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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)



C H A P T E R   X I I.

Departure--Incidents at Sea--The Ocean--The New World--Dr. Mason--
Journey over the Mountains--Reunion.

T HE Frith of Clyde is, in many respects, ill adapted for the purposes of navigation, especially as it regards vessels depending on sails. Its channel is narrow; it is exposed to squalls; rendered dangerous by shallows, and can be safely navigated only when the wind blows from certain directions. The ship Latonia, however, after stopping till next day, August 4, 1809, at the bank below Greenock, weighed anchor for the last time, and although the wind was by no means the most favorable, being from the N. W., managed to get out of the Clyde, and into the Channel. It was not until Saturday, the 5th, that a fair and gentle breeze from the right quarter carried the vessel, in a few hours, out of the North Channel, and past the dimly-seen northern coast of Ireland, so that on the following day, which was Sunday, about twelve o'clock, they were fairly out of sight of land on the bosom of the Atlantic.

      Alexander was now for three days confined by sea-sickness, and had no sooner recovered sufficiently to appear again on deck than he learned to his surprise that the ship had sprung a leak. The sailors were greatly dismayed and depressed, believing that it would be with great difficulty and much extra labor that they would be able to make land again, and fearing that, as [195] there were only eight hands on board, beside the mate, the cook and the cabin boy, they would be unable to manage the vessel. Under these circumstances, Alexander went down into the cabin and entreated the captain, who was at this time unwell, to give orders to put back, but the latter, too well aware of the uncertainty of the wind and the perils of the Scottish coast, determined to continue the voyage. The pumps accordingly were set to work, with great difficulty, owing to the tar which had found its way into them from the previous cargo, and earnest efforts were made to counteract the leak. On the following day, Monday, the 7th, there was a very heavy gale, and the sea ran so high that, amidst the tossings of the ship, the leak was almost forgotten, and the passengers retired at night, uncertain as to what might be their fate before morning. About midnight, however, the wind fell, and Alexander, together with the other male passengers, went to work to assist the sailors at the pumps, when he found by experiment that it would require ten minutes out of every hour, or four hours of hard work out of the twenty-four, to keep the water from gaining.

      During the following week the wind proved very favorable, blowing gently from the N. and N. E., and as the vessel sped along its way, Alexander took great interest in observing the denizens of the mighty deep, which frequently appeared around the vessel. Efforts were made to catch the black-fish by means of small harpoons, but without success. On one occasion the captain, while leaning over a rope to strike at a porpoise, was so unlucky as to drop his watch into the sea. This week they spoke a vessel bound from Trinidad to Dublin, and on Saturday, August 19, found themselves in long. 34° lat. 42°. They spoke also a vessel out [196] fifteen days from Boston, bound to Liverpool. On the Tuesday of the following week they had a very severe gale with the wind from N. N. E., accompanied with sudden squalls, one of which, about eleven o'clock, carried away the foretopmast. The ship ran before the wind all day, rolling heavily for want of the foresail; but the wind then subsiding, the sailors were employed for two days in fitting up a mast in the room of the one lost. From this time until the 26th their progress was delayed by head-winds and calms. On the Sunday during this period Alexander witnessed, to him, the novel sight of a burial at sea. As the parents of the deceased, a child of one Andrew McDonald, a passenger on board, had desired a coffin, contrary to the custom of interment at sea, and sufficient weight had not been placed in it to sink it when committed to the deep, it floated off astern, and was painfully watched for a considerable time while it remained in view.

      Toward the close of this week the weather became again rough. "On Friday night," he says in his journal, "a dreadful storm arose, and the lightning flashed from pole to pole. We were very apprehensive of danger, but He who rules all things made the wind cease about twelve o'clock." Again he records: "Saturday night, 26th. An awful lightning continued for a considerable time, although accompanied with no noise of thunder. The glare would continue sometimes for a quarter of an hour without intermission. This appeared to us very ominous, but on Sabbath morning, 27th, the wind began to rise in a fearful manner from the south, and immediately the most terrific squall ever seen by any individual on board ensued. A thick, small rain accompanied it, and the spray blew over the [197] vessel to such a degree that one could not discern another at half the ship's length." The fury of the storm continued to increase until every one on board apprehended certain destruction, and the most experienced seamen said they thought every moment would be their last. The mizzenmast was ordered to be cut down, but it was found impossible to effect it. The sails that had not been furled were all torn to pieces; the foretopmast was again carried off, and the main-topmast would probably have shard the same fate had they not succeeded in taking it down. Soon after, the quarter-railing was broken off by a heavy sea, and the tiller-rope having given way, the ship became unmanageable for a time, until they succeeded in replacing it. After nine o'clock, to the great joy of all, the storm began to abate, the wind veering to N. W.; the sea, however, continued to run for a long while "mountain high." They were happy to find that the hull of the ship had sustained no material damage, though the bowsprit was cracked half way through at its thickest part. "Such," he adds, "was that dreadful storm, and such its effects, but thanks be to that God who raises the winds and quells the tumults of the seas, that it did not prove fatal to us all; and may He out of His great mercy, bless it as a fatherly reproof to us all, and instruct us by it to be in a habitual preparation for death when He calls for us." In view of his deliverance on this occasion, he renewed his vows of fealty to His service, and again solemnly consecrated his life to the ministry of the gospel.

