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Map of the United States
VOYAGE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC.-LANDING AT NEW YORK.
AFTER travelling through almost the whole of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as through a considerable part of Holland, France, Switzerland, and Italy, I determined to cross the Atlantic, and visit the United States, a country which I was particularly desirous of being personally acquainted with, as the descriptions I had read of it seemed to abound in contradictions.
Accordingly, towards the end of the summer of 1822, I set out from Gravesend, on board a fine American ship of 350 tons. After touching at the Isle of Wight, to take in some extra provisions, and two or three passengers, we stood out to sea with a favourable breeze, and bade adieu to England.
Nothing can well be more disagreeable to landsmen than the beginning of a sea voyage.
Want of room, of exercise, and of occupation, added to the sickness that Neptune imposes on them as a kind of tribute, all combine to depress their spirits. I really think Dr. Johnson has drawn too favourable a picture of the life one leads on board a ship, when he merely says, that it is “ being in prison with the chance of being drowned.” However,
there is one resource against ennui, and that is reading; a pleasure which I was enabled to obtain from the large stock of books which the passengers bad with them.
I recollect particularly that one of them lent me an old black-letter translation, by Richard Eden, of the “Decades of the Ocean," written by Peter Martyr, of Angleria. This is a history of the voyage of Columbus, and of the subsequent voyages made by the Spaniards down to the year 1520. I was much diverted with the manner in which the author tries to account for the opposition the ships met with from the Gulph Stream. He says that the earth is shaped like a pear, and that the water running down from the thick part towards the point, causes this terrible current : so that (to use the Admiral's own words) the ships seemed at times to be sailing up hill. In reading this work I felt my admiration for the courage of Columbus tenfold increased; for it appears that the fleet in which he set sail to discover a western continent, consisted only of one vessel with a deck, and two small ones without decks.
This curious work is dedicated by the translator to Philip and Mary, of whom he humbly requests as a favour, that they will be pleased to cure the nation of the intolerable disease of heresy.
In addition to our crew, we had on board several “Consul’s men,” as they are called. An American seaman, if in distress in a foreign country, has
only to inform his Consul that he wishes to return home; and is immediately sent on board some American vessel, returning to the United States. The government allows ten dollars for his passage ; and at that price every vessel is obliged to take a certain number of these men. By this excellent policy the seamen of the United States are not obliged to enter into the service of foreigners.
I like talking to sailors :—though a rough, unpolished set of beings, they have for the most part seen so much of the world, and been in so many different countries, that a great deal of amusement, and sometimes of information, may be gained from them. One of our crew, born in England, was taken prisoner with Mariner, by the Indians of the Tonga Islands, at the time when they seized the vessel, and massacred the crew. He was then a boy, and therefore his life was spared. The natives tattooed him all over the arms, legs, and breast; and he told me, that it was with great difficulty, and only by coaxing one of the chiefs, that he hindered them from performing the same operation on his face: for although considered very unfashionable by his naked Indian friends, yet he did not think it would much improve his appearance, to have a picture of the sun and moon delineated on his forehead with a tattooing instrument. One of the chiefs adopted bim; and taught him, among other polite branches of Indian education, to use the bow and the spear, to fish, and to make a
A British vessel, which touched at the island, took him away, after he had been there seven years and some months. But on his return home his father and mother were dead, and he found himself without a friend. “I wished to return," said he, “and I will return if ever I can; for I led a much happier life among the savage Indians than I have ever done among the civilized whites."
One morning a sailor told me he could lend me a volume of the Waverley novels, and spoke of some of the personages mentioned in these books, in a manner which showed how completely he entered into the spirit of them. Upon inquiry I found he was from Connecticut, one of the New England states, which produce not only the best sailors in America, but also contain a greater number of well-educated people than any country in the world.
During my voyage I was astonished at the immense distance from land at which I saw those little birds the Stormy Petrels, vulgarly called Mother Cary's Chickens. We had some of them with us every day, and that at times when we were not less than seven or eight hundred miles from the nearest land. The sailors, not being great naturalists, affirmed most positively, that these birds never went on shore, but that, seated on the water, they hatch their eggs under their wings; and when I inquired how the birds con