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State Nicknames

New York is the Empire State, and with the following comprises Yankee land, which word Yankee is most properly a corruption of Yengeese, the old Indian word for English; so that, by parity of reasoning, John Bull is, after all, a Yankee.

Massachusetts The Bay State, Steady Habits.
Rhode Island Plantation State.
Vermont Banner State, or Green Mountain Boys.
New Hampshire The Granite State.
Connecticut Freestone State.
Maine Lumber State.

These are the Yankees, par excellence; and it is not polite or even civil for a traveler to consider or mention any of the other States as laboring under the idea that they ever could, by any possibility, be considered as Yankees; for, in the South, the word Yankee is almost equivalent to a tin peddler, a sharp, Sam Slick.

Pennsylvania          is The Keystone State.
New Jersey The Jersey (pronounced Jar-say) Blues.
Delaware Little Delaware.
Maryland Monumental.
Virginia The Old Dominion, and sometimes the Cavaliers.
North Carolina Rip Van Winckle.
South Carolina The Palmetto State.
Georgia Pine State.
Ohio The Buckeyes.
Kentucky The Corncrackers.
Alabama Alabama.
Tennessee The Lion's Den.
Missouri The Pukes.
Illinois The Suckers.
Indiana The Hoosiers.
Michigan The Wolverines.
Arkansas The Toothpickers.
Louisiana The Creole State.
Mississippi The Border Beagles.

I do not know what elegant names have been given to the Floridas, the Iowa, or any of the other territories, but no doubt they are equally significant. Texas, I suppose, will be called Annexation State.

This information, although it appears frivolous, is very useful, as without it much of the perpetual war of politics in the States cannot be understood. Yankee in Europe is a sort of byword, denoting repudiation and all sorts of chicanery; but the Yankee States are more English, more intellectual, and more enterprising than all the rest put together; and Pennsylvania should be enrolled among them.

In short, in the north-east you have the cool, calculating, confident, and persevering Yankee; in the south, the fiery, somewhat aristocratic, bold, and uncompromising American, full of talent, but with his energies a little slackened by his proximity to the equator and his habitual use of slave assistance.

In the central States, all is progressive; a more agricultural population of mixed races, as energetic as the Yankee, but not possessing his advantages of a seaboard. The Western States are the pioneers of civilization, and have a dauntless, less educated, and more turbulent character, approaching, as you draw towards the setting sun, very much to the half-horse, half-alligator, and paving the way for the arts and sciences of Europe with the rifle and the axe.

It is these Western States and the vast laboring population of the seaboard, who have only their manual labor to maintain them, without property or without possessions of any kind, that control the legislature, their numerical strength beating and bearing down mind, matter, and wealth.

Doubtless it is the bane of the republican institution, as now settled in North America, that every man, woman, and child, in order to assert their equality, must meddle with matters far above the comprehension of a great majority; for, although the people of the United States can, as George the Third so piously wished for the people of England, read their bible, whenever they are inclined to do so, yet it is beyond possibility, as human nature is constituted, that all can be endowed with the same, or any thing like the same, faculties. Too much learning makes them mad; and hence the constant danger of disruption, from opposing interests, which the masses—for the word mob is not applicable here—must always enforce. The north and the south, the east and the west, are as dissimilar in habits, in thought, in action, and in interests, as Young Russia is from Old England, or as republican France was from the monarchy of Louis the Great.

Hence is it that a Canadian, residing, as it were, on the Neutral Ground, can so much better appreciate the tone of feeling in America, as the United States' people love to call their country, than an Englishman, Scotchman, or Irishman can; for here are visible the very springs that regulate the machinery, which are covered and hidden by the vast space of the Atlantic. You can form no idea of the American character by the merchants, traveling gentry, or diplomatists, who visit London and the sea-ports. You must have lengthened and daily opportunities of observing the people of a new country, where a new principle is working, before you can venture safely to pronounce an attempt even at judgment.

Monsieur Tocqueville, who is always lauded to the skies for his philosophic and truly extraordinary view of American policy and institutions, has perhaps been as impartial as most republican writers since the days of the enthusiast Volney, on the merits or demerits of the monarchical and democratic systems; yet his opinions are to be listened to very cautiously, for the leaven was well mixed in his own cake before it was matured for consumption by the public.

