Page images
PDF
EPUB

whole time I was at Harmony, I never saw one of them laugh ; indeed they appeared to me to enjoy only a sort of melancholy contentment, which makes a decided difference between them and the inhabitants of the other parts of the country, who without fanaticism or celibacy, find themselves well off and comfortable.

CHAPTER XIII.

CUT-MONEY-AMERICAN FARM-HOUSE-TITLES.

I was quite sorry to quit my comfortable lodging at Harmony, and again encounter the bad fare of the Backwoods taverns; but being anxious to proceed, I summoned up courage and set off..

After passing through a low, heavily timbered country, which when cleared is very fertile, I came to the Ohio at the Diamond Island ferry, so called from a large and beautiful island in the middle of the stream. Owing to the badness of the road, it was nearly dark when I crossed over to the Kentucky side of the river; and I was therefore obliged to put up at a small cabin, the owner of which bade me welcome, though he was sick in bed, and his wife gave me the best fare that his humble means could command.

This log hut, from being so near to the river, was very much infested with rats. They were the largest and boldest I had ever seen, and ran about without either regarding me or the sick man. What however surprised me the most was, that there was a cat sitting by the fire which never attempted to molest them, nor indeed did the rats appear to be alarmed at her presence. The owner of the cabin said, " I bought the cat hoping she would drive the rats away, but when on her first

arrival she caught one, it not only defended itself stoutly, but by its screams brought several others to its assistance who attacked the cat and whipped her.” *

I spent a great part of the night in wishing that I had such a redoubtable cat as Whittington's; for these troublesome rats, by scampering about the cabin and jumping upon my bed, kept me awake several hours. The next morning I proceeded to Madisonville, a small village, where there is a tolerable tavern; and from thence to Greenville, a still smaller village, where the tavern was most execrable.

Most of these villages, throughout the greater part of the division of Kentucky, called the Greenriver Country, are very much upon the decline, and will no doubt shortly cease to exist. They were founded during the late war with Great Britain, and owed their existence, not to any want of villages in these places, but to the unnatural state of things caused by a great war expenditure, by an immense issue of paper money, and by the efforts of speculators to enhance the value of their lands in the neighbourhood. As soon as the war ceased, the great expenditure ceased also, as well as the demand for produce, &c. &c. The currency was also changed from paper to specie, and hence those who had easily borrowed money found it impossible to repay it. This occasioned the ruin of numbers of industrious people, and produced a degree of distress unparalleled in any country, with the exception perhaps of England.

* « To whip,” all through the Western States answers to our verb “ to beat,” and is by the lower class always made use of in that signification; as “ The Americans whipped the English at New Orleans ;” “ I can whip any man in the country at running ;" “ A panther will whip half a dozen dogs.”

If any one wished to be convinced of the folly, not to say the tyranny, of any government's making great issues of paper money, and then suddenly contracting the currency, he could not fix upon a stronger instance than the State of Kentucky.

In a Republic, where the whole power is in the hands of the people, such' mismanagement could never have happened, had the subject been understood; but unhappily it was not. Hence the State of Kentucky was plunged into such distress, that it was obliged in some degree to violate the constitution of the United States, and to make a currency of its own. This, though it at first alleviated the distress, which was prodigious, hås ultimately proved a bad expedient. When I was in Kentucky, paper was only half the value of specie, and at one time it was only two-fifths of the value. No such a thing as a silver coin of any kind was to be seen in circulation, and notes of 4, 61, and 12 cents. formed a substitute for copper.

Any one was at liberty to issue these and numerous other promissory notes below the value of a

dollar; and though no one was obliged to take them, yet from the total want of small change they were seldom refused. Hence notes were issued by some individuals who were absolutely worth nothing; a fraud soon discovered, and incapable of being carried to any great extent, but which nevertheless from the frequency of its occur. rence was very injurious to the public.

I myself, in common with other travellers, suffered so much by these notes, that, in order to avoid taking them, I was obliged to cut a silver dollar, into quarters, and even into eighths; a practice so common in the Western States, that the cut-money, as it was called, was the only change that could be had in Missouri. Here again a dexterous person easily committed a fraud, as it was by no means uncommon to cut a dollar into five quarters, or nine-eighths, if I may be allowed such expressions, Of course, the difference between an eighth and a ninth could not be perceived without a good deal of examination.

The road from the Diamond Island to Greenville, a distance of about sixty-five miles, passes through a tract of apparently fertile country; but which is thinly settled, and, like many portions of Kentucky, does not appear to be much improving ; partly because slavery is permitted, and partly because there is great difficulty in obtaining satisfactory titles to lands.

Leaving Greenville, I took the road to Morgan

« PreviousContinue »