Friday, September 2, 2016

Boston 1825

Excerpts from Travels Through North America by His Highness Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach ©1827

The chapter on Boston, is 15 pages single spaced. Below are just snippets I found interesting, in part because these were the items that stuck out to the author.

On dining
. I dined at the inn at two o'clock, according to the custom of the place; my seat was at the head of the table, by the side of the host, Mr. Hamilton. He had served in the last war as a volunteer colonel, and still retained his title. He exhibited much politeness, and indeed I cannot sufficiently praise the politeness of the guests, with many of whom I became acquainted. The dishes were very good, and even had this not been the case I should still have enjoyed them, having so long been without fresh provisions; this was the case with the fruit, which though small and bad, was still agreeable. On account of the excessive heat, which had been greater than at any time during the last twenty years, fruit in general had matured too early. Wine was served up in coolers with ice, and into every glass of beer, a piece of ice was thrown.

Adjoining the large dining room is a parlour and two sitting rooms, where strangers who have nothing to do pass the day. At a sideboard, wine, lemonade, soda water, &c. with ice, may be obtained. Eight newspapers were lying on a large table, all of which had the form of English papers, and were chiefly filled with mercantile and other advertisements. The house itself is arranged much like an English inn. The servants of both colours were civil and attentive. At four o'clock, Mr. Ritchie with his father-in-law, and the son of the latter, lately returned from a tour in Europe, came to show us the city.

Harvard University, one of the oldest colleges in the United States, was founded in 1638, by a clergyman named Harvard, who bequeathed it about eight hundred pounds sterling. By means of bequests made since that period, it has now a very large income. The state of Massachusetts supplies the deficiencies without however making any fixed contribution. The university has eight buildings, chiefly of brick, and only one of granite. The Unitarian chapel is in the latter, in which, besides the usual services on Sunday, morning and evening prayers are held, which all the students must attend. In front of the buildings is a large space, surrounded with trees, where the students may amuse themselves. The students are about three hundred and fifty in number, and principally board and lodge in the buildings of the university; a number, however, who cannot find room, or are recommended to families, live in private houses. They are in other respects, as in the universities of England, subjected to a very rigid discipline. The library, which occupies two halls, contains about eighteen thousand volumes. It contains the first edition of the large work on Egypt; a Polyglot bible from the collection of Lord Clarendon; a splendid edition of the Lusiad, by Camoens, with plates from the designs of Gerard, edited by the Marquis de Souza, and printed by Didot at Paris. Only two hundred and fifty copies of this edition were printed, and this copy was given to the university by the Marquis himself. Of manuscripts! saw but few, and these were Greek, which Mr. Everett bought at Constantinople during his travels, and another containing the aphorisms of Hippocrates, which an English schoolmaster copied with so much skill, that it appears to have been printed." In the mathematical lecture room I did not observe a very complete apparatus. They have also but few astronomical instruments, and in one observatory there are none. A new electrical machine with a glass globe had but lately arrived from England. The mineralogical collection is under obligations to Mr. Ritchie for most of its finest specimens, which he bought during his travels at Dresden, and presented to the university. A piece of basalt found under ground in this neighbourhood, bears some similarity to the profile of a human face. It is not known whether it be a hisus naturae or the work 'of human hands. Does this belong to the remains of an earlier race of men which has vanished from the earth, but which has, not without reason, been supposed by many to have once existed? The other natural collections of slight importance; there are no collections of insects and butterflies. I saw there also the antlers of two stags, which had become so completely entangled in fighting, that they could not be separated, and in this state they were killed. The chemical laboratory is arranged in a separate house, strongly resembling a chapel. 'The anatomical theatre has been removed for want of room, from Cambridge to Boston. In the former lecture room, however, there are still several handsome wax preparations made in Florence, among which are two fine full length figures, male and female. The latter represents a pregnant woman, and is separable. Near the chapel is the assembly room of the academical senate, where there are some very handsome engravings. I was surprised to find among these engravings the defence of Gibraltar, by Elliot, and one which represented Admiral Dewinter taken prisoner by Admiral Duncan. I gave the attendant who conducted us two dollars, and he seemed to be so much gratified by my generosity, that when we were in the chapel he whispered to the organist, who immediately played " God save the king," at which I was much surprised. We were escorted through the botanic garden by Professor Nuttall, an Englishman, who has made several scientific journeys in the western parts of the United States. Among the green-house plants I observed a strelitzia, which had been raised from seed in this country, and also a blooming and handsome Inua gloriosa, and a.Hedychium longifolium. The green-house and the garden are both small; in the latter I remarked no extraordinary shrubs or flowers, on the contrary, however, I saw many beetles, which "were new to me, with bright colours, and extremely beautiful butterflies. A son of President Adams is one of the students of the university, and also Mr. Jerome Bonaparte, a legitimate son of the former king of Westphalia, by his marriage with Miss Patterson of Baltimore, which marriage, as is well known, was dissolved by the Emperor Napoleon. This young man, who is about twenty years old, bears an excellent character.