Weak and prejudiced minds receive the doctrines of a philosopher like Tocqueville as dictations: he pronounced ex cathedra his doctrines, and it is heresy to gainsay them. Yet, as an able writer in that universal book, "The Times," says, reason and history read a different sermon.

That democracy is an essential principle, and must sooner or later prevail amongst all people, is very analogous to the prophecy of Miller, that the material world is to be rolled up as a garment, and shriveled in the fire on the thirteenth day of some month next year, or the year after.

These fulminations are very semblable to those of the popes—harmless coruscations—a sort of aurora borealis, erratic and splendid, but very unreal and very unsearchable as to cause and effect.

There can be, however, very little doubt in the mind of a person whose intellects have been carefully developed, and who has used them quietly to reason on apparent conclusions, that the form of government in the United States has answered a purpose hitherto, and that a wise one; for the impatience of control which every new-comer from the Old World naturally feels, when he discovers that he has only escaped the dominion of long-established custom to fall under the more despotic dominion of new opinions, prompts him, if he differs, and he always naturally does, where so many opinions are suddenly brought to light and forced on his acquiescence, to move out of their sphere. Hence emigration westward is the result; and hence, for the same reasons, the old seaboard States, where the force of the laws operates more strongly than in the central regions, annually pour out to the western forests their masses of discontented citizens.

The feeling of old Daniel Boone and of Leather Stockings is a very natural one to a half-educated or a wholly uneducated man, and no doubt also many quiet and respectable people get harassed and tired of the caucusing and canvassing for political power, which is incessantly going on under the modern system of things in America, and take up their household gods to seek out the land flowing with milk and honey beyond the wilderness.

No person can imagine the constant turmoil of politics in the Northern States. The writer already quoted says, that there is "one singular proof of the general energy and capacity for business, which early habits of self-dependence have produced;—almost every American understands politics, takes a lively interest in them (though many abstain under discouragement or disgust from taking a practical part), and is familiar, not only with the affairs of his own township or county, but with those of the State or of the Union; almost every man reads about a dozen newspapers every day, and will talk to you for hours, (tant bien que mal) if you will listen to him, about the tariff and the Ashburton treaty."

And he continues by stating that this by no means interferes with his private affairs; on the contrary, he appears to have time for both, and can reconcile "the pursuits of a bustling politician and a steady man of business. Such a union is rarely found in England, and never on, the Continent."

But what is the result of such a union of versatile talent? Politics and dollars absorb all the time which might be used to advantage for the mental aggrandizement of the nation; and every petty pelting quidnunc considers himself as able as the President and all his cabinet, and not only plainly tells them so every hour, but forces them to act as he wills, not as wisdom wills. There is a Senate, it is true, where some of this popular fervor gets a little cooling occasionally: but, although there are doubtless many acute minds in power, and many great men in public situations, yet the majority of the people of intellect and of wealth in the United States keep aloof whilst this order of things remains: for, from the penny-postman and the city scavenger to the very President himself, the qualification for office is popular subserviency.

Thus, when Mr. Polk thunders from the Capitol, it is most likely not Mr. Polk's heart that utters such warlike notes of preparation, but Mr. Polk would never be re-elected, if he did not do as his rulers bid him do.

It may seem absurd enough, it is nevertheless true, that this political furor is carried into the most obscure walks of life, and the Americans themselves tell some good stories about it; while, at the same time, they constantly din your ears with "the destinies of the Great Republic," the absolute certainty of universal American dominion over the New World, and the rapid decay and downfall of the Old, which does not appear fitted to receive pure Democracy2. They tell a good story of a political courtship in the "New York Mercury," as decidedly one of the best things introduced in a late political campaign:—

"Inasmuch," says the editor, "as all the States hereabouts have concluded their labors in the presidential contest, we think we run no risk of upsetting the constitution, or treading upon the most fastidious toe in the universe, by affording our readers the same hearty laugh into which we were betrayed.

"Jonathan walks in, takes a seat and looks at Sukey; Sukey rakes up the fire, blows out the candle, and don't look at Jonathan. Jonathan hitches and wriggles about in his chair, and Sukey sits perfectly still. At length he musters courage and speaks—

"'Sewkey?'

