Emigration to America
[ From the Observer. ]
The following letter from a lady who emigrated to America, from within four miles of Godalming, in Surrey, two years back, has been handed to us for insertion. During the present rage for emigration, we think we are justified in giving it insertion, leaving it to those who are interested in its contents to draw their own con clusions. We have reason to conclude that the letter is genuine, and is not, we believe, as many have been which have found their way into the public press, the produce of ingenuity on this side the Atlantic: –
Philadelphia, July 29. 1818
“My dear Sir – I have received your welcome letter, together with the patterns you were kind enough to forward Although our habits here are in many respects different from those on your side of the Atlantic, yet, I assure, there is a considerable degree of anxiety among our American belles for English fasions ; and the display which your prompt attention to my request has enabled me to make, has procured me not alone a great influx of visitors, but of business. You ask me to give you my candid opinion of the policy of removing hither with your wife and family. I can have no hesitation in complying with this request ; but, at the same time, I shrink from the responsibility of your being persuade, from any things which I may say, to follow my example. It is impossible to disguise from myself, and I would not attempt to disguise it from you, that many who have come here, anticipating prosperity and independence, have failed ; but, at the same time, as far as my humble observation has enabled me to judge, I am persuaded that many of those failures have been the result of unpardonable imprudence, and the absence of that activity and spirit of perseverance, by which persons depending on their own exertions can alone expect to succeed. I have seen many individuals here reduced to very melancholy straits from having left their native shores thoughtlessly, without more money than was sufficient to support them for a fortnight. –. This has been dissipated, on their landing, almost before they had recovered the effects of a long and fatiguing voyage ; and being thus reduced to extremity, their spirits have failed, and they have at once sunk into a state of apathy and listless despair. Those who have labouring and mechanic trades to follow, and will sumbit to degradation, as some of them call it, of becoming journeymen, do tolerably well.
“With regards to myself, I need not recall to your mind the species of drudgery to which I was forced to submit, in order to support a decent appearance in London. You often joked me on my enterprising disposition, and doubted my resolution to come to this country in search of that independence which I foresaw I could never obtain at home. Here I am, however, and an hour since I had the pleasure of paying 30 work women, the lowest of whose weekly wages, I those who take their work home, is five dollars! You will start at this and so will Mrs B. It is, however, no less true than extraordinary. In short I have every reason to be grateful to Providence for having given me the confidence to sufficient to try an experiment which has turned out so fortunately. I have commenced both millinery and dress-making, to which I have added the childbed and ready made linen business ; and in every one of branches I am full of orders. My most sanguine hopes have been realized. My capital at the beginning was exactly 1.60 Sterling and a few of those articles of stock which were necessary to make a show. These, combined with the attractive titled of ” Miss P–, from London,’&c. in a few weeks set me afloat in a surprising manner. I did my utmost to please my customers, and, in a few months, moved from a situation of obscurity to one of the first respectability. I am thus particular because I know you feel an interest in my fate. My brother James, who you know is a bricklayer and builder, has been equally fortunate.– He has had several contracts, and is now building a row of twenty houses, besides other jobs of a smaller description.
“Of the other fiften persons who accompanied us from Godalmbing and its neighbourhood I am proud to say they have all been tolerably successful. The greater part of them, you know, were farmers, and they are now settled in farms of from fifty to five hundred acres, from one hundred to one thousand miles from this place. All these, hoever, came out with small capitals–but none with less than myself–and husbanding their resources, and abstaining from extravagance of every description, they finally successed in laying the foundation of their own future happiness.
We all have our own prejudices in favour of our old habits ; but this must wear off in the course of time?other there is a roughness and absence of what we call “good manners” about some of the Americans, not at all congenial to English taste. They are for the most part, however, hospitable ; and if you let them have their way, and do not thwart their humours, are really very kind, and disposed to friendly intercourse. You talk to carrying your family to the Western states–to the Illinois country, and of commencing farmer and storekeeping there. It is probably that your views may be very correct, but I think you may settle nearer to us, if not at so cheap a rate, at best with a greater certainty of present comfort. Of the Western States, I, of course, can know nothing but by report. The emigration in that direction has been immense, but the journey to some has been so long, as frequently to produce repentance before the destined goal was reached. We have had several English, Scotch, and Irish families here, on the way to Pittsburgh, who, I understand, were bound for Mr Birkbeck’s settlement ; but I have not heard of their arrival. The greater part have gone down the Ohio in arks, which you say you have seen described in Birkbeck’s books. No doubt these people must have to encounter great privations, and perhaps some danger ; time and perseverance, however,will overcome all difficulties, and from the natural course of things, in the end the great object in view, plenty and independence, must be attained ; and this as you very justly say, is “worth a struggle.” Upon the whole, if you can be content to give up all those luxuries of which an English fireside is the scene ; to abandon the habits of social intercourse to which an English neighbourhood give encouragement ; and to derive happiness from the consciousness of seeing yourself surrounded by an abundance of the necessaries of life alone ; you cannot fail of success. I agree with you, that a vast deal of the pleasure of England are counterbalanced by the castant visitation of the tax-gathered. From these, at least you will be free here ; and as for society, your own family, large as it is, must be a treasure in itself ; added to which, in proportion as wealth increases, civilisation must follow. If you could get three or four families with whom you are acquainted, to join in your plans and settle in your neighbourhood, an additional assuance of success and happiness would be attained.
“As to capital, I think you ought to hav, on your landing here, L. 500, which, with moderate exertions and common good fortune, must afford yo uthe means of certain prosperity. I shall, however, write again in September on this subject, when I intend sending for my sister, and perhaps the information I may be able to collect in the interim will confirm your plans, and induce you to accompany her to this side of the water. I rather think we shall shortly have another cargo from Surrey ; I will let you know every particular in my next, as well as send you a list of the things, which it will be policy for you to bring with you. Your seven children, instead of being a burden to you here, will form one of the most prominent sources of your wealth.”
Citation: Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 15 February 1819, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/157.