument, a strong bond of union between England and France. But it is more especially as a means of education, that it should be most highly recommended, for there is no fear that the other points of view will be overlooked. The industrial arts, I said before, are learned chiefly through the eyes; this is particularly true in regard to the operatives, for in them, owing to their manner of life, the world of sensation prevails over the world of ideas. Now the progress of the mechanical arts depends not less on the workmen than on the foremen and superintendents of the works; it would be expedient, therefore, to send a certain number of picked operatives to pass a suitable time in England, just as the Board of Public Works (Ponts et Chaussées) is now in the habit of sending a few engineers thither. The railroad, by reducing the expense and trouble of the journey, would probably furnish an opportunity of despatching companies of artisans selected from among those most worthy of the privilege. According to the plan of a merchant of Lyons, a very sensible man, this might be done on a large scale and at Little expense; and he further proposed a system of reciprocity, by which English workmen should be employed in France and French operatives in England. It is not impossible that this project may one day be made the basis of a new law, designed to further the views of our excellent law of primary education; but the railroad between London and Paris must first be constructed.

Of the small number of Frenchmen who have visited England, Ref003 very few have been led by motives of business. Most have undertaken the voyage from vague feelings of curiosity, or merely for pleasure; and the objects of their notice have been the picturesque, the poetical. They have visited the Gothic ruins of the monasteries and castles, the cave of Fingal, and the lakes of Scotland, admired the costume of the Highlanders, the horses and jockeys of the great lords, and the blooming complexion of the women. They have walked through one or two parks, visited the hot-houses where all the plants of the world are collected, braving, behind the glass, the cloudy sky of Great Britain. They have been through the dockyards and military arsenals, when they could get leave, under the escort of a sergeant, seen the young beauties of Almacks and the old curiosities of the Tower, and travelled over England, just as they would make the tour of Italy or Switzerland. If the subject of industry has occupied their attention a moment, it is only in reference to the fashion of some opera decoration. They have, to be sure, stood amazed at the thousands of vessels whose masts stretch out of sight along the Thames or in the docks; Ref004 they have been delighted with the extent of the great manufacturing towns, the magnitude of the manufactories, and the height of their chimneys, with the magical brilliancy of the gas-lights, with the daring bridges of stone or iron, and with the fantastical appearance of the forgefires in the night. But they have never asked, how came England to have such a vast number of ships, how has she multiplied and extended her manufactures to such an amazing degree, and how created these towns, so simple in their architecture, but so fastidiously neat in their spacious streets; they have not thought to ask the causes of all this wealth and prosperity.

Yet he who expects to return satisfied from England should visit her as the Queen of industry; he should see the city rather than Regent’s Park, the East India House rather than Windsor Castle, seek out the Bank before St. Paul’s, the Clearing House before Somerset House, take more interest in the docks and Commercial House, than in the armor preserved in the Tower. He should go to the warehouses, the counting-houses, the workshops, in pursuit of the genius of Great Britain. He must tear himself from the magnificent hospitality of the English country seats, and give up his time to the mines and the forges, which furnish industry with its daily bread, its coal and iron. (Note 001 and Note 002 at the end of the volume.) He must mingle with the stout and active workmen, quite as much as with the more refined society in the saloons of the nobility. For myself, I have found nothing in London which has struck me as more original, and given me greater pleasure, than a shop in Old Change, whose ware-rooms contain twenty times as many goods as the largest warehouse in Paris, and whose business transactions amount to two millions sterling a year, and the great brewery of Barclay, Perkins & Co. near London Bridge, the order and arrangement of which are still more striking than its vast extent.