"'Wall, Jon-nathan?'

"'I love you like pizan and sweetmeats?'

"'Dew tell.'

"'It's a fact and no mistake—wi—will—now—will you have me—Sew—ky?'

"'Jon—nathan Hig—gins, what am your politics?'

"'I'm for Polk, straight.'

"'Wall, sir, yew can walk straight to hum, cos I won't have nobody that ain't for Clay! that's a fact.'

"'Three cheers for the Mill Boy of the Slashes!' sung out Jonathan.

"'That's your sort,' says Sukey. 'When shall we be married, Jon—nathan?'

"'Soon's Clay's e—lect—ed.'

"'Ahem, ahem!'

"'What's the matter, Sukey?'

"'Sposing he ain't e—lect—ed?'

"We came away."

Verily, Monsieur De Tocqueville, you are in the right—democracy is an inherent principle.

But the train is progressing, and we are passing Lundy's Lane, or, as the Americans call it, "The Battle Ground," where a bloody fight between Democracy and Monarchy took place some thirty years ago, and where

"The bones, unburied on the naked plain,"
 

still are picked up by the grubbers after curiosities, and the very trees have the balls still sticking in them.

Here woman, that ministering angel in the hour of woe, performed a part in the drama which is worth relating, as the source from which I had the history is from the person who owed so much to her, and whose gallantry was so conspicuous.

Colonel Fitzgibbon, then in the 49th regiment, having inadvertently got into a position where his sword, peeping from under his great coat, immediately pointed him out as a British officer, was seized by two American soldiers, who had been drinking in the village public-house, and would either have been made prisoner or killed had not Mrs. Defield come to his rescue.

Mr. Fitzgibbon was a tall, powerful, muscular person, and his captors were a rifleman and an infantry soldier, each armed with the rifle and musket peculiar to their service. By a sudden effort, he seized the rifle of one and the musket of the other, and turned their muzzles from him; and so firm was his grasp, that, although unable to wrest the weapon from either of them, they could not change the position.

The rifleman, retaining his hold of his rifle with one hand, drew Mr. Fitzgibbon's sword with the other, and attempted to stab him in the side. Whilst watching his uplifted arm, with the intent, if possible, of receiving the thrust in his own arm, Mr. Fitzgibbon perceived the two hands of a woman suddenly clasp the rifleman's wrist, and carry it behind his back, when she and her sister wrenched the sword from him, and ran and hid it in the cellar.

Mrs. Defield was the wife of the keeper of the tavern where this officer happened to have arrived; an old man, named Johnson, then came forward, and with his assistance Mr. Fitzgibbon took the two soldiers prisoners, and carried them to the nearest guard, although at that moment an American detachment of 150 men was within a hundred yards of the place, hidden however from view by a few young pine-trees.

I am sure it will please the British reader to learn that the government granted 400 acres of the best land in the Talbot settlement to Edward Defield, for his wife's and sister-in-law's heroic conduct.

Yet, such is the influence of example upon unreflecting minds dwelling on the frontiers of Upper Canada, that although in most instances the settlers are in possession of farms originally free gifts from the Crown, yet many of their sons were in arms against that Crown in 1837. Among these misguided youths was a son of Defield's, who surrendered, with the brigands commanded by Von Schultz, in the windmill, near Prescott, in the winter of 1838. He had crossed over from Ogdensburgh, and was condemned to a traitor's death.

From Colonel Fitzgibbon's statement to the executive, this lad, in consideration of his mother's heroism, was pardoned. Mrs. Defield is still living.

The three horses en licorne trot us on, and we pass Lundy's Lane, Bloody Run, a little streamlet, whose waters were once dyed with gore, and so back to Niagara, where I shall take the liberty of saying a few words concerning the Welland Canal.

The Welland Canal, the most important in a commercial point of view of any on the American continent—until that of Tchuantessegue, in Mexico, which I was once, in 1825, deputed to survey and cut, is formed, or that other projected through San Juan de Nicaragua—was originally a mere job, or, as it was called, a job at both ends and a failure in the middle, until it passed into the hands of the local government. If there has been any job since, it has not been made public, and it is now a most efficient and well conducted work, through which a very great portion of the western trade finds its way, in despite of that magnificent vision of De Witt Clinton's, the Erie Canal; and when the Welland is navigable for the schooners and steamers of the great lakes, it will absorb the transit trade, as its mouth in Lake Erie is free from ice several weeks sooner than the harbor of Buffalo.

