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Title: Robert Peel Dawson, Montreal to his parents.
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FilePeel Dawson, Robert/129
SenderPeel Dawson, Robert
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationarmy officer
Sender ReligionProtestant
OriginMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Recipient Gendermale-female
SourceT 850/1: Obtained from Mrs Brackenbury, Moyola Park, Castledawson, Co. Londonderry.
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland.
Doc. No.8950016
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by JM 25:10:1993.
Word Count2245
TranscriptMontreal, June 29th, 1839
My dearest Parents,
I have to continue the account of my Tour from New York. I told you
in my last letter of my arrival at that Town with Capt. Jodrell & of the
very favourable impression I had received of it. The more I saw the greater
was my satisfaction. The streets are regularly built & well lighted. The
Broadway is six miles in length and though not wider than Oxford Street is
more imposing on account of its many handsome buildings. We remained at
different periods, six days in New York. We passed through Richmond to
Philadelphia & travelled through the States of New Jersey & Pennsylvania
& stopped at Jersey City, at which place nearly the whole of the United
States Army is collected, (except the portion of it engaged on the Canada
Frontier & in the Florida War against the Indians). The streets in
Philadelphia are lined on both sides with trees & may be termed Boulevards.
It is a most beautiful and interesting town & not being a commercial one, is
a place of residence. From thence we travelled by steamboat and railroad to
Baltimore & Wilmington. The latter is the principal town in the Delaware
States. The cars passed over two very long bridges more than a mile in
length, one over the River Susquehanna, the other over an arm of the
Chesaspeake Bay. The City of Baltimore is very flourishing & considered
the third in point of importance in the Union. It has latterly increased
much in size & its situation renders it well adapted for shipping & every
species of commerce. There are in this City two very handsome monuments
commemorating alas - two Victories gained by their Army over ours. From the
top of Washington Monument a splended [splendid?] view of the City,
surrounding country & Fort Henry is obtained. The next place we went to was
Washington, the seat of General Government & the residence of the President &
other official persons. This City contains the finest building in the States
(The Capitol) where Congress is held, & worthy of the great people whose
affairs are transacted & settled under its roof. It is built of white free
stone, is situated on a commanding eminence, has two wings & is surrounded by
a Balustrade of stone and is covered with a lofty dome in the centre & a flat
dome on each Wing. The President's House is also worth seeing and
notwithstanding his greatness, though anxious to keep the public out of it, he
has no power to do so. He is obliged during two hours of the day, to receive
every person who desires to see him. The house belongs to the Government &
every one claims a right to enter it & to remind him that he serves them,
not they him. I called upon Mr. Hudson, the attache to the English
Embassy, whom you know, & who you recollect was sent to my Uncle when he was
at Rome & required to form the Government in England. He was very glad to
see me again and wished me very much to remain longer in Washington, but we
had not time & though Washington is called the Metropolis of the States,
it is not to be compared to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore or Boston.
Richmond, the chief town in Virginia, 112 miles from Washington, was our
next object.
We passed by Washington's Villa (Mount Vernon) and his Tomb & next
through the important towns of Alexandria & Fredericksburg. Richmond we
found a very interesting town, situated on the James River and unlike any we
had previously seen. It is not regularly laid out in streets, but every
house seems to be that of a gentleman and has a garden & grounds attached to
it. The weather was intolerably hot, and had it been my first summer in this
sultry climate, I should have been unable to endure the heat of Richmond.
It is 352 miles south of New York & the inhabitants thought that the heat of
this year exceeded that of many of the preceding ones. The State of
Virginia was quite a new world to me. It contains 200,000 slaves and the
climate being nearly similar to that of the West Indies, we found ourselves
amongst Sugar Plantations, Cotton & Tobacco Fields. The Virginia Tobacco was
the first which appeared in Europe and was introduced there by Sir Walter
Raleigh. Our kind friend, General Peyton, whom I mentioned in my last
letter, resides at Richmond, & I cannot express my gratitude for the
hospitality & attention we received from him. The night of our arrival he
gave a large party for us, we had therefore an opportunity of judging of an
American assembly, which though less civilized than our own, is yet most
unjustly caricatured & ridiculed by Mrs Trollope & other English writers.
The great object of this part of the country is the Natural Bridge
170 miles west of Richmond & across the most beautiful part of Virginia,
which is called The Garden of the United States. The journey by stage was
very fatiguing, we were not in bed for four nights & the badness of the
roads & extreme heat of the weather added to our annoyances. During twenty
four hours I was in a Coach with fourteen people & wedged in between two
black slaves who were chewing tobacco the whole time. The closeness of the
vehicle & the disagreeable effluvia which proceeded from my neighbours made
me feel very sick, but I was repaid for all my discomforts when we arrived
at the Bridge. After Niagara the Natural Bridge is the greatest Wonder in
America. It is 171 miles west of Richmond in the state of Virginia. It is
over Cedar Creek, which River runs through the chasm in the hill, which at
the summit is ninety feet wide. The Chasm is 200 feet deep and the Bridge
over it is formed by a huge rock spreading directly across. The rock is
sixty feet broad and is covered with shrubs and trees. The sides are
perpendicular, with the exception of the Arch, which is perfect. On one side
is a rock very much resembling in shape an Eagle with its wings spread,
which the Americans proudly point out as emblematical of their greatness.