      On the following morning about eight o'clock, the sea still running high, they discerned a ship to the northward, steering toward the west. Observing the wrecked appearance of the Latonia, she soon came [198] alongside to offer assistance. She proved to be the Francis, Captain Taylor, who, happening to be an acquaintance of Captain McCray, kindly gave him a spare foresail, which was greatly needed. Soon after, the Francis passed out of sight, the Latonia being unable, for want of canvas, to keep her company. For several days afterward they had unpleasant weather, with occasional squalls and head-winds. At length, on the 4th of September, the wind became fair, and the ship was borne along at the rate of from six to eight miles an hour for several days.

      During this period, Alexander was much interested in the various aquatic animals, which now presented themselves in greater numbers. On one occasion, he was surprised with the appearance of a number of whales some thirty feet long, spouting up the water to a considerable height. He was delighted with the beautiful dolphins which appeared around the ship, and was greatly entertained in seeing them frequently pursue the flying-fish, and sometimes with so much eagerness as to leap a considerable distance out of the water in order to seize them. These flying-fish he found to be from six to twelve inches in length, of a light color and furnished with pectoral fins, nearly as long as the body, by means of which they could project themselves from the water to a considerable distance, often striking against the sails and sides of the ship. The porpoises, who were almost constant attendants, he found to vary from three to seven feet in length, having a tapering snout and a comparatively small mouth. On some occasions, he amused himself in fishing, and with hook and line succeeded in catching a large dolphin, but in attempting to get it on board, the line broke and he failed to secure his prize. The captain, who was also [199] fond of the sport, struck a porpoise with a small harpoon, which, however, by the rapid movement of the vessel, soon lost its hold, and was drawn in, bent like a piece of wire.

      On Tuesday, 12th September, they were hailed by an English vessel of twenty guns, from St. Croix to London. On Friday, 15th, they spoke the Brutus from New York, thirteen days out, and about this time got out of the Gulf Stream, in which they had been sailing for some days, and whose temperature Alexander was surprised to find so much higher than that of the surrounding ocean. On Tuesday, 19th, they spoke the ship Venice, bound from New York to Lisbon, and were informed that a non-intercourse bill had been passed, and that the English Ambassador had arrived at New York. Continuing their course with occasionally light winds, they judged from the change in the color of the water from a bluish to a greenish hue, and from floating masses of rockweed and eelgrass, that they were not very far from land; but, upon sounding, found no bottom at one hundred and twenty fathoms. On Saturday, 23d, a river bird, the kingfisher, appeared and flew, with weary wing, around the vessel, attempting to alight upon the rigging. This evidence of nearing land was hailed with great joy by the passengers and crew; and was compared by Alexander in his journal to the "soul-reviving return of the dove to Noah's ark with the olive branch plucked off;" to the "return of spring;" to "good news from a distant land;" to the "dawn of day to the benighted traveler," and to the "cheering sound of liberty to the captive slave," so irksome his long confinement upon shipboard had become to his active temperament. On Monday, 25th of September, they were delayed by head-winds, [200] and upon sounding, found bottom at sixty fathoms. The captain to-day succeeded in harpooning a porpoise, which was brought on board. Alexander, ever observant and curious in the investigation of facts, found it to be four feet long and sixteen inches through, and that the fat parts of it, when boiled, produced about one gallon of oil. He also found that the liver and some of the fleshy parts were tender and palatable when cooked, and not much unlike fresh pork. Toward evening, Black Island and No Man's Land became visible from the mast head, and upon sounding they found twenty-eight fathoms, when they wore ship, and sailed S. S. W. On Monday, they found themselves off Sandy Hook, but the wind being unfavorable, it was not until Tuesday morning, September 26th, that they were enabled to approach the coast, when, for the first time for fifty-one days, they obtained from the deck a distinct view of the land and of the trees upon the distant hills, a most joyful sight to the weary and storm-tossed voyagers.