The old miserable wooden locks and bargeway have been converted into splendid stone walls and a ship navigation; and, to give some idea of the rising importance of the Welland Canal, I shall briefly state that the tolls in 1832 amounted to £2,432, in 1841 had risen to £20,210, and in 1843 to £25,573 3s. 1O-1/4d.: and when the works are fairly finished, which they nearly are, this will be trebled in the first year; for it has been carefully calculated that the gross amount which would have passed of tonnage of large sailing craft only on the lakes, in 1844, was 26,400 tons, out of which only 7,000 had before been able to use the locks.

All the sailing vessels now, with the exception of three or four, can pass freely; and three large steam propellers were built in 1844, whose aggregate tonnage amounted to 1,900 tons; they have commenced their regular trips as freight-vessels, for which they were constructed, and have been followed by the almost incredible use of Ericson's propeller.

To show the British reader the importance of this work, connecting, as it does, with the St. Lawrence and Rideau Canals, the Atlantic Ocean, and Lakes Superior and Michigan, I shall, although contrary to a determination made to give nothing in this work but the results of personal inspection or observation, use the scissors and paste for once, and thus place under view a table of all the articles which are carried through this main artery of Canada, by which both import and export trade may be viewed as in a mirror, and this too before the canal is fairly finished.

Welland Canal.

Amount of Property Passed Through, and Tolls Collected. 1844.

Beef and pork barrels, 41,976-1/4
Flour do. 305,208-1/2
Ashes do. 3,412
Beer and cider do. 50
Salt do. 213,212
Whiskey do. 931
Plaster do. 2,068-1/2
Fruit and nuts do. 470
Butter and lard do. 4,639-1/2
Seeds do. 1,429-1/2
Tallow do. 1,182
Water-lime do. 1,662
Pitch and tar do. 75
Fish do. 1,758-1/2
Oatmeal do. 132
Beeswax do. 36
Empty do. 3,044
Oil barrels, 96
Soap do. 13
Vinegar do. 24
Molasses do. 1
Caledonia water do. 10
Saw logs No. 10,411
Boards feet, 7,493,574

Welland Canal.

Amount of Property Passed Through, and Tolls Collected. 1844.

Square timber cubic feet, 490,525
Half flatted do. do. 13,922
Round do. do. 20,879
Staves, pipe do. 630,602
Do. W. I. do. 1,197,916
Do. flour barrel do. 130,500
Shingles do. 330,400
Rails do. 12,318
Racked hoops do. 59,300
Wheat bushels, 2,122,592
Corn do. 73,328
Barley do. 930
Rye do. 142
Oats do. 5,653
Potatoes do. 7,311
Peas do. 138
Butter and lard kegs, 4,669
Merchandize tons, 11,318 16
Coal do. 1,689 7
Castings do. 211 6
Iron do. 1,748 10
Tobacco do. 140 7
Grindstones do. 151 14
Plaster do. 1,491 10
Hides do. 101 15
Bacon and Hams do. 307 0
Bran and shorts tons, 231 11
Water-lime do. 441 7
Rags do. 3 0
Hemp do. 500 11
Wool do. 15 9
Leather do. 9 17
Cheese do. 1 2
Marble do. 1 10

Welland Canal.

Amount of Property Passed Through, and Tolls Collected. 1844.

Stone cords, 738-1/2
Firewood do. 3,251
Tan bark do. 957
Cedar posts do. 69
Hoop timber do. 16
Knees do. 184
Small packages No. 459
Pumps do. 102
Passengers do. 3,261-1/2
Sleighs do. 2
Wagons do. 177
Pails do. 136
Horses do. 2
Ploughs do. 25
Thrashing-machines do. 18
Cotton bales, 25
Fruit-trees bundles, 268
Sand cubic yards, 10,778
Schooners No. 2,121
Propellers do. 484
Scows do. 1,671
Boats do. 4
Rafts do. 118
Tonnage   327,570
Amount collected   £25,573 3s. 10-1/4d.

 


This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

Source: Canada and the Canadians, Volume I, 1849

 

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