As I stood is this brewery, on a floor on which, distributed in different rooms, there were ninetynine vats, some of them holding 500,000 or 600,000 bottles, I thought of the famous Heidelberg tun which I had seen some years ago. It is the only object in a tolerable state of preservation in the delicious chateau of the Palatine counts, and it is faithfully visited by all travellers who go to see that fine ruin, perhaps the finest relic of the feudal times. What a difference now between the old chateau of Heidelberg with its tun, and the colossal establishment of the English brewer with its regiment of tuns! The old castle crumbles to pieces; the rich Gothic sculptures are wearing away. In vain has a French artist (and, strange coincidence! that artist himself another relic of the feudal age, an émigré, who with a praiseworthy zeal has been for a long time the self-constituted guardian of this fine old monument,) in vain has he urged the government of Baden, to whom the castle belongs, to take some measures for its preservation. Each year some new dilapidation is caused by the frosts of winter and the storms of autumn; the old chateau will soon become a shapeless mass, the very stones will probably be sold, and nothing will remain, but the drawings of M. de Graimbert, to show what it has been. The Knights’ Hall is stripped of its roof—the arches, which support the superb terrace whence the eye wanders over the lovely vale of the Neckar and its beautiful heights,—those arches, rent by the powder of Louvois,—will some day sink. Meanwhile, the brewery is enriched one day with a new building, and the next with a new steam-engine; and in case of any damage by fire, as recently happened, the loss is immediately repaired; in the place of the building destroyed by the flames, rises one more splendid, in which the free use of iron will be a protection against new ravages.

The statues of the Palatine electors are overthrown in their niches; no son of their vassals will set them up again; but at the brewery everything is in perfect order; each tool hangs on its nail, each kettle is kept well-rubbed and bright. The stables of the noble prince are a heap of ruins; in the stables of the brewer, rivalling those of Chantilly, where the great Condé entertained kings, one hundred and fifty horses, fit steeds for Goliah, are objects of as careful attention, as those, perhaps, which surrounded the persons of the first Electors and their gallant knights The old tun has been empty for a century and a half; the curious may enter it, and take its measure; once only has M. de Graimbert seen it spout wine; it was in 1813, in honour of the emperor Alexander and his allies, the sovereigns of Austria and Prussia. Even then it was only a pious fraud, the old tun was not full, the wine flowed from a base barrel which had been stuck in it the night before. The ninetynine vats of Barclay, Perkins & Co. are always full of beer; that which is daily drawn off, and sent all over the United Kingdom and North America, and finds its way even to the East Indies, would fill the classical tun of the Palatine Casimir. Ref005 The secret of this contrast may easily be explained; the great feudal tun could only be filled by the produce of the feudal impositions, whilst the vats of the brewery are filled by the voluntary co-operation of three hundred men, sure of gathering daily the fruits of their industry; the Heidelberg tun was emptied only to administer to the pleasures of the prince or his favorites, while the vats of the brewer quench the thirst of a numerous population, which works hard, receives good pay, and pays its providers well.

The silence and desolation of the old castle, contrasted with the bustle and prosperity of the English brewery, are a striking emblem of the feudal system compared with the modern power of peace and creative industry. All nations, in proportion as they have the power to change the warlike qualities of the feudal age into the useful qualities of the labourer, or as they want the capacity thus to re-cast themselves, may read their own destiny, either in the state of the flourishing manufactory, or in that of the deserted and crumbling castle. Happy the people, who, like France and England, have had strength to shake off the past, and who, in the quiet enjoyment of their liberties, have only to concern themselves about the future! Woe to that people, which will not, or cannot, tear itself away from the past! That people is worn out; it will die of consumption, and will leave behind nothing but ruins, poetical, perhaps, but still none the less ruins, that is, death and desolation: unless indeed a new blood be infused into its veins, or in other words, unless it be conquered like unhappy Poland.




