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HAVING been for some years extensively engaged in the American Trade, I visited the United States with -commercial views, at the close of 1819, and remained sixteen months on the other side of the Atlantic.
In the course of that time, I travelled nearly 8000 miles, comprehending in my route, the States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Upper and Lower Canada.
Being much interested with the objects which I saw, and the society with which I mingled,
in the course of my Tour, I communicated
my impressions, from time to time, to the different members of my domestic circle, in all the confidence and careless freedom of unreserved and intimate correspondence. On my return home, I found that
letters had been preserved and collected, in order to be copied, if I should give permission. On looking them over, I was induced to believe, that those on the subject of emigration, contained some particulars which might be useful at that time, when so many persons were leaving their country to seek subsistence in the Western wilds; and under this impression, I sent three or four letters to a respectable periodical publication, in which they were inserted, and, agreeably to my express injunction, without my name.
A faint hope, that a few sketches of the state of society in the United States, and especially of the best society, might contribute to dissipate those prejudices, with respect to America, which I observed with much regret
to prevail in Great Britain ;
and might possibly tend, in some degree, to induce
better tone of feeling between the two countries, led me, at a later period, to transmit several more to the same periodical work.When the series was completed, I received solicitations, from different quarters, to republish them in a separate volume; but an unwillingness to appear in a character so foreign to my ordinary avocations, and a reluctance, without the prospect of greater utility than I could venture to anticipate, to sacrifice so much of the scanty leisure of an active life as would be absorbed in preparation for the press, determined me to decline it. I was confirmed in my decision by the conviction that much of the interest with which some of my friends had perused the original letters, was derived from the near view of the interior structure of American society, presented to them by minute delineations and little details of the social and domestic circle, which, however proper for a familiar letter, could
not be exhibited to the public, consistently with that delicate regard to private feeling which I was most solicitous to observe.
Early in the present year, however, I found that those letters which had appeared anonymously in the periodical work, to which I have alluded, had been republished in America, in à very imperfect form, with my name, and with some little additions or omissions, which, while they did not materially alter their sense, imparted to them, in one or two instances, a tone and spirit which I should be unwilling to adopt.
And as I had received an intimation from the London booksellers, whose application to reprint my Letters, I had declined, that if they should appear in America, they might be republished from the American copy, without my permission, and with my name, I resolved immediately to prevent such an imperfect publication; and of two evils, to choose the least—that of publishing them myself.
I immediately began to revise them, amidst numerous interruptions of the little leisure which I could command, (leisure much curtailed by long and unavoidable absence from home,) and I have added to them a few notes, which are extracted principally from the blank leaves of my manuscript copy, into which I had transcribed any particulars which struck me in the course of my reading, as calculated to illustrate the principal subjects which had interested me in America.
Under these circumstances, the following Work is presented to the public; and had I had the remotest idea, that the communications of private friendship would ever meet the public eye, I would have endeavoured, by a collection of more minute details, on many subjects of general interest, to send it forth with less slender pretensions to public approbation.
For botanical or mineralogical researches, I had neither leisure nor information; and although I contemplated with the most