New York was settled by the Dutch in 1615, and called by them New Amsterdam. In 1634, it was conquered by the English,—retaken by the Dutch in 1673, and restored in 1674. Its present population is estimated at 213,000.
Having heard that the celebrated Frances Wright, authoress of “A Few Days in Athens,” was publicly preaching and promulgating her doctrines in the city, I determined on paying the “Hall of Science” a visit, in which establishment she usually lectured. The address she delivered on the evening I attended had been previously delivered on the fourth of July, in the city of Philadelphia; but, at the request of a numerous party of “Epicureans,” she was induced to repeat it. The hall might contain perhaps ten or twelve hundred persons, and on this occasion it was filled to excess, by a well-dressed audience of both sexes.
The person of Frances Wright is tall and commanding—her features are rather masculine, and the melancholy cast which her countenance ordinarily assumes gives it rather a harsh appearance—her dark chestnut hair hangs in long graceful curls about her neck; and when delivering her lectures, her appearance is romantic and unique.
She is a speaker of great eloquence and ability, both as to the matter of her orations, and the manner of their delivery. The first sentence she utters rivets your attention; and, almost unconsciously, your sympathies are excited, and you are carried onward by the reasonings and the eloquence of this disciple of the Gardens. The impression made on the audience assembled on that occasion was really wonderful. Once or twice, when I could withdraw my attention from the speaker, I regarded the countenances of those around me, and certainly never witnessed any thing more striking. The high-wrought interest depicted in their faces, added to the breathless silence that reigned throughout the building, made the spectacle the most imposing I ever beheld. She was the Cumaean Sibyl delivering oracles and labouring under the inspiration of the God of Day.—This address was chiefly of a political character, and she took care to flatter the prejudices of the Americans, by occasionally recurring to the advantages their country possessed over European states—namely, the absence of country gentlemen, and of a church establishment; for to the absence of these the Americans attribute a large portion of the very great degree of comfort they enjoy.
Near Hoboken, about three miles up North river, at the opposite side to New York, a match took place between a boat rowed by two watermen, and a canoe paddled by two Indians. The boat was long and narrow, similar in form to those that ply on the Thames. The canoe was of the lightest possible construction, being composed of thin hickory ribs covered with bark. In calm weather, the Indians propel these vessels through the water with astonishing velocity; but when the wind is high, and the water much disturbed, their