BLTC Press Titles

available for Kindle at

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Notes on the United States of North America during a phrenological visit in 1838-9-40

by George Combe


The American Hotels have often been described. They are very large: all the guests breakfast, dine, and drink tea at a public table, and each has a small bed-room. During the interval between meals, such of the gentlemen as are not engaged in business abroad, smoke, drink, talk politics, or traffic in the bar-room, or reading-room; and the fair sex gossip, flirt, or " rock" in a handsome apartment named the ladies' parlour. It generally contains a piano-forte, and they may be seen playing, and heard singing, with the same self-possession amidst crowds of visiters, as if they were in their own sanctuaries at home. Custom renders this mode of life agreeable to many of them. Few indulge in private parlours, both on account of the expense, and because they prefer the busy throng.

The first impression made on us by New York was not pleasing. Its character necessarily partakes of that of all sea-port towns. In the lower part of the city, next the rivers, the streets are narrow, dirty, and adorned by large fat swine, enjoyingthe same freedom of locomotion which the United States grant to the natives of every clime who seek their shores. The pavement is rough, and much of it in bad condition. The houses are irregular; and the suspicion at once arises that there is no efficient police attending to the general welfare of the town. At 8 P. M., I walked to the Post-office, and found the streets dark, large portions of them having unlighted lamps. I soon learned that they were dark because the moon was in her first quarter, and was expected to shine. In the United States, this expectation is more reasonable than in Britain; but on this evening clouds obscured her rays, and this great city appeared to the eye of a foreigner, who had been accustomed to Edinburgh and London, both dismal and unsafe.

25th Sept. The great topic of conversation here is Lord Brougham's attack on Lord Durham, for banishing the Canadian patriots, as they call themselves, or rebels as the English style them, to Bermuda, beyond the limits of his jurisdiction. Lord Brougham's conduct is strongly condemned.

The great fire.—We visited the scene of the great fire in New York in December 1835. Every trace of it is now obliterated, and many proprietors have received a larger sum for the ground on which their former warehouses stood, than the whole fabrics, including the site, would have brought before the conflagration. The commercial community are rapidly recovering from the embarrassments of 1837, when the banks suspended cash payments, and the quays and streets indicate great activity in trade.

The rate of Exchange between London and New York, has been for some months against England; and our London banker advised us to carry sovereigns instead of banker's bills. They were received by a bank in New York at four dollars and 85 cents each; which is the par value, at which they are current in the United States. We had occasion afterwards to obtain remittances from London, and as utility is the chief object of this work, I may describe the machinery by means of which it was accomplished. A sum was deposited to our credit with our bankers in that city. They wrote to their correspondent in New York, that they would honour our draft at sight for the amount. We gave this correspondent a letter, addressed to his principals in London, authorizing him to draw in our names. He employed a broker in Wall Street (the Stock Exchange of New York), to sell the draft at the common rate of exchange of the day. If the sum was below L.1000, he charged \\ per cent. commission for this transaction; if above L.1000, one per cent., of which, the broker received \ per cent. for his trouble. These rates appeared high, contrasted with the commission charged by British bankers, but I was informed that they were usual, and also necessary to cover the risk encountered by the New York agents in. drawing on such houses as Messrs Coutts and Company, or Messrs Hammersley and Company, on their letters agreeing to accept, and paying the proceeds of the draft over at once to a stranger! By the law of England, such letters are not equivalent to acceptance, although by that of New York* and of Scotland they are so; if the purchaser of the draft have seen them, and on the strength of them given a valuable consideration for it. Legal difficulties, therefore, might, by possibility, be interposed between the London banker and the holder of the bill after it is drawn, and before it is paid, for the consequences of which his New York correspondent would be responsible.-fIt was mentioned to me, however, by several persons, that a respectable broker will sell such bills of exchange, and deliver the amount directly to the drawer for his usual commission of ^ per cent., justly regarding the risk as merely nominal.

Value of American Currency.—-By an act of Congress, the value of a pound Sterling is established at four dollars, forty-four cents, and four hundred and forty-nine thousand parts of a cent, and in England the value of a dollar, Federal money, is established at 4s. 6d. Sterling. As these values are no longer real, the actual value is ascertained by so many per cent. added to these rates, and called above par, or deducted from them, and named under par. The actual par is 9£ per cent. added to the g 4.44,449 cents of Congress currency; or 4 dollars 85 cents for each pound sterling. During our stay in America, the exchange rose as high as 10-J per cent, premium, or to SS 4.91 cents for each pound; and fell as low as 6^ per cent, premium, or #4.73 cents for the pound sterling.

» 1 Revised Statutes, 768, § 8.

... from the RetroRead library, using Google Book Search, and download any of the books already converted to Kindle format.

Browse the 100 most recent additions to the RetroRead library

Browse the library alphabetically by title

Make books:

Login or register to convert Google epubs to Kindle ebooks



Lost your password?

Not a member yet? Register here, and convert any Google epub you wish

Powerd by Calibre powered by calibre