Page images
PDF
EPUB

sions which could not be found in the sacred books. When we pressed her too closely, her refuge was declamation, which continued till our patience was exhausted, and the object of our inquiry lost. Her claims to a divine commission, which were not openly stated, but clearly implied to us, it was particularly difficult to induce her to defend. She appeared somewhat offended when I told her, that I knew of no other test of divine authority but miraculous power; nor would she explain to me how I might detect imposition. But she said to me, that no one should presume to take the office of a minister of religion without being convinced that he was called by inspiration to its duties, and that the service which was for lucre was of no value. I was rather disgusted with the common-place rant of enthusiasts which she made use of on this topic; especially as on other subjects she displayed rather uncommon ingenuity. I could not discover that her opinions differed from those of the Quakers, except that she assumed for herself the honor of a divine appointment for what special purpose I heard not. Of the character of this woman, I thought that I obtained sufficient knowledge, and this was my principal purpose in visiting her. Like most of the false pretenders to religious superiority, I believe she makes her claims to uncommon inspiration in sincerity. But I am satisfied that she is neither impeccable nor immaculate. She is ambitious, and selfish. She has not thought it unworthy of her character to amass a large fortune by the donations of her followers; and she is not ashamed to spend it in indulgence of her pride and luxurious appetites. She keeps a carriage among followers who can hardly earn their subsistence; she can see from her great palace no dwellings but log houses ; and the food which supplies her table is such as I presume those around her seldom taste. Her natural disposition I believe to be passionate, tyrannical, and overbearing; and her worst feelings have been nurtured by the foppery of the attentions which she has received, and the emi nence to which she has raised herself. Her mental powers are vigorous. She has acuteness and cunning, and must be skilled in human nature, to have gained such an ascendancy over so many minds. I was astonished at the dexterity with which she evaded our questions, and at the same time endeavoured to entrap us. The mixture of sincere regard to the forms, and even in some degree to the realities of religion, and of assumed sanctity, which appeared in her depórtment and conversation, tended to produce in my own mind some momentary doubts of the justice of my views of her character; and I do not wonder that such imposing manners, and such artfully supported pretensions, should produce upon those who are weak in intellect, and inclined to superstition, submission to her as a leader, and devotion to her as a religious guide. Her adherents, who have been drawn from various parts of the United States to this spot, that they might be united in a society and neighbourhood, are, if I may trust to the information of those who live near them, of this character; and they are not estimable for their industry, or attention to business. They do not at present exceed one hundred in number, and they are not increasing. Their enthusiasm was perhaps excited by the love of novelty, and the submission which they voluntarily made, will not probably be imitated by their .children.

Treatment of Strangers. June 10th. I had during the whole ride, no companion but the Frenchman who had been with us the day before; but he was quite an entertaining one. The character of his nation was most conspicuous in him. He had conceived a strong prejudice against the Americans, because he had not received such attentions from them while travelling as he expected. He several times offended me by the harsh manner in which he condemned my country; but he taught me the importance of being attentive in small things to strangers. There is a feeling of destitution and friendlessness which depresses a stranger in a foreign country, and renders him susceptible of a thousand uneasinesses where no offence was intended; and if hospitality were not obligatory as a duty, there would be sufficient reason for being attentive to strangers, to prevent their mistaking the meaning of actions. But there is no good deed which has a greater certainty of present reward, than that which gives the solace of friendship to one who is alone in a strange land. The want of such kindness is sure to be

and the bestowing of it never fails to produce gratitude in a person of any good feeling. If there be any habit in which I shall improve in consequence of travelling, I think it will be in my mode of receiving and treating strangers; since I have so often experienced how much the stranger is in the power of those about him ;-much more frequently, because I was alone. I endeavoured to remove the impression which this Frenchman had received, and exerted myself, and with some success, to please him. He did not want intelligence ; I found that he had an acquaintance with most of the distinguished authors of France and Germany, and as far as I knew them myself, and could judge of them, I approved his opinions.

felt;

The falls of Niagara.

June 12th. On crossing the river Niagara in the ferryboat, the current was very perceptible toward the falls. The boat was drifted as much as a quarter of a mile in crossing from Black Rock to the landing place on the British side. The road to the falls was wholly on the bank of the river, whose current was rapid, and the motion noble. Before we

reached Chippeway, when we were about three miles from the point of our destination, the first appearance presented itself which indicated our proximity to the cataract.

This was the cloud of spray which rose from a gap in the woods, far above the highest trees. We saw a broad expanse of water extended before us, entirely skirted by the forest, except in this one place, where volumes of vapor were rising in the air. We were surprised at this sight, as we were approaching the falls on a road which was above the level of the water before its descent, and the cloud which we perceived we knew must arise from the bottom of the cataract. The direction of the wind prevented our hearing so much of the noise of the falling waters as we probably should had the wind been more favorable ; but when we were at least six miles from them, it was distinctly audible. The sound was distant and heavy, but it did not indicate a powerful cause, except when we reflected on its distance. We soon saw, as we proceeded, the agitation of the current as it approached the chasm, which was caused by rocks beneath. The angry tumult with which the waves rushed forward, seemed to indicate their indignation and unwillingness at being forced to approach the spot where they were to be dashed below. The sun was partially obscured, and there was much of gloom and horror in the scene. It was before us with little variation, except in the deepness of the impression which it produced, while we were riding round a bay into which the river bends, thus becoming much wider than above. Having passed this, we left the immediate bank for the tavern which was near. We stopped at it but a short time, for we were full of expectation, and anxious to behold what had been admired by so many. But I felt no solemnity or gravity. I was exhilarated by my anticipations. We passed to Table Rock, first down a steep hill, and then through mud and woods for a short distance. The descent we had to make was evidence of the slope in the bed of the river from Black Rock. We had there landed where the water was almost level with the shore; the road thence to the falls was without any perceptible ascent; but we were now perhaps as much above the top of the cataract as from the top to the bottom of it. When I reached Table Rock, whose name is familiar to all, I had a complete and perfect view of the Falls of Niagara. Though to be tired of looking was impossible, yet I was in a hurry to go, that I might descend the ladder, and see and do all that I could. We proceeded rapidly for half a mile, (having stopped to leave some of our clothes,) on the bank of the river, occasionally having fine views of the falling torrent, till we reached the spot where we were to descend. The ladder, which is perfectly secure, carried us down about fifty feet; and we landed on a mass of broken rocks, which had fallen from above, upon which we were to proceed to the sheet of water. Fallen trees and stones were mingled rudely together, and our footing was insecure, because every thing was wet and slippery with the spray, which fell like dew to a great distance. Our progress was laborious and difficult, but hurried. We occasionally stopped for a momentary view, and I sometimes picked up a stone, or peeped into the crevices of rocks, where I could see tempting masses of crystals placed beyond my reach. We passed two men who were waiting with their spears to catch sturgeons from the turbulent and foaming waters.

We also noticed a sulphur 'spring which oozed from the precipice at a considerable height, and tinged the rocks with yellow. We passed on over the loose stones, which often gave way under our tread, and bruised our feet; and which several times caused me to fall where falling was not very safe. When we had come within fifty feet of the falls, the spray fell upon us in greater quantities; and we were aware that we should get thoroughly wet if we went further. I left

my

hat under a rock, and we went on with

any

« PreviousContinue »