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Nolan (who was with Mr. E.) spoke in several Indian languages, but which they did not understand. He “then addressed them by signs, to which they immediately replied, and conversed for some time with apparent ease and satisfaction.” He informed our author, that “this curious language was used by many nations on the west side of the Mississippi, who could only be understood by each other in that way, and that it was commonly made use of in transacting their national concerns.” We are referred by Mr. E. to a paper, forwarded to the American Philosophical Society, by William Dunbar, Esq. for a more particular account of this language. In this chapter commences the official correspondence between Mr. Ellicott and the officers of the Spanish government, relative to the running of the boundary line, and the evacuation of the posts or the east side of the Mississippi, above the 31° of north latitude. This correspondence, with the observations upon it, occupies a large portion of the remainder of the volume ; but the publick had before been made acquainted with the motives of the Spanish government, in a much clearer and more concise manner, from the reports of the secretary of state, which are accompanied by a part of these letters, as documents. If these reports, with a few explanatory remarks, or a brief statement of the business, had been published in the text, and the letters been added in an appendix, the reader would have been saved a vast deal of unnecessary labour. The inhabitants of the ceded territory had long been secretly murmuring at the delay of their becoming American citizens, when being excited by the hasty confinement of a turbulent
and intoxicated preacher, their murmurs were converted into open opposition to the Spanish government. The Spanish officers inflamed the discontents by their violent conduct, and then shut themselves up in the fort, to avoid the fury they had excited, and the inhabitants embodied themselves into companies of militia. By the interference of Mr. Ellicott, a compromise was made, a committee was chosen by the people, who established a species of neutrality, which was sanctioned by the governour, who then issued his proclamation for the election of a permament committee. “ The election of this committee,” Mr. E. says, “ as was really intended on my part, put the finishing stroke to the Spanish authority and jurisdiction in this district.” Mr. E. and the commander of the American troops were added as members to both these committees. Our author thinks, that nothing new would be expected from him, respecting the Mississippi ; but from his peculiar advantages he might have obtained much valuable information respecting this extensive river. By his account, we learn, that the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi is neither grand nor romantick. Those rivers unite their waters in a swamp from 36 to 45 miles wide ; and which is several feet under water at every annual inundation, which is complete between the last of February and the middle of May, and generally subsides during the month of August. Its mean perpendicular height at Natchez is about fifty-five feet. He says, “ in descending the river you meet with but little variety ; a few of the sand bars and islands will give you a sample of the whole. When the water is low, you have high muddy banks, quick sands, and sand bars ; and when full, you might almost as well be at sea; for days together you will float without meeting with any thing like soil in the river, and at the same time be environed by an uninhabitable and almost impenetrable wilderness.” The river is crooked, and frequently changes its course, when the old bed is converted into a lake. Its banks likewise are liable to be undermined, and then become dangerous to boats, that may chance to approach them. The navigation between the mouth of the Ohio and Walnut hills (one of the posts afterwards delivered up by the Spanish) is rendered dangerous by “ sawyers and planters;” the former are trees slightly confined to the bottom by their roots, which continue a vibrating motion with their tops ; the latter are trees firmly fixed to the bottom, but by daylight are easily avoided. The banks are higher than the adjacent country, and in times of inundation a current sets into the woods with sufficient velocity to turn a mill. . Its waters are discharged into the gulf of Mexico by several channels. The first branch is the Chafalia, which leaves the Mississippi just below the boundary. This branch is not navigable on account of a bridge, continually increasing in size, formed across it by drift logs, trees, &c.; but which might be removed. From other travellers we learn that this obstruction is common to many of the rivers in this part of the continent. There are no settlements of consequence between the t)hio) and Natchez. This district of Natchez is uncommonly fertile; but as it is “high, hilly, and broken,” Mr. E. fears the soil will be washed away, and the country be
come less productive. This remark, we own, struck us rather oddly. The climate is variable in winter, but hot in summer. The mean temperature of the best spring and well water in the latitude of 31° is 65° of Farenheit's scale, whereas it is only 51° in Pennsylvania. Having spoken of the first settlement of the country, and of the animals, which differ but little from those of the middle states, our author proceeds to mention the impossibility of making a survey of the river, on or near the banks ; and states the following ingenious method which he adopted to complete his map.