      Notwithstanding, however, all the perils and discomforts to which he had been subjected during the voyage, Alexander had found many sources of enjoyment. He had pursued his private studies and his usual readings and religious exercises with the family, as regularly as the circumstances would permit. He sought every opportunity of gaining information from the officers and passengers on the ship, and, when not thus engaged on deck, was never weary of contemplating the grandeur of the ocean. Filled with the loftiest conceptions of the Divine Majesty, he contemplated with awe the sublime displays of power exhibited in its boundless extent, its innumerable tenantry, its mighty waves and howling tempests, and, in the midst of his novel [201] experiences, gave expression to his feelings in the following poem, under date of August 16, which he entitled

"The Ocean."
"Ere yet, in brightness, had the radiant sun
In Eastern skies the course of day begun,
Ere yet the stars in dazzling beauty shone,
Or yet from Chaos dark, old earth was won;
When darkness o'er the deep extended lay,
And night still reigned unbounded yet by day;
When awful stillness filled the boundless space,
And wild confusion sat on Nature's face,
Old Ocean then in silent youth did stray,
And countless atoms on its bosom lay.
Th' Almighty spoke; its waters trembling fear'd
They yawned; and straight in haste dry land appear'd.
The land he bounds; and to the waters said,
Here Ocean, let thy haughty waves be stayed.
    See Ocean's varied face, its wat'ry fields;
The dreadful terrors which it constant yields;
See liquid valleys sink, and mountains rise,
Behold them, angry, tow'ring to the skies;
In pride they rear their hoary heads, and rage,
And soon they sink, like man's declining age.
See yonder azure wave, in beauteous trim,
Rise from the mighty deep, and slowly swim;
From gay green youth to hoary age it tends,
Then to the depths below it quick descends;
And where, ere while, it reared its lofty head
The spot's unknown, another's in its stead.
    Next look where skies and seas converging tend;
See waters joined to waters without end;
See next thyself, borne on the mighty flood,
Supported on the floating fragile wood.
Behold thyself, the central point, and learn
The Almighty's power and goodness to discern.
Think on the depths, unfathomed yet below,
Where living myriads wander to and fro;
In liquid caves their young ones sport and play,
And through cerulean waves they wanton stray.
Think of the countless species there that roam, [202]
The diff'rence scant, and yet each knows its own.
But as on earth they practice right and wrong,
In seas, the weak fall victims to the strong;
And thus 'tis ordered through the scaly brood,
That they by strength should win their daily food.
    Swift from the depths then let thy thoughts ascend,
O'er Ocean's rolling waves thine eyes extend,
When night comes on, and darkness veils the skies;
When black'ning clouds, and howling storms arise:
When dismal horror broods upon the deep,
And awful terrors wake the mind from sleep,
See, from the poles, the forked lightnings fly,
And paint in solemn glares the black'ning sky:
Then, from the south, begin the dreadful blasts,
Hark! how they roar amidst the groaning masts:
See hemp and canvas to their force give way,
And through the air in shreds and fragments stray.
Lo! expectation, wit, and judgment fail,
Man's counsel and his arm no more avail,
Despair and horror fill the aching breast,
No time to think, and for the soul no rest.
    But while man, trembling, waits his dreadful fate,
And thinks what unknown scenes him soon await,
At His command, who bids the tempest fly,
The storm subsides, hope gladdens every eye;
The clouds clear off, and tranquil calm pervades,
Save where the wat'ry mountains rear their heads;
But soon they sink when angry tempests cease,
And all is changed to gentle, joyous peace.
Now joy fills every breast and every eye,
Speaks in each look, and dispels every sigh.
    Then, at th' approach of beauteous smiling morn,
The sun's glad beams the sky and sea adorn,
In heaven's high arch, tipp'd with the morning ray,
The checker'd clouds smile at th' approach of day;
The radiant sun then lifts his glad'ning face,
Unnumbered charms attend him in his race,
The trembling waves reflect his golden rays,
And, in the deep, what dazzling beauties blaze
And see, when in the western wave he hides,
In heaven's grand vault, the moon in beauty rides,
All o'er the deep her silver radiance sheds,
And in her light the stars soon bide their heads.
Fair daughter of the lonely silent night!
Thou climb'st thy course alone, in radiance bright, [203]
Thy diff'rent forms, thy varied face, how few
On Ocean wide, thy dazzling beauties view!
And for that few, dost thou still wander here,
Through the long night, their friendless souls to cheer?
Thy face recalls the mem'ry of the past,
In visions sweet, too pleasing far to last.
Thou paint'st in lovely forms, in beauteous mien,
Each happy hour we spent, each lovely scene,
Whose sweet remembrance wakes the soul to joys,
While fancy free the vacant heart decoys.
    Thus while we wander through the mighty deep
Some foreign clime, some distant shore to seek,
These mighty scenes our wand'ring minds engage,
Too great to tell, or for th' historic page.
But let us still that Power, that Goodness love,
That rules o'er all below and all above;
Each of His creatures move at His command
In the great sea, or on the spacious land."

