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that I now offer you. I have striven to depart from the common fashion of emptying the contents of one book into another, and serving them up to you in a new form. Whether it will make for or against this work, it is not for me to say ; but I can assert, with perfect confidence, that I have not consulted a book on my subject, from the commencement to the close of it. Bearing this in mind, and that I write from recollection only, you will find an excuse for unintentional mistakes. To have given it the finish and the correctness, which so strongly mark the productions of the day, would have required vigor of health, leisure, and tranquillity; and you well know, that I have had neither. That it was written under the pressure of disease, with a trembling hand and a sinking heart, will, at least, disarm your criticism. Such as it is, I consign it to you, and turn on my weary steps, and carry back to my distant home, emotions that no words could express, and a confident persuasion that the friendship which has been so tried, and so uncommon, will last as long as we shall last, and be renovated, and rendered unchangeable, in a better existence.
Praying God to impart to friends so dear to me, all good things for time and eternity, I am, most affectionately, &c.
Alexandria, Red River, Sct. 1824. Dear Sir,
You are kind enough to suppose that some details of what I have seen, enjoyed, and suffered, in the valley of the Mississippi, during ten years' journeying, and occasional residence in that region might be of sufficient interest for publication. I have been so much accustomed to deference to your judgment, as to suppose at times, that the capability, which you supposed, must exist. Often I have taken up the task, and as often it has fallen froin my hands. There are such showers of journa's, and travels, and residences, and geographies, and gazetteers; and every person, who can in any way fasten the members of a sentence together, after having travelled through a country, is so sure to begin to scribble about it, that I have felt a kind of awkward consciousness at the thought of starting in the same beaten track. And yet I cannot certainly be classed with those writers of travels, who travel post, or are wafted through a country in a steam boat, and assume, on the ground of having thus traversed it, to know all about it. Nor can this be pronounced an effort of book-making, in which the contents of other books are served up in another form. It will probably be my most obvious fault, to have consulted no others' writings or opinions, and to have relied too much for interest and instruction, on what I
have myself seen and felt. I have, as you know, drunk of every considerable stream that yields tribute to the Mississippi, far from the parent channel ; have traversed the country in all directions; have resided a considerable time in the northern, middle, and southern divisions, and in the discharge of duties, which necessarily brought me in contact with all classes of the inhabitants; so that, as far as long and familiar observation of the country can qualify one to describe it, I am so qualified. I speak not of the vicissitudes of disease and suffering which I have endured ; of the trials and privations which I encountered.
The retrospect is too gloomy for myself, and would, probably, be neither of interest nor use to my readers.
Another discouragement has occurred, in thinking of the task which you propose.
Had I originally contemplated such a work as this, I should have kept a regular and detailed journal. The duties which I assumed when I first visited this country, compelled me to keep such a journal for some years.
This manuscript, together with many others, was blown away in a hurricane which occurred on the Arkansas, in which every part of the house where we resided was penetrated by the wind and the rain ; and in which the suffering and danger of a sick family precluded anxiety upon any other score. It was a detail too, of religious duties, and they are necessarily so uniform, that a page or two will serve as a sample of all the rest. I have felt the less regret at the loss of these materials, from reflecting, that a traveller who copies from a daily journal will hardly fail to copy much that is trivial and uninteresting. But the incidents that have remained fresh in my memory
for the period of ten years, must have excited a vivid imprese
sion when they occurred, and must have had, in the narrator at least, their share of interest.
On my return to my native country after so many years of absence, you were aware how many acquaintances were importuning me for some information of this sort. And you are aware, how much the feebleness and dejection of a constitution, broken down by so much wandering, toil, and disease, endured in the wilderness, and in those sickly climes, disqualified me for such a task. Nor is this intended to disarm criticism, but simply to account for deficiency either of manner or matter. For the rest, if in the following pages the feelings of the writer occupy too conspicuous a place in the view of that severe ordeal, in which the square and compass are applied to works of this kind, let it be remembered, that these pages were chiefly intended for the eye of friends, to whom, it was well known, such would be the most interesting parts of the work. Let him that objects, too, be constituted in any measure as I am, and let him have been placed in the actual positions in which I have been placed, and I would then hope, that my apology would be furnished.
You are entirely informed of the circumstances, which induced me, after a laborious but secluded ministry of fourteen years, 'to leave that asylum, and direct my course to the West. You remember the miserable state of my health, and the hopes I entertained, that in a milder climate and a new order of
things, I might regain my health and cheerfulness. I remember but too faithfully, the bitter spirit of political rancour, that rendered the condition of so many ministers at that time so unhappy. prayers on my own part, and that of my friends, that these evils might not follow me, my family left the land of their fathers the fourth of October 1815. Toward the latter part of the month, we began to ascend the Allegany hills. In our slow mode of travelling, we had had them in view several days. With their interminable blue outline, stretching hill beyond hill, and interposing to the imagination of such travellers as we were, a barrier to return almost as impassable as the grave, it may easily be imagined with what interest we contemplated them. It is, I believe, generally conceded to the inhabitants of New England, that, perhaps, with the exception of the Scotch, they have more national feeling than any other people. We had broken all the ties that render the place, where we first drew breath, so dear. Occasional samples of the people and the country beyond these hills, not at all calculated to sooth our feelings, or to throw pleasing associations over our contemplated residence beyond them, had frequently met us. The people on our route constantly designated them by the appellation of “back-woodsmen,” and we heard these men themselves uniformly calling their baggage
plunder.” The wolf, the bear, and the bald eagle, were the most frequent emblems in the tavern-signs, near the acclivities of these mountains. The bald eagle itself was soaring in the blue of the atmosphere, high above the summits of the first ridge, and its shrill and savage cries were sufficiently loud to reach our