Pittsburg Telegraph Office, May 30, 1852.
To George Lauder Senior
My dear uncle,
… The above picture is a correct view of our American home,
but it is taken from a point that does not show the city to advantage,
the greater part of which lays back of the cathedral – that building with the high steeple.
The building opposite is the Court House.
It is a splendid building of free stone.
The river to the right is the Monongahela.
The wire bridge across it leads to Birmingham and Sligo, where the coal hills are.
You will observe a flat boat coming down; it is loaded with coal for points below.
Pittsburgh supplies all places below with coal. Its coal trade amounts to many millions of dollars yearly.
The steamboats are very well done.
They will no doubt appear funny to you. They are very different from yours.
They are light and some of them go at the rate of 20 miles downstream. The largest of them draw only 4 feet.
And in the summer months, the river gets so low that they cannot run
and little boats drawing only 18 inches take their places.
The river on the left is Allegheny, called that by the Indians, meaning “clear water”.
Up the Allegheny there are great forests, and hundreds of rafts of lumber come down every season.
There is one in the picture coming down just at the lower bridge.
The bridges lead over to Allegheny City — they are very like the originals.
Allegheny contains 22,000 inhabitants.
There is not much business done in Allegheny. The greater part of the people there are engaged in some business in Pittsburgh.
Our house is opposite the lowest tree on the left marked X.
You will see little ferry boats on the river. Some of them run to Manchester, two miles below where there are public gardens.
In the summer they are much visited, because it is so warm we are glad to go and get under the shade of a fine tree.
We have had a flood this year. Every season when the snow melts on the mountains, the rivers raise very high.
But they have not been so high for 20 years before.
It rained for three weeks, almost constantly, and both rivers rose at once.
It was up to the ceiling in our house, and for two days we had to live upstairs and sail about in rafts and skiffs. It was a great time!!
The lower part of Allegheny was all flooded. It caused great destruction of property.
Our telegraph was swept away in some places and I had to go down the river 70 miles to take all the Eastern business from Pittsburgh
and send to a station below from where the line was all right.
I was away more than a week and enjoyed myself first rate.
James Sloan arrived here two weeks ago.
He has had a hard voyage, but he’s in good health. He will get along first rate here. He thinks he will go to making shuttles — a great number of them being required for the steam cotton works.
We were all overjoyed to see him.
We have not got all the news from him yet. Every day something comes to light that surprises us.
He likes this country very well, but as he is going to write, he will “gie ye his ain crack”.
He says that he knows very little difference in father and mother.
And I was glad to hear him say that Dod and I looked very much alike, far more so than when I was in Scotland. We are also about the same height.
He was laughing at me a few days ago because I could not say sow crae as broad as he says it.
I tried it over and over, but could not do it.
But although I cannot say sow crae just as broad as I once could, I can read about Wallace, Bruce and Burns with as much enthusiasm as ever,
and feel proud of being a son of Old Caledonia.
And I like to tell people when they ask, “Are you a native born?”
“No, sir. I am a Scotchman”,
and I feel as proud, I am sure, as every Roman did
when it was their boast to say, “I am a Roman citizen.”
We got the Fife Herald with an account of Smith’s meeting. It was a rich treat to us all.
Father says he would vote for Smith now, and we all laughed to see how Erskine got his deservings.
We were sorry to see afterward that Mr. Smith is not going to be a candidate again. He was a faithful servant.
The politicians here are all in great excitement about the presidency.
Every candidate (and there are about 20) is trying everything he can think of to gain popularity.
They write letters to different associations flattering them,
make speeches on popular questions
taking every occasion to flatter the enlightened citizens of the Great Republic, etc., etc..
You would laugh to see how low they have to bow to their sovereigns — the People!
The two most prominent candidates, I am sorry to say, are warriors.
One General Scott, Commander in Chief, U.S.A. — he is a Whig.
The Whigs here, go for protection against foreign labor and are in favor of a National Bank
and are conservative.
The Democrats to go for Free Trade
and no Chartered Bank.
I take great interest in politics here and think
when I am a man
I would like to dabble a little in them.
I would be a Democrat, or rather a free soil Democrat.
Free soilers get that name from their hatred of slavery and slave labor.
Slavery, I hope, will soon be abolished in this country.
I will explain the reason it cannot be done away with
in Dod’s letter.
Father said this morning, to be sure and tell you
that the greatest Reform of the age has just taken place here.
It is a law recently passed the House of Representatives granting 160 acres of unoccupied land to every man that will cultivate it.
And when he dies, his children get the land.
No man can get it if he owns any other land.
The law has not yet come into operation, but will come soon.
Send out your poor tax-ridden honest men and they will soon get a home here.
There is much excitement upon the subject of Temperance.
The state of Maine passed a law prohibiting the manufacture or sale,
except for medical purposes,
of all intoxicating liquors.