      Soon after they had first obtained a clear view of the American coast, the wind fell, and the vessel could make no progress; but at two o'clock on Wednesday morning a fine breeze from the N. sprung up, and carried them along the southern shore of Long Island at the rate of six or seven miles an hour. About daylight the Highlands of Neversink became visible, and soon after the Light House. Taking in a pilot off Sandy Hook, they passed through the Narrows, and reached the Quarantine ground about eight o'clock, where they cast anchor. Next morning, Thursday, September 28, the vessel was boarded by the health officer, and was required to remain but one day, which was spent on shore in washing and cleaning up, in company with the passengers of the ship Protection, Captain Bairnes, amongst whom Alexander recognized several of those who had been shipwrecked with him in the Hibernia the year before. In the evening, they returned on board, and on the following morning at ten o'clock cleared out of Quarantine, and in the afternoon [204] of Friday, September 29, 1809, cast anchor in the harbor of New York. Next day (Saturday) Alexander spent in searching for lodgings, but did not succeed in obtaining any that were suitable. On the Lord's Day, he went into the city again, in order to hear Dr. Mason preach in the forenoon.1

      The next day, October 2, and the two succeeding days, Alexander spent in viewing the city, with whose commercial enterprise and activity he was much impressed, and in making the necessary arrangements for departure. On Thursday morning, October 5, he started with the family for Philadelphia, and arrived there on Saturday morning, October 7. With the fine buildings, regular streets and clean appearance of [205] this city he was much pleased. But little time, however, was allowed him for observation, for having made arrangements with a wagoner, John Hunter, to convey the family to Washington, on Monday at four o'clock they resumed their journey westward--an undertaking at that time, of no small magnitude, the distance to Washington being about three hundred and fifty miles, over a rough road crossing the various lofty ridges of the Allegheny mountains.

      Proceeding accordingly, sometimes riding in the wagon which conveyed also their luggage, and sometimes walking by way of change, the travelers pursued their way, observing the various novel objects along the road with an interest constantly renewed. The first portion of the road being tolerably good and level, they progressed the first day about thirty miles, and finally reached a tavern, where, as evening was approaching, they concluded to rest for the night. Adjacent to the tavern was an extensive, unbroken forest, which particularly excited Alexander's interest by its magnificence and its novelty, for Ireland is almost destitute of woods, and thus far in America their way had led them through, comparatively, a cleared and cultivated portion of the country. After all had supped, and arrangements were made for the night, Alexander concluded to take a ramble through the woods, which were already assuming here and there their autumnal tints.

      As, in former years, he had bathed in the bright streams of his native isle, oppressed then with a consciousness of the civil and religious misrule and discord, the hatred, the bigotry, superstition and revenge which brooded over the land, he now in the country of his adoption, for the first time, with new feelings of delight and an indescribable sense of relief, plunged [206] into the depths of an American forest. In the exaltation of his youthful feelings he seemed to have reached a land of enchantment. The moon, already high in heaven and nearly at the full, seemed to mingle its silvery beams with the sun's golden radiance reflected from the western sky. The mighty trees, in all their wild luxuriance, stood around him, forming aloft, as it were, a new heaven of verdure; while, beneath, he trod upon the soil of a new world--the land of liberty and of Washington, whose liberal institutions had long been the object of his admiration. All nature around him seemed to sympathize with his emotions. The balmy air, fresh from the wild mountain slopes, the new varieties of birds, which from almost every tree seemed, to his fancy, to chant their evening song in praise of the freedom of their native woods, the approaching shades of evening, veiling the distant landscape in a gentle haze,--all seemed to speak of liberty, security and peace. He was far from being an enthusiast, but, on this occasion, all the bright hopes and glowing fancies of his youthful nature seem to have been aroused. Keenly susceptible as he was to impressions of grandeur, and tending still, in the habitual workings of his mind, to religious thought, as he ranged through the deep, untrodden glades, or paused beneath the canopy of verdure which the wild vine had woven as the woof upon the spreading warp of branching oaks, his heart overflowed with gratitude and reverence.

      There is, indeed, something amidst the deep forest, as yet untracked by human footsteps, that is well calculated to arouse such feelings, as has been remarked even in ancient times. Hence the forests of oak became the temples of the Druids, and it is Seneca who says to his friend Lucilius: [207]

      "If you come to a grove, thick planted with ancient trees which have outgrown the usual altitude, and which shut out the view of the heaven with their interwoven boughs, the vast height of the wood, and the retired secresy of the place, and the wonder and awe inspired by so dense and unbroken a gloom, in the midst of the open day, inspire you with the conviction of a present Deity."2