Liverpool, Nov. 7, 1833


I have just come back from Manchester by the railroad, which is a fine piece of work; I know of nothing that gives a higher idea of the power of man. There are impressions which one cannot describe; such is that of being hurried along at the rate of half a mile a minute, or thirty miles an hour (the speed of the train as we started from Manchester,) without being the least incommoded, and with the most complete feeling of security, for only one accident has happened since the opening of the road, and that was owing to the imprudence of the individual who perished. You pass over and under roads, rivers, and canals; you cross other railroads, and a great number of other roads, without any trouble or confusion. The great forethought and spirit of order which in England they suck in with their mothers’ milk, preside in every part, and make it impossible that the trains should fall foul of each other, or that the cars should run down unlucky travellers, or the farmers’ wagons; all along the route are gates, which open and shut at the precise moment of time, and watchmen on the look out. How many persons in France would be benefitted by this short trip, did it serve only as a lesson of order and forecast! And then the Mount Olive cut is as well worth seeing as Roland’s Breach; the Wapping tunnel will bear a comparison with the caves of Campan; the dike across Chat Moss seems to me as full of interest as the remains of the most famous Roman ways, not excepting even the Appian itself; and there is a column, which, though only a chimney for a steam-engine, is not, perhaps, less perfect in its proportions than Pompey’s Pillar. Many tourists, even persons who have not been made weary of sight-seeing in Switzerland and Italy, would find Chester Bridge, which is not, indeed, on the road, but is nevertheless very near it, quite as worthy of a visit as the Devil’s Bridge; not to mention that the burning cinders which the engine strews along the route, might suggest to the traveller, without any great stretch of fancy, the idea of being transported in a fiery car, certainly the most poetical of all vehicles.

Those who doubt the policy of introducing railroads into France, and think it prudent to wait for more light, cite, among other arguments, the experiments continually making in England to apply locomotive engines to common roads, the success of which, they think, would save the expense of rails. There is no doubt that railroads, like every other new invention, are susceptible of improvement; but they will always be expensive, and while other nations keep up such schools as the Manchester and Liverpool railroad, and we stand looking on with folded arms, we shall soon find ourselves, by excess of caution, fallen behind all Europe in manufactures and commerce. As for the steam-engines of Gurney, Dance, or anybody else, there is no hope that they will enable us to save the expense of rails. I think it, indeed, very probable that engines may be made to take the place of horses on roads kept in such a state as the English highways; but upon any road whatsoever, and whatever motive power is employed, engines or horses, in order to reach a great speed, from twentyfive to thirty miles an hour, for instance, it is absolutely necessary to cut through hills, and to fill up or bridge over the valleys, just as is done for railroads. Besides this great speed forbids the free circulation of vehicles, and makes it necessary to avoid the level of the frequented routes, and to pass over or under them by means of tunnels or bridges. None of the inconveniences, or liabilities of railroads would be avoided by this system; the expense would be almost the same, for the most costly portion of the work in railroads is the cuts and embankments, the bridges and viaducts; the iron required for the rails forms less than one-third of the expenditure. The expenses of superintending the routes would be the same. Besides, the road once graded, there would be a great gain in laying rails, that is, in making a complete railroad, however little might be the amount of transportation; for on a Macadamised road the force of friction is ten times that on iron rails, so that the use of these new locomotive carriages can never supply the place of railways.

The correctness of these views is proved by what is now doing in England; while the new steam carriages are getting ready for regular service, railroad companies are already at work or are organizing in all quarters. Two works are now in progress which will connect Liverpool with London, by way of Birmingham; the whole length will be one hundred and ninetyfive miles. Although a trial of the new carriages is making on the Birmingham road, shares in the railroad between that town and London are at a high premium. Another company is preparing to construct a railroad from London to Bath and Bristol, a distance of one hundred and fifteen miles; companies are also formed for connecting London with Southampton, on the Havre route to Paris, and with Brighton, on the Dieppe route; other shorter works are projected. It is not that the experiments of Gurney and Dance are unknown or slighted; on the contrary, their importance is fully felt; the newspapers are full of them, and they even excite some enthusiasm. In this country, where it is a settled maxim that the labourer is worthy of his hire, I saw vessels all along the road which had been gratuitously brought and filled by the inhabitants for the use of one of these steam-carriages; unluckily the carriage did not arrive when it was expected; it had got out of order, as it too often does.

