Emigration to America.
[ Extracted from No.15 of Cobbet’s Register, published on Saturday, 12th instant ].
Cobbett’s arrival in America,&c.
On Wednesday evening, the 27th March, we embarked on board the Importer, D. Ogden, master, bound to New York, where we arrived on the 5th of May, with about 40 steerage passengers, farmers, and tradesmen, who were fleeing from ruin and starvation. In all respects that can be named our passage disagreeable, and upon one occasion very perilous, from lightning, which struck the ship twice, shivered two of the masts, killed a man, struck several people slightly, between two of whom I was sitting, without at all feeling the blow.
Some of our fellow-passengers have found great disappointment ; and, it is stated in some of the public papers here, that many hundreds have, during the last year, accepted of the offer of our Consul at New York to go and settle in Canada. You know that I have never advised any body to emigrate. I have always said that it is no place for manufacturers ; no place for men to live without work ; no place for a farmer who does not work himself ; no place in short, for any one who is not able and willing to work at the ordinary sorts of work ; but for such men there is every where a plentiful, happy, and easy life. None should come, however, who have any views of idleness ; and even for the industrious poor, I see no reason why they should expend their last shilling, and undergo all the miseries and dangers of a sea voyage, in order to save those who eat the taxes the expence of their share of poor-rates ; a man and his wife and a child or two cannot come under the expence of 35 guineas, at least. A single man 20 guineas, before he gets into work again ; and, as I always said, I never would, if I were in the place of such a man, expend my earnings on a sea voyage, and endure all its hardships, in order to remove one eye sore out of the way of corruption. Besides, there is the climate, which is not so good as ours, though it is not bad, and people often live to an old age. The country is good, but it will easily be conceived, that new face, an entire new scene, a separation from every friend, work done in a quite different way from it is in England ; it will easily be conceived, that all this makes such a dislocation in a man’s mind as to make him very unhappy for a while. Then, he cannot expect to find work the first day. He must ask first, at any rate. Englishmen are sheepish ; and, they are sure to find rascals enough here to foster their disgust, merely for the sake of serving the cause of corruption at home. In short, I advice nobody to emigrate, but I will truly describe the country and the people. As to emigrating with a view of settling and farming in the new countries, it is neither more nor less than downright madness. It is what our English farmers know nothing at all about ; it is what they are not at all fit for ; and the far greater part of all such speculations end in disappointment, if not in ruin and premature death. I hope that our beloved country will shortly be fit for an honest and industrious man to live in ; but if any farmers come with money in their pockets, my advice is, not to give way either to enthusiastic admiration, or to instant disgust. But, to stop a little ; to look about them ; to see not only after good land, but a good market for its products. The western romance writers tell us, that the land in the Ohio is too good ; but Mr Mellish, in his valuable book, tells us, that beef and pork sell for three halfpence a pound. An excellent country for people who want to do nothing but eat. – Give me Long Island, where the land is not too good ; but where beef and pork sell for about eightpence a pound (I speak of English money); where good hay sells for five pounts a ton ; and where there is a ready market for every species of produce. One thing above all ; if an English farmer (I mean by English, people of the whole of the United Kingdom) comes here, with money in his pocket, let him resolve to keep it there for a year, and then he will be sure to do well. – All that I see around me here is well calculated to attract the attention and to please the sight of one, like myself, brought up in the country, always greatly delighted with, and somewhat skilled in, various pleasing and healthful pursuits. The The people are engaged busily in planting their Indian corn. The cherry trees, of which there are multitudes, planted in long avenues or rows, or round the fields, have dropped their blossom and begin to show their loads of fruit. The apple and pear orchards, in extent from one to twenty acres on each farm, are in full and beautiful bloom. The farms are small in extent ; no appearance of want amongst the labourers, who receive, in the country, about two shillings and threepence (our money) a-day, with board and lodging, and which board consists of plenty of excellent meat and fish of all sorts, the best of bread, butter, cheese, and eggs. That you may form some idea as to prices of living, I will state a few facts, which have already come within my own knowledge. We are at present at an inn, thirteen miles from New York. It is on the road to that city. Scarcely an hour in the day passes without a carriage of some sort offering for going thither, and to go by the regular stage costs three shillings. Mind, I shall always speak in English money, when I do not speak of dollars. We lodge and board in this inn, have each a bed-room and good bed, have a room to sit in ourselves ; we eat by ourselves ; and it really is eating. – We have smoked fish, chops, butter, and eggs, for breakfast, with bread (the very finest I ever sa), crackers, sweet cakes ; and when I say that we have such and such things, I do not mean that we get them for show, or just enough to smell to ; but in loads. Not an egg, but a dish full of eggs. Not a snip of meat or of fish ; but a plateful. Lump sugar for our tea and coffee ; not broke into little bits the size of a hazle nut, but in good thumping pieces. For dinner, we have the finest of fish, bass, mackerel, lobsters ; of meat, lamb, veal, ham &c. ; asparagus in plenty ; apple pieces (through in the middle of May). The supper is like the breakfast, with preserved peaches and other things. And with all this an excellent cyder to drink, with the kindest and most obliging treatment, on the part of the landlord and landlady, and their sons and daughters, we pay no more than 22s. 6d. a week each. In England the same food and drink and lodging at an inn would cost us nearly the same sum every day. But there are two things which no money can purchase any where. The first is, no grumbling on the part of the landlady, except on account of our eating and drinking too little ; and the other is, that Mr Wiggins has no fastening but a bit of chip run in over the latch of the door, to a house which is full of valuable things of all sorts, and about which we leave all our things much more carelessly than we should do in our own house in any part of England. Here, then are we able to live at an inn, one of the most respectable in the whole country, at the rate of fifty pounds a year, while the pay of a common farming man is not much short of that sum.
Citation: Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 21 July 1817, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/121.