      Whether or not this effect be due to the causes suggested by the Roman moralist, or to others yet undefined, may indeed be questioned. It may be that the mind, comparing unconsciously the gigantic growths around with the lowly herbage of the cultivated fields, receives a strong impression of Divine power. Or it may be that, gazing down the natural vistas, where tree succeeds tree in the distant perspective, ending in the faint and reduced images of others still more remote, there is created an impression of the Infinite in the seeming fact of unlimited distance. For the idea of this seems to be most strikingly conveyed when gradually retreating parts of some vast, complex object are contemplated. Out at sea, the view of a shoreless ocean does not so much impress the mind with the sense of vastness as it confounds the perceptions by deceitful appearances. The line of the horizon does not seem to be very far away. The whole watery waste is comprehended in a single view, and what is seen seems to have no tendency to suggest that which reflection teaches must be yet unseen. It is when, amidst a group of islands, the surface is meted out in distances, or when, nearing the coast, its headlands become visible, that a better idea is formed of the vastness of the ocean, and that the shores which bound it to the eye serve only to enlarge it to the mind. It is [208] so, likewise, when we view the heavens. By day, the whole expanse above is seen at a glance, as one over-arching vault of ether. It is at night, when star behind star glitters in the firmament, and the still more distant clusters tax the vision to separate star from star, and the yet more remote nebulæ lead the mind back still farther into the infinite regions of space, that it can form a much more pleasing and forcible conception of the illimitable. As the ladder of the patriarch's vision afforded, by its successive steps, the means of ascending to the heavens, so nature seems in her various provinces to furnish to the mind those gradations by which it is enabled to reach the higher realms of the unseen, and commune with congenial themes connected with eternity and futurity. But, however those feelings may be accounted for which arise in the sensitive mind amidst the grandeur and the solitude of the forest, it is certain that the youthful emigrant manifested on this occasion the marked impressibility of his nature; and, reveling in the thronging fancies of his expanding and far-reaching mind, became so engrossed with his own thoughts that he was unconscious of the lapse of time, and discovered to his surprise, when the effervescence of his feelings had somewhat abated, that it was quite late, and that the night had long since closed its curtains around him.

      Returning to the hotel, he found that all its inmates had retired to rest, a light having been left for him upon the table. Upon attempting to fasten the door, he was surprised to find it without lock or bolt, and with nothing but a latch, as he perceived was also the case with the door of his sleeping apartment. Coming direct from the Old World, where nocturnal outrages were frequent, and every house had its bolts and bars, [209] he was much impressed with such a token of fearless security, and congratulated himself still more in having reached a country where the fabled golden age seemed to be restored, and where robbery and injustice appeared to be undreaded and unknown. In attempting to account for this, to him, unwonted security, his experience in the Old World led him to refer it, in a large measure, to the absence of Catholicism; and, after his devotions, he gradually fell into slumber amidst grateful reflections upon the goodness of Providence in bringing him to a land under the benign influence of the free institutions, the equal rights, the educational advantages, and the moral and religious elevation secured to all in a purely Protestant community.

      He had, indeed, long been convinced that life, property, character, as well as religious liberty, were all in greater jeopardy in Papal than in Protestant states, and had been wont to regard the Protestant North of Ireland and the Papal South of the same island as truthful and unambiguous exponents of the fruits and tendencies of the two respective religious systems. The tree of liberty, he thought, could only flourish in Protestant soil and in a Protestant atmosphere; and subsequently, as he passed along through the interior, and found all houses and places in the same happy state of security, and every door opening merely with a latch, like the wicket of Goldsmith's hermit, he became more and more confirmed in his opinions. He found, however, after a while, when his judgment became more mature, and he had opportunity for more extended observation, that the best human government fails to secure immunity from private wrongs, and that the nocturnal pilfering, which in Ireland he had been accustomed to hear charged upon the lower orders of [210] the Catholic population, might sometimes occur even in Protestant America. He soon learned too, by personal experience, that sectarian bigotry and clerical intolerance had changed their climate, and not their spirit, in crossing the Atlantic, and that no government or party or people is exempt from those errors and moral delinquencies which belong to a common humanity.

      Setting off again early next morning, they pursued their way, and found the country to become more broken and uncultivated. Full of youthful spirits, and interested or amused by everything he saw, Alexander cheered up his mother and sisters with his genial pleasantry, and endeavored to lighten the fatigues of travel. Entering at last the mountainous region which occupies the central part of Pennsylvania, they were delighted with the grandeur of the views which it afforded, and the wild and romantic character of the country. For hours, the road led them through deep forests, and up the steep mountain sides, which were covered with various species of oak, and with the birch, the chestnut and the beech; or, here and there upon the rocky cliffs, with clumps of pine and cedar. Occasionally, they passed by clearings, even upon the very summits of the mountain ridges, where they found the soil to produce abundant pasture beneath the dead timber, which, having been simply girdled, stretched its bare and decaying branches like gigantic and imploring arms toward the heavens. Upon the skirts of these clearings they admired the rich undergrowth of the surrounding woods, amidst which the mountain-ash displayed its magnificent corymbs of scarlet berries; or again, descending the western slopes, they found the undergrowth to consist chiefly of the broad-leafed laurel, with its beautiful dark evergreen foliage, sheltering the [211] lowly mountain-tea and other plants of new and various forms. Or again, they traversed extensive districts more rugged and barren, and poorly timbered with dwarfed and stunted black-oak or the tall and gloomy hemlock.

