ROBERTSON'S FEW MONTHS IN AMERICA..
Ma. ROBERTSON'S tour in America derives some novelty from the nature of the author's pursuits, which are commercial, and from the practical nature of his mind. This peculiarity not only directs his examination of things, but enables him to pursue his observation to results. For example, he found the streets of New York filthy beyond all that he could have imagined; and on in- quiry he ascertained that there was a municipality chargeable with the sanitary duty of the empire city. Further inquiry led to the conclusion that the dirt was owing to the neglect of the author- ities, or, as people did not scruple to say, something worse. In 1853, a sum of 3,311,741 dollars was appropriated for the ex- penditure of the city government; out of which sum, 289,625 dol- lars for cleansing the streets appears in the account. Yet, says Mr. Robertson, "till I went there I had never seen such a dirty city." After he left New York for his interior tour, the nuisance had become unbearable ; the public did not interfere to make the municipality do their duty, or put in fresh officers but sub- scribed to have the streets cleansed. According to Mr. officers, his own town in Old England is under better management than New York.
"As a contrast to the expenditure of the city of New York, I may here mention, that that of Manchester, with a population of more than half that of New York, amounted in 1853, exclusive of poor-rate, to 101,222/. 14s. [less than one-sixth.] And yet, I venture to affirm, that in respect of the efficiency of its police force, and its fire department, the cleanliness of its streets, its pavements, its general sanitary condition, and indeed the entire administration of its municipal affairs, Manchester is under far better ma- nagement than New York."
At New Orleans, the-streets were even dirtier and the corruption worse.
"The streets are the dirtiest I had ever seen. The sewers are all open ; and though drained into Lake Pontchartrain, yet, as there is but little fall, they are generally half full of stagnant water, and mud, and the refuse of the streets. From the river a current of water is directed nightly along the sewers (ditches ?) of the streets running towards the lake, and this serves to carry off much of the loose refuse; but in those which run along the streets parallel to the river and lake, no arrangements have been made to keep them clean ; and it is only when there 'happens to be a fall of rain that they re- ceive a thorough purification. In consequence of this neglect, the water in those sewers, in less than four-and-twenty hours after rain becomes covered with a dirty green crust, and even at this season of the year—in winter— gives off a most offensive smell. In the evenings, when the air is moist, this is peculiarly disagreeable and unhealthy.
"The streets are now and again raked, for the accumulation of rubbish is too great to be removed by sweeping ; but the refuse thus collected is often permitted to remain in the middle of the streets for one or two days ; and if, in the interval, there happen to be a heavy fall of rain, those heaps are washed down, and their contents eosin carried into the sewers.
"To remove those accumulations of impurity, various attempts were made by the respectable inhabitants who remained in the city during the pesti- lence [of 1853); but their efforts met with but little success. The govern- ment of the city was in the hands of a class of people who cared more for the sweets of office than for the health of the city, or for the welfare of the citizens. In 1853, they expended about 1,750,000 dollars; but in the spring of 1854, no improvement had been effected on the condition of the city, and no precaution whatever had been taken to prevent a recurrence of the scourge by which the city had been afflicted in the previous year. A very large out-of-door meeting was held to urge measures of improvement, but the result of that agitation has yet to be seen."
Municipal government was not the only matter in which Mr. Robertson thought the Americans deficient. Coming from Man- chester, he is naturally a free-trader; and he subjects the pro- tective system of America to a good deal of inquiry and analysis, freely pointing out its evil results to the country. He considers that the factory system of Lowell is somewhat declining in its mo- ral repute, and that whatever protection may do for private un- dertakings in the cotton, iron, sugar, and wool trades, it does not effect much for the Lowell joint-stock companies. Their profits do not exceed "the average rate of interest current in the country " ; and this, he continues, "is the more surprising, because, though the amount of protection is nominally twenty-five per cent, in reality it is nearer fifty." This smallness of profit is attributed by Americans to the cheapness of English "pauper labour " ; but Mr. Robertson adduces facts which show that the disparity of wages is not nearly so great as is assumed. He ascribes the low profits in the joint-stock cotton factories to the badness and dearness of American machinery, the scarcity of capital, a less perfect indus- trial combination,—things inherent as yet in the circumstances of the two oountries.
Other topics of a social, sanitary, or mercantile kind, attract the traveller's attention. He animadverts on the indifferent health of American ladies, which he ascribes to their mode of life ; and on the practice of living in boarding-houses or hotels, to which he is adverse. "At many of those large hotels there are idlers who fre- quently have not the best private reputation. On this point I speak advisedly." The subject of popular education is also ban- • A Few Months in America: containing Remarks on some of its Industrial and Commercial Interests. By James Robertson. Pblished by Galt, Manchester.
died, and the amount of taxation, which he pronounces heavier than in England; that is, adding the Federal and State taxation together, in America, and general and county imposts in England. The national revenue of Great Britain including Ireland lir calcu- lated on what it was before the present war expenditure ; but we think he underrates the county taxation of this country.
"In Great Britain, the national revenue, including expense of collection and county tax, is as near as may be 40s. per head. Without the cost of the army and navy, the expenditure per head is less than 30s.; and the civil expenditure alone, including county taxes, but without the coot of collection, is not more than 6s. per head.
"The civil expenditure of Great Britain, including county tax, and (what Americans think amount to an enormous alltll in England) pensions, is not more than the civil expenditure alone of the Federal Government of the States. When to the expenditure of the American Government is added that of the states, counties, and townships, the result is strikingly in favour of Great Britain, and proves incontestably that our government is the more economical of the two.
"If to the direct taxation levied on the American people be added the amount paid for protection to native industry, I venture to believe that it will be found that the taxation of our country for all purposes is the lighter of the two."
Although these and similar topics occupy the larger part of Mr. Robertson's attention, he deals with the common subjects of a tra- veller, such as manners and the incidents of a journey. Even then, his observations are generally directed to matters that have some reference to practical business,—as railways, their construction and management ; the effects of slavery rather than the condition of the slaves, the economical working of the institution rather than its sen- timent or feeling ; politics and the press; the operation of the clean sweep which is made in placeholders on the election of a new Pre- sident; the oratory of the House of Representatives and the Se- nate. At Washington, Mr. Robertson went to a reception by the President, and, like others, was struck by the general familiarity and equality, as well as by the less official reserve of American place- men. Some remarks he appends to his observations indicate that there are inconveniences attending the familiarity, and that the power of the people is more nominal than real. On the whole, the impression left by Mr. Robertson's book on America is not so favourable to the country andits institutions as that of some late works that have been published ; for the author brings prominently forward the power and corruption of• dema- gogues, the little influence possessed by the quiet respectable classes, the cost of protection imposed upon the general public, and various other social evils. At the same time, he does justice to the power, wealth, freedom, progress, and field for industry, which the States open to the active, enterprising, and rather smart man. -Upon those topics of manners on which the Americans are particularly sore he says little. He believes that with the heart of the country England is still popular; appearances to the con- trary being mainly owing to foreign newspaper-editors and Irish revolutionists. But this feeling is more cordial in the Southern and Western States than in the-North.