Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia
Voyage from New Zealand to England via America
Voyage from New Zealand to England via America.
The track I am about to describe has been often traversed and described before, and another chapter on the subject may seem uncalled for. My apology is that special points of interest may have occurred to me which have escaped the notice of those who have gone before.
After a long residence at Wellington, I embarked all my family that still remained in New Zealand on board the S.S. "Rotorua," on March 28, 1879. The "Rotorua" is a fine steamer, but the extent of traffic has increased beyond her power of accommodation, and the passengers were inconveniently crowded. The cabins also were too small for the number of berths, and the inmates were too closely packed. On the 29th we reached Napier at 4 p.m., but there was no time to go on shore. A steam-launch came out with the mail, and we sailed at 5 p.m. The chief officer astonished me by stating that he had never seen Tongariro from this neighbourhood, as I had seen it on one occasion very clearly from off Cape Kidnapper, and it can page 371hardly be supposed that the observation I made was a solitary one. On the following morning we reached Gisborne, in Poverty Bay, at 6 a.m. This seems to have grown into a place of considerable importance. We had to wait some time for the steam-launch, but sailed again at 10.30 a.m. The weather was lovely, Hikurangi showing out as we passed along the coast, and altering its outline as we changed our position.
On the following morning, 31st March, we reached Tauranga Heads at 7.30 a.m., and saw the S.S. "Taupo" lying on the rocks. We ran up the harbour and anchored until the steam-launch came out with the mail, the tide not suiting to go alongside the wharf.
Tauranga must become a place of importance, seeing it has a good port and a fine country behind it. Sulphur is brought here from White Island for manufacture into a marketable state. With the mails we embarked Lord Harris's team of cricketers, and the ladies of the party, all of whom we found very pleasant companions, and some of whom accompanied us all the way to England. We sailed again at 9 a.m.
We had now reached the region of volcanic or other igneous rocks, the sea being studded with islands composed of these rocks, and forming picturesque objects to the view. On one of these the S.S. "Taranaki" was wrecked not long before this time by running ashore in a fog. We had a pleasant sail from Tauranga to Auckland, which page 372place we reached at 9 p.m., and found that the mail-steamer had not yet arrived.
I took the opportunity on the following morning, 1st April, of seeing as much of Auckland as time permitted, not having been there since 1865. I found it much improved; the trees had grown very much, the gardens had increased, and there were many new houses and villas. It is a beautiful place, and as the poor land on the north shore and to the west gets improved and planted, it will become far more beautiful still. If the harbour had only deep water in its bays, it would be little inferior to Port Jackson; while in other points it is decidedly more picturesque than the shores of that much-vaunted harbour. Sydney has no old volcanoes dotted about like Mount Eden or Rangitoto, nor can the waters of the ocean be seen from any point of that city, whereas the dancing waters of the Hauraki Gulf, dotted with islands, are visible from many parts of Auckland. We sailed at 6 p.m. in the S.S. "Australia," several old friends coming to say good-bye to us.
Although we had a light southerly breeze at starting, I observed the scud going across the moon from the N.W.W., and next morning found that we had a head wind. We expected, reasonably enough, to get out of this northerly wind when or before we reached the tropics, and to fall in with the S.E. trade; but the wind held about north-east, and, I think, never got to the southward of east. Thus we had a head wind the whole way to Honolulu, page 373meeting the N.E. trade near the line, that is to say, the wind we had previously blew up more strongly. As the captain informed me that it was not an uncommon occurrence to have a head wind during the whole voyage, it may be suspected that the S.E. trade is a sham and a delusion.
The "Australia" is a fine steamer, Clyde built, with good engines, and has three cylinders. She is well ventilated, has a good saloon and good cabins. The discipline and management of the ship were excellent, and she was kept very clean. Her only defect lies in her powers of rolling, and she certainly excels in that particular, as, I believe, does her sister ship, the "Zealandia." The officers are all Scotch and the crew Chinese, with the exception of the quartermaster. I was informed on all hands that the two Scotch boats were superior to the two American, inasmuch as they were better sea-boats and are much better ventilated. The "Australia" was loaded with over 2000 tons of coal, the wretched fiscal laws of the United States preventing the import of all Australian produce. Wool used to go from Australia to New York, but the heavy duty has smothered the trade. Thus the "Australia" carries cargoes of American goods to New Zealand and Sydney, and returns with nothing except coal. The scuppers of the "Australia" are very large and deep, and help materially to keep the decks dry when water breaks over the bows.