Bunker Hill
We then went to Bunker's Hill, near Charlestown. The space is small, but of great importance in American history. Connected with the main land by a bridge, this field of battle lies on a small island and has two hills, the higher and most northern of which is called Bunker's Hill; the southern, Breed's Hill, commands Charlestown and the Boston Roads. In the year 1775, the Americans occupied this hill, and with their artillery, which was placed in a redoubt hastily thrown up, harassed the English garrison in Boston, and the fleet. On the morning sof the 17th of June, the English made a sally, left Boston, landed on a point east of the redoubt, where the Americans had left too weak a defence, formed their columns, whilst the artillery in Boston set Charlestown on fire, and attacked the redoubt. This was so well defended, that the English were twice obliged to retreat with very great loss. In one of these unsuccessful attacks, the English Major Pitcairn, who shortly before had commanded the English advance guard at the affair of Lexington, was shot by an American sharp shooter, who still lives, at the moment when he shouted to his soldiers not to be "afraid of these d---d rebels, which were nothing but a crowd of grasshoppers."

But the English received reinforcements, and renewed the attack. The Americans, on the contrary, had expended their ammunition, and the shot sent to them from Cambridge, the headquarters of General Lee, were too large for the calibre of their pieces. They could obtain no assistance, as an English man of war kept up a.fierce fire upon th£ bridge, the only means of communication with the main land. They determined, therefore, to evacuate the redoubt, and they effected it, though with great loss. At this time an English officer shot Dr. Warren, one of the most distinguished American patriots, who shortly before had been appointed general, by congress. The English did not pursue the Americans farther than Bunker's Hill, but returned during the night to Boston. The remains of the redoubt are still seen, and on the 17th of June last, the corner stone of a monument was laid, which is to be an obelisk two hundred and ten feet high. One hundred and thirty veterans were present at this ceremony, the last of the seventeen hundred Americans who had participated in this affair.

From Boston to Quincy
From Boston to Quincy there is a good turnpike road. It runs over some hills, on which the traveller sees a handsome panorama; behind him the city, on the left the bay, in front a well-cultivated region with handsome farms, on the right the Blue Hills. We passed by several neat farm-houses; the grounds are separatedby means of dry walls, the stones of which are partly hewn, aixl separated from each other, somewhat like those of Scotland. No old trees are found, because the first settlers very imprudently destroyed all the wood, and now it must be raised again with much trouble. Lombardy poplars, and plane trees are frequent. The inhabitants generally appear to be in good circumstances, at least the farmers seem to prosper, and the houses appear to great advantage, for instance, we remarked a common village blacksmith shop, which was built of massive granite. At the very neat village of Miltonbridge we passed over the river Neponset, which is navigable for small vessels.

End of excerpts

There are many other comments, buildings he describes, people he meet, etc. all of it leads to a great bird's eye view of a visitor to Boston in 1825.

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