« PreviousContinue »
May 28. We discovered a large sail; she directed her course towards the east. We took her to be an English man of war going express. She carried three top-gallant sails.
May 13. We spoke with a sloop bound from Antigua to London. She acquainted the commodore with the agreeable news of bis majesty's forces at Guadaloupe having reduced that whole island under subjection to the British government. The wind still continued unfavourable.
June 5. We spoke with a snow from Carolina, which informed the commodore, that a French frigate was cruising off the Capes of Virginia. From that time to the 11th, we had nothing remarkable. The wind was generally from west to north-west, and there were frequent squalls with lightning. We saw several bonctas, grampuses, albicores, and fish of different kinds.
June 11. The water appeared discoloured ; and we concluded that we were upon the Banks of Newfoundland : we cast the lead, but found no ground. The weather was thick and hazy. Nothing remarkable happened from this time to the 3d of July: we had pleasant weather, though now and then squalls with lightning. We sell in with several currents and had variable winds.
July 3. We had fine weather, with a gentle breeze at N. W. We were now, according to the commodore's reckoning (which we afterward found to be true), about fifty leagues from land. The air was richly scented with the fragrance of the pine trees.
July 4. We saw a great many sloops, from whence we imagined that we were near the coast. The wind was at east-by-north.
July 5. About six in the morning we caught some green fish : upon this we founded, and found eighteen fathom water. At ten we discovered land, which proved to be
Cape Charles; and about three hours afterwards failed through the capes into Chesapeak Bay. The commodore took his leave to go upon a cruise ; and at eight in the evening we came to an anchor in York river, after a tedious and disagreeable voyage of almost ten weeks.
The next morning, having hired a chaise at York, I went to Williamsburg, about twelve miles distant. The road is exceedingly pleasant, through some of the finest tobacco plantations in North-America, with a beautiful view of the river and woods of great extent.
Williamsburg is the capital of Virginia : it is situated between two creeks ; one falling into James, the other into York river; and is built nearly due cast and west. The distance of each landing-place is something more than a mile from the town; which, with the disadvantage of not being able to bring up large vessels, is the reason of its not having increased so fast as might have been expected. It consists of about two hundred houses, does not contain more than one thousand souls, whites and negroes; and is far from being a place of any consequence. It is regularly laid out in parallel streets, intersected by others at right angles; has a handsome square in the center, through which runs the principal street, one of the most spacious in North America, three quarters of a mile in length, and above a hundred feet wide. At the ends of this street are two public buildings, the college and the capitol : and although the houses are of wood, covered with shingles, and but indifferently built, the whole makes a handsome appear-,
There are few public edifices that deserve to be taken notice of; those, which I have mentioned, are the principal; and they are far from being magnificent. The governor's palace, indeed, is tolerably good, one of the best upon the continent; but the church, the prison, and the other buildings, are all of them extremely indifferent.
The streets are not paved, and are consequently very dusty, the soil hereabout consisting chiefly of sand : however, the situation of Williamsburg has one advantage, which few or no places in these lower parts have; that of being free from mosquitoes. Upon the whole, it is an agreeable residence; there are ten or twelve gentlemen's families constantly residing in it, besides merchants and tradesmen : and at the times of the assemblies, and general courts, it is crowded with the gentry of the country: on those occasions there are balls and other amusements; but as soon as the business is finished, they return to their plantations; and the town is in a manner deserted.
The situation of Virginia (according to Evans's Map) is between the 36th and 40th degree of north lat. and about 76 degrees west long. from London. It is bounded on the north by the river Potowmac, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, by Carolina on the south, and, to include only what is inhabited, by the great Alleghenny on the west.
The climate is extremely fine, though subject to violent heats in the summer; Farenheit's thermometer being generally for three months from 85 to 95 degrees high. The other seasons, however, make ample amends for this inconvenience: for the autumns and springs are delightful; and the winters are so mild and serene (though there are now and then excessively cold days) as scarcely to require a fire. The only complaint that a person can reasonably make, is, of the very sudden changes which the weather is liable to; for this being intirely regulated by the winds, is exceedingly variable. Southerly winds are productive of heat, northerly of cold, and easterly of rain ; whence it is no uncommon thing for the thermometer to fall many degrees in a very few hours; and, after a warm day, to have such severe cold, as to freeze over a river a mile broad in one night's time.* In summer there are frequent and violent gusts, with thunder and lightning; but as the country is very thinly inhabited, and most of the gentry have electrical rods to their houses, they are not attended with many fatal accidents. Now and then, indeed, some of the negroes lose their lives; and it is not uncommon in the woods, to see trees torn and riven to pieces by their fury and violence. A remarkable circumstance happened some years ago at York, which is well attested: a person standing at his door during a thunder gust, was unfortunately killed ; there was an intermediate tree at some distance, which was truck at the same time; and when they came to examine the body, they found the tree delineated upon it in miniature. Part of the body was livid, but that which was covered by the tree was of its natural colour.
I believe no country has more certainly proved the efficacy of electrical rods, than this : before the discovery of them, these gusts were frequently productive of melancholy consequences; but now it is rare to hear of such instances. It is observable that no house was ever struck, where they were fixed: and although it has frequently happened that the rods themselves have been melted, or broken to pieces, and the houses scorched along the sides of them, which manifested that they had received the stroke, but that the quantity of lightning was too great to be carried off by the conductor, yet never has any misfortune happened; such a direction having been given to the lightning, as to prevent any danger or ill consequence. These circumstances, one would imagine, should induce every person to get over those prejudices which many have entertained; and
* On the 19th of December, 1759, being upon a visit to colonel Washington, at Mount-Vernon, upon the river Potowmac, where the river is two miles broad, I was greatly surprised to find it intirely frozen over in the space of one night, when the preceding day had been mild and temperate.
to consider the neglect, rather than the use of them as criminal, since they seem to be means put into our hands by Providence, for our safety and protection.
The soil of Virginia is in general good. There are indeed barrens where the lands produce nothing but pinetrees; but taking the whole tract together, it is certainly fertile, The low grounds upon the rivers and creeks are exceedingly rich, being loam intermingled with sand : and the higher you go up in the country, towards the mountains, the value of the land increases; for it grows more strong, and of a deeper clay.
Virginia, in its natural state, produces great quantities of fruits and medicinal plants, with trees and flowers of infinitely various kinds, Tobacco and Indian corn are the original produce of the country; likewise the pigeon-berry and rattle-snake-root, so esteemed in all ulcerous and pleuritical complaints : grapes, strawberries, hiccory nuts, mulberries, chesnuts, and several other fruits, grow wild and spontaneously.
Besides trees and flowers of an ordinary nature, the woods produce myrtles, cedars, cypresses, sugar-trees, firs of different sorts, and no less than seven or eight kinds of oak; they are likewise adorned and beautified with redflowering maples, sassafras-trees, dog-woods, acacias, redbuds, scarlet-flowering chesnuts, fringe-trees, flowering poplars, umbrellas, magnolias, yellow jasamines, chamedaphnes, pacoons, atamusco-lilies, May-apples, and innumerable other sorts; so that one may reasonably assert that no country ever appeared with greater elegance or beau
Not to notice too the almost numberless creeks and rivulets which every where abound, it is watered by four large rivers of such safe navigation, and such noble and majestic appearance, as cannot be exceeded, perhaps, in the whole known world.