The mouth of the Ohio, and town of Natchez, were taken as given points, both as to latitude and longitude. An excellent surveying compass, corrected for the variation of the needle, was used in taking the courses, which were entered in time, instead of space. Every day, when the sun shone at noon, his meridional altitude was taken in descending the river.
The latitudes, determined by those observations, are entered on the chart of the river at the places where the observations were made ; all the courses, between each two of those points, were protracted in time instead of space, that is, by calling the time, space ; each set of courses were then expanded or contracted, so as to agree with the points of latitude, to which they belonged. From the number of latitudes taken, we expect that no part of the river will be found very erroneous in that respect ; so much cannot be said in favour of the longitudes, except at the mouth of the Ohio and the town of Natchez.
Some points have been since corrected from the observations of Mr. Farrar.
We shall pass without observation the proceedings of the permanent committee, and the opposition they met with from faction, as they have long ceased to be interesting. The inhabitants of this district, according to our author, consist of persons of enterprize and ambition, of not a few who have fled from justice, or from creditors, and of American refugees ; and few will dispute his conclusion, that such persons are unfit for a representative government. Having first animadverted upon the administration of Mr. Adams, Mr. E. concludes his fifth chapter with mentioning the evacuation of the Spanish posts. In the succeeding, he commences the object of his mission, having, in concert with the Spanish commissioner, determined the 31° of north latitude on the Mississippi, from that point a due east course was run for the boundary line between the United States and Florida. We shall not follow our author through this rout ; but shall only notice some of the principal facts, and the manner in which he proceeded. The difficulty of running the line is thus described.
The first twenty miles of country, over which the line passed, is perhaps as fertile as any in the United States, and at the same time the most impen. etrable, and could only be explored by using the cane, knife, and hatchet. The whole face of the country being covered with strong canes, which stood almost as close together as hemp stalks, and generally from twenty to thirty five feet high, and matted together by various species of vines, that connected them with the boughs of lofty timber, which was very abundant. The hills are numerous, short and steep ; from these untoward circumstances we were scarcely ever able to open one fourth of a mile per day, and frequently much less.
Arrived at the Pearl river, our author determined to go to New Orleans to obtain the governour's
formal approbation of what had been done, and to procure a vessel, in which he could ascend with his instruments and baggage the various rivers crossed by the boundary line. That New Orleans commands the trade of an immense country is known to every one ; and our author justifies the preference given to the particular spot on the river, on which it is situated. The town is regular, but its streets narrow ; in summer it is hot and disagreeable, but in winter, to use Mr. E.'s own words, “it then abounds with health, and a variety of well conducted amusements, which are encouraged and protected by the government.”— Coasting vessels from the eastward go to New Orleans by lake Ponchartrain, and a canal, connecting that lake and the city, and thereby avoid the tedious navigation of the Mississippi. Mr. E. took the command himself of the vessel,in which he proceeded from New Orleans; because he thought it would be more economical, as the masters at that city were exorbitant in their demands. On each of the rivers the 31° of north latitude was determined from astronomical observations, and a surveyor was sentacross to carry a guide line, which, when not found exact, was corrected back, and mounds of earth were erected at the end of each mile. The Pearl and Pascagola, the Mobile and Tensaw, formed by the Tombeckby and Alabama, the Cocnecuh and Chattahocha rivers, are all navigable above the boundary. Their banks are low, extremely fertile, and subject to annual inundations ; but the high lands between them are unproductive. At the Chattahocha, Mr. E. was plundered by the Indians.-This river, from the 31° of north latitude, down to the mouth of Flint
fiver, constitutes a part of the boundary line, which was thence to pass to the source of the St. Mary’s, which then divides the two countries to the ocean. Our author's ser. journal from the Chattahocha to the St. Mary’s is generally tedious and uninteresting. On his passage he observed a very singular appearance in the heavens, which he thus describes :—
About two o'clock in the morning, I was called up to see the shooting of the stars, as it was vulgarly termed. The phenomenon was grand and awful; the whole heavens appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued, till put out by the light of the sun, after day break. This phenomenon extended over a large portion of the West-India islands, and was observed as far north as St. Mary’s, where it appeared as brilliant as with us. During this singular appearance, the wind shifted from the south to the north, and the thermometer, which had been at 86° for four days past, fell to 56°.