Several states have passed similar laws, and of course the rum sellers are trying all they can to protect their
“right to sell what they please.”
This is a step in advance of you at any rate.
Kossuth is now in the state of New York. I do not recollect whether I told you of his doings here or not. I wrote it down intending to send you in my next letter.
The majority of the people I believe would favor America protesting against Russian interference.
He has raised a great deal of money here and intends leaving for England next month.
But I must not fill up my letter with politics altogether, so I will try to think of some personal matters.
Mother is in good health and sends you and aunt her very kindest regards.
Father has been away selling his clothes lately. He is in fine spirits.
He does not take very much interest in politics here, but that Land Reform has really excited him.
He is in great glee about it.
Aunt Aiken has commenced keeping the store in Allegheny in partnership with Mrs. Scott — a Scotch woman.
They are getting along very well.
Aunt sends her best respects to you and Aunt and all friends.
She is a strong pillar of the Church and great influence over all its members. She has taken James, Uncle Morris’s youngest son to raise.
Our Meeting House is the story above our office.
I have just come down into the office from Sunday School.
We have a nice school. I take great interest in it and I’m a young Swedenborgian.
Do you still read the Works?
I still continue to like my business and intend to continue at it.
I have very easy times and I may say I have no master,
for the operators in the office are very nice men
and never say a cross word, at least very seldom.
Although I sometimes think I would like to be back in Dunfermline
I am sure it is far better for me that I came here.
If I had been in Dunfermline working at the loom, it is very likely I would have been a poor weaver all my days.
But here I can surely do something better than that.
If I don’t, it will be my own fault,
for anyone can get along in this country.
I intend going to night school this fall to learn something more.
And after that I will try and teach myself some other branches.
My paper is nearly done. Please give my kind remembrances to Mr. and Mrs. Martin and John Grant, tell him we were happy to hear that he and the family were getting along.
Now, my dear uncle, please write me soon.
I would be so glad to get a letter from you.
I will write you regularly.
I forgot to ask when you intended coming out.
I remain your much indebted nephew.
MY DEAR AUNT.
As I have a little spare room, I take the chance of writing you a few lines . . .
Tommy is getting along very well. He is getting very stout and tall, he goes regularly to school and is now learning to write.
We have had very cold weather for this season of the year
but now the warm weather is beginning to come on.
In the warm weather most folks here get a sort of disease called the Spring Fever.
It does not do them any harm, it only makes them lazy
so they dont like to do anything but lay about.
We are going to have very warm weather this summer
it is thought on account of the extreme coldness of the winter.
The winter has been the coldest one for many years.
It was fifteen degrees below zero some mornings, rather too cold.
Remember me to Maggie and Eliza.
Tell them I am coming to see them again soon and I hope they will be good girls.
My paper is nearly full so I must bid you goodbye.
Please write when Uncle does. Would like to hear from you. Tell us all about Maggie, Eliza and Ann, not forgetting yourself.
Your affectionately, NAIG
Pittsburgh, Sunday, June 22nd, 1851.
To George Lauder, Junior
MY DEAR DOD, . . . We are all enjoying good health at present.
Father has been working a linnen web for a lady these two weeks past and has got along first rate with it,
he is also working some linnen cloths for himself.
He thinks he can make more on them than on cotton ones.
He is the same as when he left, not a bit of difference in him.
I think he would still build rabbit houses for us yet!
It pleased him greatly to hear of his letter being read at a meeting in the park,
I think that will be an inducement to write again.
Tom is learning very fast at school and
I think he will get to be a stronger boy than he looked like being, before he left.
I had him down in the river this morning, he is not afraid of the water.
I have been away from home for 2 weeks past.
I was at Greensburg, a small town about thirty miles from here taking charge of the office —
because the operator was going away on a visit.
I had a pleasant trip, the passengers in the coach being Scotch,
one the name of Bruce, a lady, and the other a gentleman of the name of McLaren.
We talked of Bruce, Wallace, Burns, Graham and such characters and I was quite vexed when the journey was over.
I heard Jenny Lind sing when she was here, the telegraphers being admitted free.
She is the strangest woman I ever heard of.
When I heard her I thought “Oh if she would only sing some Scotch songs,”
if she would give us “Auld Lang Syne” I would have been better pleased than with all the others put together.
I have got past delivering messages now and have got to operating.
I receive four dollars a week and a good prospect of soon getting more.
You talk about the “Atlantic” getting damaged, and “City of Glasgow” going safely on.
Perhaps they were not on the same course or something else.
You will see that the Yankees are still ahead, the “Pacific” having made the shortest passage.
America wants to take that long-held title, the “Mistress of the seas,” from England
and she will give a strong pull for it.
I like to see that spirit going on,
for it will lead to improvements.
