January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 17 June 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430617-TC-AC-01; CL 16: 204-207


Chelsea, Saturday 17 june, 1843—

My dear Brother,

We saw Mr Colman, the Canadaigua American, last night, and had a great deal of talk with him. He is a highly sensible, good-natured, well-bred man; and likely to understand this business specially well, being direct from the spot, and sent hither I believe to inquire about farm matters as a Secretary of some Agricultural society; that being his business when at home.1

He is clear that the Canadaigua region greatly excels the Hamilton or Upper Canada one: it is a pleasant, fertile and settled country in a higher degree than the other; it is peopled generally with farmers of a much better character (the Hamilton men being given to drink &c); it has plenty of schools, of mills, markets, is crossed both by a canal and a railway,—has plenty of cross roads too, which are hard and firm with ice in winter, with drought in summer, and “only in a slushy state for about a fortnight in autumn and some four weeks in the thaw of spring.” Many of the settlers are Scotch. Farms that touch on the railway or canal have a free market for their butter, poultry &c; and all farms are within reach of a mill and miller, who buys the grain (not without competition) at a fair price. The main white-crop grown is wheat. The land generally is fertile; some of it very fertile. It seems to be in the hands partly of small farmer-proprietors; and then there are, besides Mr Greig and a “Mr Wadsworth” whom he spoke of,2 some who have large spaces of land, which they subdivide into farms, and let in various ways, or cultivate by agents of their own. Farms, he says, are let usually from year to year; and they are to be had at all times of the year,—some of these large proprietors having always farms on hand, which they are very willing to dispose of to a tenant, rather than keep cultivating by themselves or servants. A common way (I think he said, the general way) of letting, is that the landlord furnishes his tenant with all manner of stock &c (which is valued in money, by judges appointed, at the entrance on the business); the tenant binds himself to give his landlord a certain proportion of the produce; half of the produce, he seemed to say, was very common; but on worse soils, it is as low as a third: the tenant cultivates in this way for one or more years; and then at the end has to return an equal value of stock, or make it up according to the finding of judges. The farms have, almost all, a portion left in wood; that being the only fuel,—I suppose, the only building material too, that lies convenient: the rest of the ground is all arable, and takes its due rotation: wheat, potatoes &c. You can hire the ploughing of your land, if you have not horses of your own; Farmers' sons and such like are willing to make a little money by doing it for you. It is very common also that a man skilled in farming and with a good character gets a place as manager (what I called “agent” above): the proprietor, living at a distance, gives him a house and provision for himself and family: I think he said, a man and wife with perhaps only one young child would get 300 dollars (£60) a-year beside their keep,—or perhaps it was “with five young children”? I am not clear; but think it is as stated. On the whole, he represented it as decidedly easy for a skilful farming man to find some one or other of these positions for himself; and so to wait for a while, and look about him before purchasing land. My brother and his family, he said, might at any rate, failing all else, board very comfortably for about a guinea a week the whole of them,—I suppose, in some public boarding—house, as the Americans often do: that was the way be himself with his wife had lived while there. The climate he persisted in describing as good and wholesome,—no ague known, except perhaps in some “indiscreet reckless person”: a wholesome good climate he again and again called it,—tho' children take something of a rush fevever3 (no, that was not exactly the name!), and other kinds of fever for grown people were by no means unknown. But it is a pleasant airy green country, he says; with “swift streams” (whether they are all swift or not?); and broken into knolls and moderate hills. Fifty years ago, it was all a wood; and belonged to the State of Connecticut.4 There was never much, or perhaps any, pine on it; hickory and hard wood.— This is nearly all I can recollect, dear Alick; and I tried to state it faithfully,—but it rather seemed to me, as if my informant, tho' evidently a most truthful man, was a little sanguine of temper; so you must make abatement and allowance! The price of land to purchase is not a thing I can state now, tho' he did try to make a guess: my impression rather is that it seemed unexpectedly high for America.

The way to get to Canadaigua was altogether simple: directly on landing at New York, either at morning or at evening, you would find a Steamer up the Hudson River to Albany, some 10 hours,—the fare, I think, a dollar and a half (6 shillings) per head, children half price: from Albany there was a railway; in 18 hours more (including very frequent stoppages of 15 minutes) you were at Canadaigua, and the fare not very high. Or you might go by canal,—or by a few stages of railway (which carry you over a hilly country where there are many lochs) and then by canal in three days,—still cheaper. The railway he thot would be best; for it also was not dear.

I write you down all this, my dear Brother, because naturally you will like to know even the vague figure of it: but our good Colman undertook to write it all down on paper himself very shortly, and in that shape so soon as I have read it, you shall have it to keep and study. Colman undertakes farther to answer pointedly any question you may put; he will write you Letters of Introduction to this person and to that (over many parts of the Union), if they were necessary: but he kept repeating that “Mr Greig could do it all”; that you should certainly stop at Canadaigua, and examine it well. As to remitting of money; he supposed it would naturally be by Draft on some Bank at New York,—and you need not take the real money with you even from New York (if you got your Draft accepted and indorsed there, it might save time), but Greig, who did bank-business too, could manage it all at Canadaigua. We were to take care that the Draft were on a good Bank at New York: but that, I suppose, the Scotch Bankers take care of, and are themselves responsible for.— You were by no means, on your passage to Canadaigua or the like, to bargain with any private party “to take you all the way for a certain sum”; they would weary you out with waiting.— This is all I will say of Colman.

This morning also I have written to Greig; and Jane has added a Post-script. She is making a Copy of the thing for you.5—Tell me, or bid Jack tell me whether you have a right map of New York State, and especially of that part of it; that if not, I may send you one.—— Dear Brother, I did not sleep at all last night (what has not happened with me for years), and now it is about ten o'clock, and I am going to try it again. The Letters are all ready now, let me be asleep or not. You may judge that I have a million of things to say, which this is not the good time for saying! In fact I am very stupid; and in hopes that I shall get some sleep. May God's blessing go with you, my dear Brother!


T. Carlyle