The Liverpool and Manchester railroad owes its brilliant success to the substantial and permanent nature of the interest which binds together the two towns. It would be impossible to realize a more complete division of labor; Manchester, with the country twenty miles round it, is nothing but a workshop; Liverpool manufactures nothing, but merely sells what her neighbours produce. Liverpool is not, whatever the guide book may say, another Venice, rising from the waves; it is a counting-house, and nothing but a counting-house, though on a vast scale, and under the most perfect regulations, of any in the world. The business is all done in a space smaller than the Place du Carrousel, where are the handsome Exchange, the Town House, and all the banking houses, &c. At four or five o’clock each one shuts up his cell (for the offices deserve this name), and retires to his house or his country seat, for many of the residences are on the other side of the Mersey. Liverpool and Manchester are surrounded by a double and three fold series of canals; the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal, the Leeds and Liverpool, the Sankey, Leigh, Bolton and Bury, Mersey and Irwell canals, without taking into account the rivers Irwell, Mersey, and Weaver, which though small, form fine bays at their mouths, and are more easily and regularly navigable than our great rivers, while the navigation is carried on with a promptitude and despatch wholly unknown in France. Since the peace these two towns have enjoyed such a high degree of prosperity, that ten years ago these means of communication, with the addition of a fine road, were found to be insufficient. The counting-house and the manufactory wished to be nearer to each other; accordingly, on the 10th of May, 1824, a memorial, signed by one hundred and fifty merchants, declared the necessity of new routes; and a railroad was decided on. The work was begun in June, 1826, and the road was opened in due form, on the 15th of September, 1830. A tunnel is now constructing, one mile and a quarter in length, which will carry the railroad into the heart of the town, and will cost about 800,000 dollars.

The chief article of English commerce, that in which it has no rival, and which opens all the ports of the world to English vessels, is cottons of all descriptions. The value of the produce and manufactures annually exported from the United Kingdom, during the last ten years, has averaged 190 millions of dollars. Ref006 That of cottons alone has ranged from 80 to 90 millions, and the greater part is made in Manchester and the vicinity. Ref007 This single fact would sufficiently explain the commercial importance of Liverpool; add to this that Liverpool is in the neighbourhood of the founderies and forges of Staffordshire and Shropshire, and the manufactories of Birmingham and Sheffield; that the diminished width of the island, in the 53d degree of latitude, enables her to reach out her hands at once to the eastern and western coasts; that she is the centre of the business between England and Ireland; that she approaches, at the same time, Scotland and Wales; that she is the head quarters of steam navigation in England, and it will be seen at a glance that Liverpool is the seat of a prodigious commerce, inferior only to that of London. Eleven thousand vessels measuring 1,400,000 tons, enter her nine docks every year; two-fifths of the whole exports of England are shipped hence, and more than one-fifth of the British customs duty, or nearly 20,000,000 dollars (equal to the total sum of the French customs), are collected here. Since the modification of the East India Company’s charter, the Liverpool merchants flatter themselves with the hope of securing a great part of the India trade, which has hitherto been monopolized by London; they aspire to rival the commerce of the capital, and it must be confessed that they are taking the right road to success.

