One peculiarity, exceedingly annoying to an Englishman, which is observable even in good society in New York and elsewhere in America, is a prying curiosity as to the affairs of those with whom they converse. Their habits at table also often fill one with disgust, and the want of good-breeding I witnessed on more than one occasion would have been resented in England. This is the more remarkable, as the Americans entertain high notions of refinement, and yet, paradoxical as it may appear, seem to glory in their contempt of good manners. I do not, however, include the ladies in this remark; on the contrary, I must unequivocally assert, that I always observed in them, not only in New York, but in every other part of the North American continent which I visited, the greatest disposition to cover the misdoings of the opposite sex, and a great degree of cultivation and politeness; although they are perfectly freezing in their manners before formal introduction, I do not doubt that there are many among them of great refinement and powers of intellect, their personal appearance being also consonant with their known amiability.
The bustle and drive in the trading quarters of the city is very great. The merchants and their assistants have a hurried manner of doing business, discernible in a moment to a stranger, which is much to be deprecated, and too often leads, as I afterwards found, to disastrous results. Business with these men is in general quite a “go-a-head” sort of affair, and not being accompanied with method, in many cases leads to an embarrassed state of circumstances. Thus it frequently happens, that on investigation, the assets of a merchant who has stopped payment and is a supposed bankrupt, realize more than enough to pay the creditors, and the party finds to his agreeable surprise, that his position is not so bad after all.
The churches and other places of public worship in New York have a temporary appearance, the steeples of the former being, when I visited the city, chiefly of painted-wood. This, I believe, is partly the reason why bells are not used, although a friend in whose presence I noticed this, stated that contempt for so English a custom had much to do with their disuse. If so, the prejudice is not confined to New York alone, for I was not cheered by the inspiriting sound of a peal in any other part of the Union I visited, although I think I have heard they are in use in Philadelphia and some of the eastern cities.
The time I had allotted to remain in New York having expired, and being anxious to proceed on my route before the close of navigation, I reluctantly bade adieu to my kind friends in that city, and made preparations to pursue my way to the more western part of the Union, hoping to reach the Mississippi country before the season when the rivers and canals leading to it would be locked up in ice.