Mr. E. does not attempt to account for this appearance, but only mentions the theoretick conjecture of Lavoisier, that the air consists of different strata, as more satisfactory to him than any other. In favour of that theory, which attributes the Gulf Stream to a rotary motion in the Atlantick ocean, aided by the trade winds, he advances some plausible arguments. Uur author thinks neither West or East Florida of much conscquence in themselves. The for
mer, except on the Mississippi, is
but very thinly populated, and the coast of the latter is entirely uninhabited, and in possession of the privateersmen of the Bahama islands, who plunder it of its timber. West Florida is of consequence from the passage through it of the rivers mentioned above, which con
nect a fine and extensive tract of country within the United States with the ocean. East Florida derives its importance from being calculated to give security to the trade, that the atlantick states carry on with the western, and with the Gulf of Mexico. The source of the St. Mary’s was determined by the commissioners to be somewhere in the Okofonoke swamp ; but as it was impossible to enter the swamp at that season, a mound was erected on the west side of the main outlet ; and it was agreed, that a line should be run from that mound in a north-east direction two miles, at the termination of which, it should meet the line from Flint river. Thus end Mr. E.'s official labours. To this account he adds a short list of plants, in a note to which, he confutes, by the mention of the Notes on Virginia, the opinion, which, he says, Mons. Buffon, and other celebrated European writers, have held, that American genius was inferiour to that of the old world. The prevailing disorders of the country are fevers, by which our author lost several of his people at Natchez. He preserved himself from them by Dr. Rush's pills, till, when they were exhausted, he himself likewise was attacked. His journal by sea back to Philadelphia concludes the work. The appendix contains the state of the weather and thermometer for each day, the astronomical observations, and the calculations from those observations, by a reference to which their accuracy may be determined. It contains likewise maps of to:e boundary line on a large scale. The maps, which are all well executed, and bear internal marks of accuracy, must be considered as valuable additions to our geography ; but the work is neither interesting, nor does it contain much important information. In our passage down the Ohio, there are but few objects to detain our attention, and, launched into the Mississippi, we might almost as well be at sea. The delays of the dependent Spanish government had before been made publick, and had therefore lost much of their interest ; and the petty disputes of party faction could never claim more, than a local consideration. The knowledge of the coast of Florida, and of the rivers which discharge themselves into the gulf of Mexico, is balanced by the tedious difficulties, which are always met with in penetrating uninhabited deserts, and by the barrenness of a sea-voyage. The comments are few, and those the remarks of a common mind. The language is frequently inelegant, and sometimes incorrect. The passages, quoted above, we believe to be fair specimens of the style, which never rises above plain narration. Upon the whole, we must conclude, that the work is very much inferiour to what it ought to have been ; and that a small pamphlet, with the maps, which we must again call valuable, would have contained as much information as the quarto, through which we have laboured.
A Treatise concerning Political Inguiry, and the liberty of the firess. Joy Tunis PVortman, counsellor at law. New-Yor.: ; George Forman. 1800.
WE never made a worse bargain with an honest man, than when we gave the bookseller one hundred cents, for Wortman’s Political
Inquiry; and yet, if nothing but the quantity of brass be regarded, we are hardly losers by the exchange. Mr. Wortman’s book has all the the properties of a cent, except its currency, and its value. It has as dull a countenance, and as drossy and cumbrous a nature. One can hardly be persuaded to read the first paragraph of a volume of 300 pages, when the preface contains an insolent boast, under the name of an apology, that the work is produced in a few idle hours, without care or attention. “ It is but justice,” says Mr.W. “to observe, that the following pages have only occupied the leisure moments of less than four months, and been written amidst the constant interruption of business.” There was no necessity for this haste—no eager impatience of the publick drove Mr. W. to the press. It is effrontery to introduce to the world, under the imposing title of a “Political Inquiry,” a volume, composed in a time almost too short for an amanuensis to copy its pages. The affectation of writing quick is contemptible ; yet in this country it too frequently supplies the ambition of writing well.
The calamus currens is for clerks
and secretaries, not for those who would instruct or inform mankind. But, perhaps, it is well that Mr. W. published thus hastily, for if he had taken longer time, there is reason to fear, that, instead of writing better, he would have written 2nore.
It is difficult to say what Mr. W.’s book is, or to what class of productions it belongs. This would be,
“to give to airy nothing A local habitation and a name.”
Its most striking characteristick is the absence of ideas. The reader wades through it, meeting only at