In tracing the history of Liverpool, Manchester, or any other English town, we are struck with a fact which is full of good omen for France; it is this, that a people never engages heartily and successfully in commerce and manufactures, until it feels itself safe from civil or religious despotism; but once assured on that point, it moves rapidly and right forward in its industrial career. So long as England was restrained in her franchises or her faith, she was possessed with one idea, how to throw off the yoke; once freed from this care, she has achieved in the different branches of industry what no nation has ever done before. In the beginning of the last century, not long after the expulsion of the Stuarts, when Liverpool had only 5,000 inhabitants, with no commerce but a feeble coasting trade, some of her merchants conceived the idea of competing with Bristol, which then monopolized the West Indian trade. Bristol exported to America the products of the fisheries in the German Ocean, and some fustians and checks manufactured in Germany, and the Liverpool adventurers took cargoes of Scotch stuffs; but the attempt was unsuccessful, the Scotch goods were of inferior quality. Manchester then relieved them from this difficulty; there were already some manufacturers in that place, who imitated and surpassed the German articles, and thus provided, the merchants of Liverpool were able to sustain a competition with those of Bristol. The smuggling trade with the Spanish colonies, and the slave trade, undertaken in competition with Bristol, continued to enrich Liverpool and consequently Manchester. In 1764, when Bristol fitted out 32 ships for Africa and 74 for America, Liverpool ran 105 to the former and 141 to the latter; in the same year 1589 vessels entered the port of Liverpool, while only 675 arrived at Bristol. At present Bristol is a second-rate mart compared with Liverpool; not that the former has declined; on the contrary, it is a wealthy city, with a trade tenfold what it was a hundred years ago. But in the midst of the general progress, Liverpool has advanced at high speed. It now contains 180,000 inhabitants, or, including the suburbs, 225,000, without reckoning the floating population of strangers and sailors. During the siege of Calais, when Edward III. collected all the strength of England, this town found it difficult to furnish one vessel, carrying six men; in 1829, it owned 806 vessels of 161,780 tons burthen, manned by 9,091 sailors. (See Note 004, at the end of the volume.) During the wars of the French Revolution, Liverpool was able to bear her share of the burdens of the country, and to spend 170,000 dollars annually in works of public utility and in embellishing the town. In 1797 she volunteered to raise a troop of horse and eight companies of foot at her own charge; in 1798 she raised a regiment of volunteers and the sum of 80,000 dollars, and in 1803, when Napoleon threatened England with invasion, two regiments of infantry and 600 artillerists. In the same period a host of useful and charitable institutions were founded by subscription, and the Exchange was built at the cost of 600,000 dollars. All this is the work of one century; hardly had James II. reached Saint Germain, when the first dock in Liverpool was opened; within thirty years the Mersey and Irwell were canalled. It was the same throughout England. We must not exaggerate and abuse historical parallels, but, unless we shut our eyes, it is impossible not to perceive a striking analogy between the state of England after the fall of the Stuarts, and that of France since 1830. With both people there is a feeling of profound security in regard to their liberties, a deep conviction that they have gained a decisive victory, and that they have nothing to fear from the encroachments of the civil power or of a religious corporation; the same wish to see political reforms gives rise to substantial and palpable improvement in the condition of the people, and the same disposition on the part of the government to enlighten and realize the popular will.

The old dynasties of England and France fell in consequence of their efforts to give political power to the clergy, rather than from any attempt to restore the feudal system with its brutality and its rapacity; for the deposed princes themselves were neither rapacious nor violent. The English revolution, however, was far from giving birth to irreligion; Liverpool,—which is, so to speak, of to-day, which bears the stamp, not of England as she was in the sixteenth or the fourteenth century, but of England as she was in the eighteenth century, as she is in our own time,—Liverpool is a proof of this. There is no town in France which numbers as many churches as Liverpool, where there are thirtyseven of the establishment, in addition to fortythree dissenters’ chapels and meeting houses, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, Quaker, Jewish, and Roman Catholic; the last have here five chapels. Most of these have been built since 1750, and nearly one half since 1800; I have a list under my eye, and the dates are 1803, 1810, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1815, 1815, 1816, 1821, 1826, 1826, 1827, 1827, 1830, 1831. Are we to believe that this analogy will hold good on our own soil, and that as she grows rich by industry, France will return to the religious sentiment? I wish it, I hope it; we are already past the time when atheism was fashionable in France; it will not, however, be under the flag of the Anglican church, or of any other protestant sect that France will rally; she must have a more imposing and pompous worship.




