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Passage from New York to Albany
The navigation of the Hudson not being yet
interrupted by ice, I determined on proceeding to Albany by
steamboat, in preference to the railroad, with the view of seeing
the far-famed scenery of the country through which the river flows.
I accordingly embarked on the 5th of February. We had not proceeded
far, however, when we found the face of the country covered with
snow; and thus the pleasure I had anticipated from my aquatic trip
was in a great measure lost.
Winter had set in in earnest, and the cold became so severe as we
ascended, that the deck was abandoned, and the nearest seat to the
stove was considered the best. The passengers being now all crowded
below, the group presented a complete epitome of American society:
here were members of the legislature proceeding to the capital on
parliamentary duty; here also were congregated in the same cabin,
merchants, mechanics, and farmers, messing at the same board, and at
first mixed up promiscuously together. They did not, however, long
continue so; the more respectable part, separating from the crowd,
occupied one end of the cabin, the plebeians occupied the other.
Thus the homogeneous ingredients of the mass having united, no
further mixture took place during the passage.
It is true, one of patrician rank might occasionally be observed
stepping beyond the ideal boundary, and sitting down among the
plebeians, probably some of his constituents, would call for a pipe,
and, stretching out his legs, commence to puff, spit, and debate,
like one of themselves; and having by these means convinced them
that he still considered them as his equals, would retire again and
The Americans are accused by Europeans of being cold and reserved
towards strangers; for my part, I found them sociable and
communicative in the extreme. A few hours after I had embarked on
board the steamboat I found myself quite at home. I was much pleased
to observe the rational manner in which the passengers amused
themselves. Little groups were formed, where religion, politics and
business matters were discussed with excellent sense and judgment.
These seemed to be the common topics of discourse in both ends of
the cabin. I frequented both, and saw nothing indecorous or improper
in either, save the spitting and the outrageous rush to the table;
such a scene as the latter is only to be seen in America.
The servants bawl out at the top of their lungs:
"Time enough, gentlemen! time enough! No hurry, no hurry!"
Onward they rush, however, crowding, pushing, elbowing, until they
take their seats. I was, however, particularly struck with the
attention shown to the ladies, the great sobriety of all classes,
and the total absence of impure or profane expressions in
conversation. How unlike the scenes one witnesses on board our
steamboats in Britain, where the meaner sort of passengers seem to
travel on purpose to indulge in drinking!
I arrived at Albany late on the 7th, our progress having been much
retarded by the quantity of ice drifting in the river. Finding that
the mail was to start for Canada in the course of the night, I
decided on going with it, without seeing the capital of New York.
Owing to the mildness of the season up to the present time, the
roads were in the worst possible condition, and the motion of the
carriage passing rapidly over the rugged surface of the muddy roads
recently frozen solid, was not only disagreeable, but even painful.
We continued, however, to jolt on night and day, without rest, save
during the short time necessary for changing or baiting cattle. The
roads became worse, if possible, as we proceeded. A considerable
quantity of snow had fallen lately, which rendered traveling in a
wheeled carriage not only disagreeable in the extreme, but also
dangerous. We broke down several times, but without serious
inconvenience. On one of these occasions we picked ourselves up
opposite a farm house, in which we took shelter while the driver was
putting matters to rights. It being yet early, the inmates were
still in bed; we nevertheless found a rousing fire blazing on the
hearth, and seated ourselves around it.
All of a sudden the door of a small apartment flew open, and a large
black cat sprang in amongst us.
"Ha! what do you think of that, now?" said one of the passengers,
addressing himself to me. "What do you think of the ingenuity of our
Yankee cats? Had Boz witnessed that feat, we should have had a page
or two more to his notes; and I am sure it would have proved at
least as interesting to the reader as the nigger driver's
conversation with his cattle."
"That's a fact," said I.
After being jolted and pitched about until every bone in my body
ached again, I reached St. John's on the 12th; and the snow being
now sufficiently deep to admit of traveling with sleighs, the
remainder of the journey to Montreal was accomplished in comparative
Notes of a Twenty-Five Years Service in the
Hudson's Bay Territory, 1849
Notes on Hudson Bay Territory