      Nothing, however, was fitted to afford more delight, especially to the females of the party, than the rich colors with which autumn had tinged many of the forest trees. Here the bright golden hue of the hickory, and the beautiful orange tints of the maple, were contrasted with the dark green of the unchanging pine. Here the scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) and the brilliantly tinted tupelo, shone resplendent amidst surrounding verdure, and the ampelopsis, or American ivy, covered closely with its digitate leaves of crimson the lofty trunks of decaying trees. Thus their slow and toilsome progress over the numerous and lofty ridges of the Alleghanies and across the intervening valleys was cheered and enlivened by the strangeness and the beauty of the objects which presented themselves along the route. Birds of gay and varied plumage, which had been unknown amidst the solitude and silence of the primeval forest, flitted from tree to tree along the borders of the cultivated districts. The active squirrel mounted to the topmost branches in quest of nuts; various wild animals were suddenly started from the thickets along the way; and sometimes, amid the deeper recesses of the mountains, might still be seen in the distance a few timid deer, hastening to the security of their accustomed haunts.

      Reaching sometimes the summit of one of the mountains early in the morning, they would see these vast parallel and unbroken ridges trending toward the S. W. as far as the eye could reach, and forming, upon all sides, the distant horizon with their dark uplifted [212] summits, dimly seen through the bluish haze, which, at this season of the year, usually prevails. Beneath, the deep valley into which the road seemed about to descend, would be in its lower part concealed by the thick mist which had formed during the night, and which lay sleeping on its bosom like accumulated masses of the purest snow. Sometimes, upon descending, they would find a wide and rich valley of undulating land interposing itself for many miles between the mountain chains, and divided into cultivated farms, with here and there a thriving town or village. As the hotels along the route were usually located in the valleys, they would frequently, in the arrangement for the day's travel, reach the top of one of the mountains in the afternoon, when, the mists having been long since dissipated, the deep and rugged gorges winding amongst the mountains became visible to a great distance, occasionally opening into a cleared and fertile cove, where the sunlight would be seen occasionally flashing from a pure and rapid stream of water, and where, sheltered in a quiet nook, by the side of the road, they would find the inn which was to be their resting-place for the night.

      These inns, at this period, along the chief thoroughfares of travel between the East and West, were, many of them, very spacious and comfortable buildings, and abundantly provided with all necessary comforts for the traveler. They were sometimes frame buildings, with long, capacious porches in front and rear. Others were built with a species of blue limestone, which, contrasting with the white mortar between the blocks, and the white window frames and green Venetian shutters, produced a pleasing effect, and formed solid and substantial structures. On the opposite side of the read were [213] usually placed the spacious stables, sheds, and other outbuildings required for the accommodation of teamsters; and, near at hand, was the immense wooden trough, into which poured constantly, from a hydrant, a stream of pure water, carried under the ground in wooden pipes from a spring upon the side of the neighboring hill. As the hotel stood back some distance from the road, abundant room was left, in the wide recess, thus formed for the wagons and other vehicles, from which the horses were disengaged. The interior of the hotel itself was usually plain, but commodious--a bar-room, connected with a dining-room, and this with the kitchen, on one side of a wide hall; and, upon the other, the parlors for the better sort of guests. These were sometimes entirely covered with carpeting of domestic manufacture. At other times, only the middle portions were thus covered, the rest of the floor being strewed with white sand, arranged in curving lines and forming various patterns, according to the taste of the tidy hostess. In some cases, the white sand was used as an entire substitute for carpeting, and gritted unpleasantly beneath the feet. Above stairs were usually the comfortable sleeping apartments. At this period, hotels of this character could be found every ten or twenty miles, but since the establishment of railroads and the tunneling of the mountains, their glory has departed, and they are now "few and far between," and doing but little business, since passengers can travel at their ease, seated on the soft plush or velvet cushions of luxurious cars, and over as great a distance in an hour as could be accomplished by the old road-wagon in a day.

      It was the evening of about the tenth day of their journey when, the Campbell family had stopped to rest [214] for the night at such an inn as has been described. At a similar inn, some fifteen miles westward, and at the same hour, there was seen to alight a tall young man, dressed in black, who, having attended to the wants of his jaded horse, entered the hotel, and took his seat in the parlor with some other travelers who had previously arrived. He was considerably above the medium height, erect and graceful. His face was somewhat round, with delicate features, a fair complexion and an ample forehead, with clustering locks of brown hair. He was scarcely seated, when there was another arrival of two rather elderly men, also from the West, who had with them a couple of led horses equipped as for females. One of the men was tall, broad-shouldered and athletic, with black hair, piercing eyes and bushy eyebrows. The other was about the middle stature, fair, and of an exceedingly engaging countenance and manner. Entering the parlor, the latter gracefully saluted the company, and courteously begged to inquire if any of them had come from the eastward, and had passed, during the day, a wagon containing a family of emigrants. He informed them, with the greatest frankness, that his name was Thomas Campbell, and that he was from Washington, Pennsylvania, on his way to meet his family, who had recently arrived at New York from Scotland, and were now on their way from Philadelphia, and from whom he had been separated about two years. His friend, Mr. John McElroy, had been so kind as to accompany him with led horses, as a means of relief to his wife and daughters from the confinement of the wagon. His appearance and courteous bearing at once secured marked respect, and he received from some of those present such information as led him to hope that he would, in all probability, [215] meet his family during the course of the next day. The tall young man who had previously entered was particularly struck with Thomas Campbell's dignified appearance and demeanor. He noted the intelligence that beamed in his countenance, and perceived by his conversation that he was a person of superior education and refinement.