Their flag, you are aware, is composed of thirteen stars and an Eagle. We
were much delighted with the Natural Bridge & are at present the only two
Officers in the Regiment who have visited it. Its distance from New York is
523 miles & the shortness of our leave of absence obliged us from thence to
retrace our steps. We returned by Washington, Baltimore & Philadelphia left
Richmond at four o'clock p.m. and arrive at New York the next night at
eleven, having travelled 352 miles in 19 hours. As long as you keep in
direct routes, the travelling in America surpasses in rapidity that of any
other part of the World. Their railroads exceed ours in their number and
celerity, but we greatly excel them in Country Roads. We remained again
two days at New York & were again struck with its magnificence. In size it
is of course very inferior to London, but some years hence (not in my time
certainly) it may rival that great metropolis, its inhabitants are so rich &
enterprising that the Star of its greatness is constantly on the rise.
Boston after New York is the finest town in the Union. Its situation &
public buildings are very imposing. It is situated on a Harbour containing
750 square miles and nearly 100 Islands. This town first gave rise to the
Revolutionary War and part of the City is built on Bread & Bunkers Hills,
scenes of two bloody and important conflicts. Boston is purely a Yankee
town. The term Yankee is used by the Americans as frequently as by us and is
considered anything but honourable, those residents north of the Potomac
River are considered of this tribe. The Americans of the North yield in
civilisation to those of the South, & the farther you proceed from the sea
coast (where European communication exists) the more offensive you find the
manners of the inhabitants. The best of everything is to be found at New
York & even in society you might almost be led to forget that you are not in
your own civilized country. The men are so commercial in their habits &
everything succumbs so entirely to their profession that almost nearly
every word they utter refers to a money term, & cents and dollars appear to
be the foundation of their language & the origin of all their ideas. They
neglect the learned Professions, their troops are slovenly, ill looking &
ill disciplined, indeed with their principles of equality, they could not
keep up a large standing Army. We went over the Washington Camp of Instruction,
and certainly no set of men were ever more deficient in Military
Knowledge & Manoeuvre. They could not, I am sure, prevent the present
garrison of Montreal bivouacking at Washington as the English Troops did in
1814. Their Navy is more attended to, but this too they consider of second
rate importance. They are merchants, wholly merchants & nothing but
merchants. They are very inquisitive and are uneasy till they have
acquainted themselves with your name & occupation. We received, however,
nothing but civility and the hospitality & kindness of the individual I have
before named (General Peyton) is deeply engraved on my mind. The Americans
are certainly jealous of England, but more from emulation than dislike, and
excepting on the Frontiers they seem very desirous of an interchange of
goodwill & friendship. The men dress quietly & excepting for the abominable
practice of wearing their hair long & falling over the shoulders, look like
gentlemen, in feature they resemble the English. The faces of the women are
beautiful, the figures are too thin & pointed. They have, however, the
Southern eye & hair, which render their appearance so fascinating & the
bright & transparent English complexion & the laughing gay countenance of
the French.
The following is the Table of Distances we travelled by steamboat,
Railroad, Stage & private Carriage -
Montreal to New York 398 Miles
New York to Philadelphia 85 Miles
Philadelphia to Baltimore 115 Miles
Baltimore to Washington 40 Miles
Washington to Richmond 112 Miles
Richmond to Natural Bridge 171 Miles
Bridge to Washington 262 Miles
Washington to New York 240 Miles
New York to Boston 237 1/2 Miles
Boston to N.Y. [New York?] 237 1/2 Miles
N.Y. to Montreal by Troy 426 Miles
etc. etc. --------------
2,324 Miles
Staying at the following places:-
New York 6 Days
Philadelphia 1
Baltimore 1
Washington half
Richmond 1
Boston 1
10 days & half
We left Montreal June 3rd 1859 at 9 a.m., returned June 25th at
11 a.m. having travelled in that time two thousand three hundred & twenty
four miles.
The following are the chief towns we visited :- New York, Philadelphia,
Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Boston, Providence, Alexandria,
Fredericksburgh, Troy, Albany, Saratoga, Jersey City, Wilmington,
Burlington, Stonington & Trenton.
States we visited New York
Rhode Island
New Jersey
Maryland )
Virginia ) Slave Territories.
District of Columbia )
Rivers:- Hudson, East Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac, James, Richlieu.
Mountains:-The Blue Ridge, & we saw though we did not cross the Alleghenies.
Lakes & Bays:- Lake Champlain, George, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay,
Massachussetts Bay.
Great Curiosity:- The Natural Bridge in Virginia.
The whole trip cost me fifty pounds, with the exception of half a crown.
Travelling is very expensive, at the hotels there is a regular charge for
boarding which it is impossible to reduce. I am thinner and lighter than I
have been for years, but in health I was never better, & I shall during life
rejoice that I had an opportunity of making this interesting & I hope useful
Tour in the United States. The impression I formed of the happiness &
comforts of the Black Population is strongly in favour of the present
system. They appear with very few exceptions, contented, they are well
treated & fed & every married man has a house & the best surgical attendance
provided for himself & family. It is curious that so large a portion of
the United States act so completely in opposition to their ideas of
universal freedom & equality. I could not possibly have found a pleasanter
companion to travel with than Jodrell. At New York I read with great anxiety
the whole account of the late Ministerial Embarras in England & think my
Uncle perfectly justified in refusing to take Office without the proofs he
required of her Majesty's confidence & support. The frightful accounts of
disturbances in manufacturing districts annoyed me much. Surely all the
Guards ought at this moment to be in England to protect the Constitution
& to Guard our Queen. What a horrid history you have sent me of the effects
of the storm at Castledawson on the sixth of January. What a dreadful, what
an irreparable loss!! Those lovely limes - those stately oaks. The subject is
annoying to dwell upon.
Give my very best love to my brothers & believe me, every my dearest
dearest Parents,
Your most affectionate Son,
Robert Peel Dawson