We will soon be surrounded by Rail Roads here.
There are two different ones now laying the tracks in the city, one from the “far West” and the other from Philadelphia.
We will also have another telegraph line up to there in August,
one line not being capable of doing the increasing business.
You will have heard of the line of steamers from Philadelphia to Liverpool.
Well one of the ships is to be called the City of Pittsburgh,
it is the largest on the line and yesterday another steamboat was launched here of the same name —
to run on the Ohio from here to Cincinnati; it is 300 feet long, being one of the largest ever built to run on a river.
She is intended to be the fastest steamboat afloat.
There is also some talk of a line of steamers from Boston to Liverpool,
then we will have competition sure enough.
I think an engineer is about the best trade you could learn and if ever you come to New York I will certainly come to see you.
I feel confident I will see Dunfermline again because I can easily manage to save as much money if I behave well…
Hoping to hear from you soon.
I am as ever.
Pittsburgh, August 18, 1853.
To George Lauder, Junior.
In my last letter I promised to tell you how we were governed.
Your monarchial statesman, if informed that we succeeded in preserving order
(that bugbear of the middle classes)
would at once conclude that the dominant race kept the others in absolute subjection,
denied them all civil rights,
that we employed a large standing army and gigantic police force
to keep down the rabble
and suppress the numerous riots that would necessarily take place,
that the Press — if we had any — was either muzzled or tax ridden
(either of which answers the desired purpose),
that to whisper a word against the “powers that be” was treason,
in short, that we had all the ingenious contrivances for keeping down the people which Her Majesty’s favored subjects Enjoy (!)
only on a more perfect scale.
That would be the natural idea of
one bred to believe that the people and the governors were distinct and antagonistic,
that a certain few were born to rule
and the great mass only to administer their desires
— of one who saw in government a cover under which a class of drones could feast
upon the industry of the hive,
protected by “the divine right of Kings.”
But how erroneous his idea would be!
For our government is founded upon justice
and our creed is that the will of the People is the “source“
and their happiness the end of all legitimate Government.
Such a government needs none of the wretched props necessary to the existence of despotisms.
Our army consists of a few thousand men employed in protecting our frontiers from Indian depredations.
Our police force is insignificant. Allegheny City, for instance, with a population of 22,000 has but four.
We have perfect political Equality, every one has a voice in the Government.
The press is as free as the air, no security is required for its good behavior
no taxes upon Knowledge to crush its energies, no limit to free speech.
Treason only consists in levying war against U. S. or adhering to our enemies —
and still we live in peace,
riots are almost unknown.
It is strange that with your immense army and police system you cannot keep the peace.
Look at Ireland, for instance.
Every steamer brings us word of some fresh disturbance or religious riot, while we have no trouble with them.
An Irishman becomes a useful and patriotic citizen with us;
he feels that he is on an equality with his neighbors,
with no drawbacks upon his industry, no merciless landlord to crush him.
He applies his energies to the task and in a few years he owns his farm,
then sends for his Brothers and Sisters to come to the land overflowing with milk and honey
and be respected.
They emigrate and follow in his footsteps,
and so it is with other nations.
They are tax ridden and oppressed in their own countries
and forced to seek a home in the new.
Here they find no Royal Family to squander their hard made earnings,
no aristocracy to support,
no established church with its enormous sinecures,
no electoral districts made for a class to overrule the majority,
no primogeniture and entail to curse the land and stop improvements in the soil.
But why should I enumerate?
They find nothing but what has sprung from the People and what they have the power to remedy at once.
They find the various reforms which they struggled for at home
in successful operation here.
Indeed I can think of no reform which you have, that we do not possess.
We have all your good traits, which are many,
with few or none of your bad ones
which I must say are neither few nor far between.
But we go ahead.
We now possess what the working classes of your country look forward to
as constituting their political millennium.
We have the charter which you have been fighting for for years
as the Panacea for all Britain’s woes,
the bulwark of the liberties of the people.
If you possess as much freedom as we do,
why fight for the charter as the great reform of the age — a measure we’ve had from the beginning?
But we are not at a standstill. We have only commenced the great work of reform.
Among those we have lately made —
I say made, because we don’t ask our Governors for reforms as favors but demand them as rights —
I may mention the abolition of flogging in the Navy —
the American sailor is no more degraded by the lash;
the cheap postage system — a letter is now carried any distance under 3000 miles for 3c,
cheaper by far than your rates —
newspapers are free in the counties where they are published
and 25c per gram under 500 miles;
the Homestead Exemption Law by which a debtor is allowed from 3 to 500 dollars
in the shape of a home secure from the grasp of a rapacious creditor;
abolishment of imprisonment for debt;
stringent laws against the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors.
Now, all these great reforms were gained without threatening to revolutionize, to burn the books, etc. Oh no!