      When the company were called in to supper, they found that the landlady, who was addicted to the use of spirituous liquor, had become intoxicated. She had decked off her table fantastically with flowers, and was evidently disposed to be very annoying to her guests by her impertinence and garrulity. These were, however, delighted to witness the readiness with which Mr. Campbell comprehended the situation of affairs, and the grace and dignity with which he repressed the demonstrations of ebriety on the part of the hostess. Advancing to the table, he said, "With your leave, gentlemen, I will give thanks for these blessings;" which he proceeded to do in grave and solemn terms, and during the repast maintained and directed the conversation so as to reduce the landlady to a respectful silence. The tall stranger soon perceived that Mr. Campbell was a minister of the gospel; and though he was himself a minister, and felt singularly attracted toward Mr. Campbell, and desired to enter into conversation with him, he put so modest an estimate upon his own attainments that he could not summon courage to do so, and thought it best for him to remain in the background. Retiring, accordingly, soon afterward to rest, he set off upon his eastward journey early in the morning, and, after riding about ten miles, met the wagon and the family, which, from the account of the evening before, he knew to be Mr. Campbell's. As he bowed to them [216] and passed on, he particularly noticed Alexander, but he little thought, at the time, that with this youth and his father, whom he had thus casually met, he himself would be in a few years an earnest fellow-laborer in promoting the interests of a new and important religious reformation. Yet so it was that Providence, which often foreshadows the events of human life, had given him, as it were, a silent introduction in advance to those who were hereafter to modify greatly his religious life. For this tall stranger was no other than Adamson Bentley, a young but influential Baptist preacher of Ohio, who, being engaged also to some extent in the mercantile business, was now on his way to Philadelphia to purchase a stock of goods, and who became afterward the chief instrument of introducing the primitive gospel into the Western Reserve.

      Not long after Mr. Bentley had left the inn, Thomas Campbell and Mr. McElroy resumed their journey, and, soon after Mr. Bentley had passed the wagon, they came in sight of it, and presently felt assured that it was the object of their search. Quickening their pace, they soon approached so near that Mr. Campbell was recognized by the family, to their great joy and astonishment, as they did not expect to see him until their arrival at Washington. The meeting of the mother and children with the husband and father, from whom they had been so long separated, was very affecting. With ardent love beaming in his benignant countenance, Thomas Campbell kissed and embraced them all with the utmost tenderness, remarking how much the children had grown and improved since he left them. When Jane was presented to him, so much changed in appearance by the effect of the small-pox that he would not have recognized her, he [217] said, in a tone of the kindest sympathy, as he took her into his arms, "And is this my little white-head?" a phrase of endearment amongst the Irish, and kissing her affectionately, gave thanks to God for her recovery, and for the kind Providence which had at length brought them all once more together.

      After introducing his kind friend, John McElroy, and spending a little time in mutual inquiries and congratulations, they all proceeded on their way westward, the led horses furnishing an agreeable change occasionally from the confinement of the wagon and the fatigue of walking. It was not long until they surmounted the most western of the mountain ranges, the Chestnut Ridge, and descended into the rich plateau of undulating land which, stretching for hundreds of miles toward the west, formed the upper part of the great Valley of the Mississippi, and which is watered by the Ohio and its numerous tributaries. They were delighted to enter this fertile region, which was to be their future home, and to bid adieu to the rugged mountains which seemed to recede from them toward the east, and formed, with their dark masses, the line of the horizon, sending down at short intervals rapidly-descending spurs, like enormous buttresses, which, extending out a considerable distance into the plain, lost themselves at length in its gentle undulations. This plateau was tolerably thickly settled, and the remainder of their route led them through cultivated farms, and through groves of oak, walnut, ash and locust, and across or along the numerous smaller streams which flow into the Monongahela river. Reaching this river at length, they crossed it by the ferry at Williamsport, and entered the county of Washington, and, in the evening, found themselves near the residence of the Rev. Samuel [218] Ralston, a Presbyterian preacher of considerable influence, and President of the Trustees of Jefferson College at Canonsburg. Being acquainted with him, Thomas Campbell called over to see him, and to introduce his son Alexander, and they were hospitably entertained during the night by Mr. Ralston. Next day they reached the town of Washington, where, in a field adjoining, a house had been provided, in which they were once more to find a resting-place and to form an unbroken family circle.