New York, January 1, 1834


This country is now in the crisis of a high industrial fever, which has assumed a political character, and is of a very serious nature; for the industrial interest, in this country, is the most important. Last year, when the dispute between the Northern and Southern States, relative to the tariff was settled, (see Note 005, at the end of the volume,) the wise and prudent thanked God, that the danger, which had threatened their country, had been averted; there seemed to them nothing further to obstruct its triumphant career of conquests over nature, with an ever accelerated rapidity and increased success. A series of causes, to appearance of slight moment, has changed these hopes into fears. Some trifling circumstances revived the old quarrel between the democratic party, to which the President belongs, and the Bank of the United States, and both sides grew warm. (See Note 006, at the end of the volume.) President Jackson, a man of good intentions and ardent patriotism, but too hasty towards those who venture to contradict him, declared a deadly war against the Bank, and pushed it with all the energy and fury, in the same cut-and-thrust style, that he had the war against the Indians and English twenty years before. He set his veto to the bill that had passed both houses of Congress, renewing the Bank charter, which was about to expire in three years. Not satisfied with this blow, he withdrew from the hands of the Bank the public money, which, by the provisions of its charter, had been deposited in them, and which gave it the means of very materially extending its operations; for the excess of the deposits over the exigencies of the government amount to not less than ten millions. The Bank, which had paid to the government a bonus of 1,500,000 dollars for the privilege of being the depository of the public funds, cried out loudly against this measure, and with good reason, for no one denies, that no institution in the union is better able to meet all its liabilities. It has reduced its discounts, first, because the removal of the public deposits has diminished the amount of specie in its vaults, and also, as it declares, whether right or wrong, because its very existence being threatened by the President’s veto, it is prudent to restrain the sphere of its operations, and to prepare in time for the final settlement of its concerns. As this institution takes the lead in the financial world, the other banks, even those to which the public deposits have been transferred, have been obliged, in their turn, to restrict their operations. Not only are they afraid to extend their discounts in proportion to the amount of these deposits, but they are obliged to contract them, because they find themselves, as objects of the favour of government in this respect, in a state of hostility with the Bank of the United States, and it is necessary to be on their guard in the presence of so formidable an adversary. Thus are the sources of credit suddenly dried up. Now credit is the life-blood of the prosperity of the United States; without credit, the populous towns which are springing up on all sides, as if by magic, the opulent States, which, far away from the Atlantic and beyond the Alleghanies, stretch along the Ohio and the Mississippi, would become a solitary wilderness, savage forests or pathless swamps. The city of New York alone has twenty banks, the annual average discounts of which, during the last eight years, have amounted to one hundred millions. At Paris, where the transactions are certainly more extensive than in New York, the discounts of the Bank of France, in 1831, amounted to 223 million francs, and in 1832 to 151 millions. Ref008 The amount of the discounts of the Philadelphia banks, in 1831, was 150 millions. A general shock to credit, however transient, is here more terrible than the most frightful earthquake.

If I did not fear to lengthen out this letter beyond measure, I would give some details concerning the struggle between the two parties, concerning their tactics and their measures in Congress and out of it, concerning Mr Clay’s speeches and General Jackson’s home thrusts. But I think it more important at present, to call your attention to the part which the Bank of the United States has played since its establishment, and to the causes which stirred up against it that mass of hatred and distrust, from which General Jackson derives confidence in his measures. For it is not merely his own dislike that he gratifies; from the last elections, which in almost all the States are based on universal suffrage, it is plain that the numerical majority of the population is, at this moment, opposed to the Bank.

The Americans had already used and abused systems of credit while under the English rule. As soon as they had achieved their independence, they became bolder in their enterprises, more sanguine, or, if you please, more rash in their speculations. They stood in great need of credit; the number of banks was multiplied, and many abuses crept in. The State legislatures made no difficulty in granting bank-charters to whoever asked for them, and in this respect they have not changed their practice. If they imposed some restraints, they had no means of ascertaining or securing their strict observance. The banks, therefore, often issued an amount of bills wholly disproportionate to their real capital, not merely twice or thrice, but ten times the value of their specie and other means. The originators of the bank often chose themselves directors, and discounted no paper but their own, or rather they lent to themselves the whole circulation of the bank, on the bare deposit of the bank shares. This was an ingenious process to enable whoever pleased to coin current money, without ingots of gold or silver. The mismanagement of these banking companies has sometimes been such, that instances have occurred where the officers of the bank have, on their own authority, opened a credit for themselves, and generally admitted their friends to share in the privilege. Thus it was discovered, that the cashier of the City Bank in Baltimore had lent himself 166,548 dollars, and had made loans to one of his friends to the amount of 185,382 dollars; all the other officers had taken the same liberty, with the exception of one clerk and the porter.

The banks abusing the privilege of issuing bills, that is to say of making loans, individuals abused the privilege of borrowing; hence mad speculations, and consequently losses by the lender and borrower. The banks cloaked theirs by new issues of paper, individuals theirs by new loans; but there were many failures of speculators, and some of banks. The latter excited the public indignation without reforming any one. The honest and moderate working classes, the farmers Ref009