Our political engine works so smoothly,
no puffing and blowing but everything easy about it.
Of course, we have a good deal of steam escaping through our safety valve in the form of Buncombe,
but that’s a good sign, you know.
Our representatives are anxious to anticipate our wishes
in order to gain popularity and are ready to do anything the people want.
It would amuse you to see our politicians bowing and scraping to their masters the Dear People —
not only at election times,
because they have no seven long years to play the traitor.
Speech is broadcast through the land by our cheap press,
and scanned by their constituents.
Our ballot box is to a great extent pure and undefiled.
A whisper of “election expenses” as publicly paraded in your newspapers would ruin a man here.
Talk of your representative system, look at the large number unseated for bribery.
It is shown to be a nest of corruption,
a mere sham got up to deceive the people,
who point triumphantly to their Commons and
boast that they are the source from which the Commons spring.
How you can pretend to be enjoying freedom with such a disclosure as that staring you in the face
surpasses my comprehension.
But the best proof of the superiority of our system is seen in the general prosperity and progress of its citizens.
Among a multitude of similar instances I will mention the following:
We have now in the National Treasury nearly 22 million dollars,
our debt is being paid off as fast as it becomes due,
our receipts annually exceed our expenditures.
Our public lands, of almost unlimited extent, are becoming settled with an enterprising people.
Our dense forests are falling under the axe of the hardy backwoodsman.
The Wolf and the Buffalo are startled by the shrill scream of the Iron Horse,
where a few years ago they roamed undisturbed.
Towns and cities spring up as if by magic.
Cincinnati Ohio was settled in 1817 and now contains a population of 165 thousand.
Pittsburgh in 1840 had 42 and now numbers 93 thousand.
Nor are these cases remarkable,
everywhere throughout the Northern states show like results.
Our inland trade upon our lakes and rivers exceeds, I am told, the total commerce of Great Britain —
in 1811 the first steamboat that ever traveled the western waters was built at this place.
Now 52 steamers, some over 1000 tons burden, are launched from this port every year.
Our foreign commerce is now the second in the world and is rapidly taking first position.
Britannia rules the waves won’t hold true in five years.
We publish 2800 papers and magazines, 350 of which are dailies —
number of copies printed annually estimated at 422 million and 600 thousand.
Every tradesman has his own newspaper.
I know no family that does not take at least one paper and many who have 2, 3 and 4.
The New York Daily Tribune can be laid on his table every morning for 6 pence per week.
Every ward has its splendid public school, where all can attend as long as they deem fit.
Our Railroads extend 13,000 miles. You cannot supply iron fast enough to keep us going.
Our Telegraphs embrace 21,000 miles. The country is completely cut up with Railroad Tracks, Telegraphs and Canals.
We have about 550 million dollars invested in manufactures,
every business yields a fair remuneration, pauperism is almost unknown.
Nor are these the most convincing evidences of our activity.
Hundreds of labor saving devices are patented yearly
(it don’t take a fortune to procure one here)
of which Hussey’s Reaper serves as a sample.
Everything around us is in motion.
Mind is freed from superstitious reverence for old customs,
unawed by gorgeous and unmeaning shows and forms.
This “doing of a thing” because our grandfathers did it, I can assure you, is not an “American Institution.”
We have little veneration for those rules and principles rendered sacred by the seal of the “Ancients” whether in church or state.
But you may reply, Government has little or nothing to do with the state of affairs.
Why then, I would ask, the contrast between the United States and the Canadas?
They were settled by the same people, at the same time, under the same Government — and look at the difference!
Where are her Railroads, Telegraphs and Canals? her commercial marine and her unrivalled Steamships? her fast clippers? or her potent Press?
We have given to the world a Washington, a Franklin, a Fulton, a Morse —
what has Canada ever produced?
Ah Dod, “There’s something rotten in Denmark!”
How can you account for this?
Is it not a fair sample of our respective systems?
The one exhibits the vigor of manhood, the other the lassitude of old age,
and while the one continues in the old well beaten track, the other is continually exploring new paths,
presenting new truths and acting on new principles
which a too conservative world cannot but admire
though it dare not imitate.
The one is governed, the other rules itself.
The one 80 years ago was a feeble confederacy of sickly states,
a dependency of the British crown whose voice was never heard among other nations of the Earth.
Now its glory is sounded in every land,
its flag is respected in every sea,
by the working classes it is hailed with delight,
and although the despots may abhor it, they have enough sense to know that they dare not insult it.
Capt. Ingraham at Smyrna exhibited the feeling of our people —
the Press teems with approval of his Conduct —
and while we are steadily acquiring a strong influence in the affairs of the world
Canada remains in servile dependence,
“alike unknowing and unknown.”
The one is “Old England,”
the other “Young America.”
That’s where the secret lies —