      During the three days in which they had thus been journeying along in company, Mrs. Campbell had related to her husband the various incidents which had occurred in the history of the family since his departure from Ireland; and Alexander and the other children had likewise detailed their several experiences, dangers and deliverances during their separation from him. He, in turn, gave them a particular account of what had befallen him in America, and of what he had learned of the character of the country. With the latter he expressed himself greatly delighted, both as to climate, natural resources and inhabitants, but especially as regarded the freedom of the government and the security and protection it afforded to all. He then went on to detail his religious trials and the persecutions he had undergone at the hands of the Seceder clergy, on account of his efforts to effect a reformation and to promote Christian union on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. As he described the contumely which had been heaped upon him; the slanders circulated; the determined opposition to the slightest overture in favor of relaxing the strict usages of the party; the unjust proceedings of the Presbytery and the Synod, and the evil feelings of jealousy, animosity and envy that manifestly [219] instigated their sectarian opposition, he expressed his sincere conviction that, had they possessed the power, he would have suffered martyrdom at their hands, or, as he expressed it, that "nothing but the law of the land had kept his head upon his shoulders." Alexander could not but feel indignant at this recital, and felt more and more the correctness of the conclusion to which he had himself already come in regard to hierarchical establishments and the rule of the clergy. He was greatly surprised, however, when informed by his father that the latter had actually dissolved his connection with the Seceders, as he could no longer feel justified in sanctioning their proceedings by remaining with them; and that he had been for some time past preaching independently to audiences made up of individuals of different parties, who were willing to listen to his overtures for Christian union upon the basis of the Bible alone. Alexander was greatly rejoiced at this announcement, and could not but admire the ways of Providence, which had thus, through a bitter experience, delivered his father from the shackles of partyism, so that, instead of fearing opposition from him to the views to which he had himself been definitely brought while in Glasgow, he found him already, though by a somewhat different method, led practically to the very same conclusions. To overcome the force of Thomas Campbell's early predilections, and his strong attachment to the people amongst whom he had so long and so faithfully labored, required, indeed, a much more potent agency than could be derived from mere observation of the practical workings of the system in regard to others. It needed that he should have himself a personal experience of the effects of that stern and tyrannous spirit of sectarianism which had concealed from him its true disposition beneath [220] the smile of approval, until his gradually increasing desire for Christian union led him to contravene its arbitrary decrees. It was then that he discovered to his surprise its real character, and was compelled suddenly to turn away with aversion from the religious body which he had loved and espoused. Thus it was that Providence had removed out of the way the only obstacle which could have prevented him from sympathizing fully in the liberal and independent views which his son had imbibed in Scotland, and had thus prepared the minds of both the father and the son for that important work in which they were henceforth destined to co-operate.

      The train of circumstances which had given this preparation to the father, and, in divorcing him from his connection with the Seceders, had suddenly placed him in a position to give practical effect to his long-cherished views of a much-needed religious reformation, were, as has been stated, detailed to Alexander and the family along the way. This relation was necessarily given at intervals, and intermingled with various inquiries, explanations and digressions which it is unnecessary to recapitulate. As, however, a particular account of these events is essential to the purposes of these memoirs, and to a proper understanding of the circumstances in which Alexander was shortly to be placed, it will be given in a connected form in the following chapter. [205]

      1 This Dr. John M. Mason was the son of the eminent Dr. John Mason who had been sent in 1761 by the Anti-Burgher Secession Synod as a missionary to America. He died in New York in 1792, and was succeeded by his distinguished son, Dr. John M. Mason, who was an eloquent and popular preacher, and a man of rich and varied scholarship. He became somewhat distinguished as a theological writer. His first work, which was on the more frequent observance of the Lord's Supper, excited considerable interest. The Scottish churches had been accustomed to observe the Lord's Supper not more than twice a year, and in some cases only once. Connected with its observance there were so many additional services--as the preparation sermon; the fast on the preceding Thursday, and the thanksgiving day on the following Monday, etc., often occupying an entire week--that frequent communion was quite impracticable. The eminent John Erskine, in 1749, had called the attention of the Church of Scotland to this evil, in his "Essay to promote the more frequent dispensation of the Lord's Supper;" but the movement he initiated resulted only in diminishing slightly the number of sermons delivered at communion seasons. Renewing the effort, Dr. Mason endeavored to induce the Church to cease the observance of extra days and services, to which they had become so much attached that they regarded it as almost a profanation of the Lord's Supper to celebrate it without them. Dr. Mason's "Letters" on the subject had the effect of producing the desired change in many congregations, and as his views on this and various other subjects harmonized with those of Alexander and his father Thomas Campbell, they both entertained towards him warm feelings of regard and sympathy. Alexander, therefore, saw and heard him now for the first time with great interest. [205]
      2 Seneca, Epist. 41. [208]


[MAC1 195-221]

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Robert Richardson
Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, Volume I. (1868)

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