We did not sight the Kermadec group, passing it at night. We crossed the 180th degree of longitude page 374on Thursday, 3d April, and made the following day also Thursday, 3d April, having passed from east to west longitude. The captain spoke very highly of the Chinese crew as being quiet, docile, hardworking, and never getting drunk.
On 5th April we were passing the latitude of the Fiji group, weather being fine, with flying showers, few of which touched the ship. We observed in the evening a very fine lunar rainbow. The fire alarm was given, and the crew exercised at fire divisions. Everything was ready in a few minutes, the hose played, and the extincteurs were brought out on men's backs. This fire-practice is much to be commended in providing against danger. I have not elsewhere seen it in a passenger steamer.
On 6th April we saw a pair of the Phaeton ætherius (boatswain bird) towering above us—a handsome and striking bird. The body and wings appeared to be white with dark markings, the tail white, and very narrow and straight. We had passed through a very solitary sea, observing few birds and only one ship. We sighted the Navigator or Samoan Islands in the afternoon, and at 5.30 p.m. were opposite the harbour of Pago-pago, or, as we should spell it in Maori, Pango-pango. The island of Tutuila, in which it is situated, is high and rocky, say 2000 to 3000 feet. Low land appeared to the westward. The harbour of Pago-pago appeared to me to be an old crater. Tutuila seems entirely covered with forest, and cocoa-nut trees abound. We saw numerous fires, but did not perceive any of page 375the inhabitants, until, as we were passing through a somewhat narrow channel between Tutuila and a small island to the eastward, just at dusk, a boat was seen coming towards us. We did not wait for her, however, but passed through the strait to the northward, and were soon out of sight of land. We saw nothing of the other islands—Savaii or Apia. The latter is said to be the largest of the group.
The opinion of those persons on board who were acquainted with the islands was that the British Government had made a mistake in not annexing them, and also the Friendly Islands or Tonga group, either directly or by a protectorate, at the time of the annexation of Fiji. The Samoas are said to be the most fertile group of any of them, and the expense of governing the whole of the islands would have little exceeded that of governing Fiji alone. If foreign Governments step in, expenses for fortifications may be incurred which might otherwise have been avoided, and political complications may arise, which it would be as well to keep out of these remote seas. Sir George Grey appears to advocate the government of the various groups of islands from New Zealand, but the colony has at present no spare funds to expend for the purpose, and no fleet or army with which to defend the islands. The proposition would therefore seem to amount to this, that New Zealand should govern the islands, while Great Britain should pay the cost of government and of defence—an untenable proposal, which could page 376not be listened to. In course of time, no doubt, these islands must fall under the control of New Zealand, or of New South Wales, or of an Australasian confederation, but the time for this does not seem to have yet arrived. In the meantime the British Government would act wisely in assuming the government or protectorate of the three groups.
In connection with this proposition, it might be desirable that the Anglo-American steamers should call at the harbour of Pago-pago. Whenever the Australians succeed in constructing a railway across to Port Darwin, the American route will be of little value for the English mail-service, and will have to depend chiefly upon passengers and cargo. It would be wise in the meantime to adopt all means to develop the trade.
The harbour of Pago-pago is one week's steaming from Auckland, and lies directly in the route. A depot might be established there to collect cargo for the steamers, not only from the Samoan group, but also from the Fiji and Tonga islands, and a detention of a few hours would be all that would be required. This would make a pleasant break for passengers, dividing the voyage into three intervals, viz., a week from Auckland to Pago-pago, a week from the latter port to Honolulu, and a third week to San Francisco.
We continued to have a head wind, and found the north-east trade strong against us, the steamer rolling heavily, until on the 15th we reached Honolulu. We thus had a head wind all the way from page 377Auckland to Honolulu—a noticeable fact in connection with the migration of the Maori race and the peopling of New Zealand by it. Our rate of speed may have averaged 280 miles a day. Suppose that canoes made half that rate, or 140 miles a day, they would reach the Samoan group in a fortnight from Honolulu, and in another fortnight would reach New Zealand. Such a voyage now seems to me possible, although it still looks highly improbable, because a rate of 140 miles a day seems too much for a canoe, the risk to such small and frail vessels is so great, and the idea presupposes, what could hardly be the case, that the Maoris knew where thev were going to. The direction of the wind will, however, explain how canoes driven off the shores of the Hawaian or Samoan islands may have been accidentally driven as far as New Zealand, although it is difficult to suppose them provisioned for so long a voyage. Possibly the crew provided its own commissariat, and only the survivors landed on the New Zealand shore. This theory of migration will, however, in no way explain how the Maori race arrived at Hawaii or Hawaiki, which is a far more difficult problem.
On the morning of 15th April we were in full sight of Oahu, a high volcanic island. On approaching Honolulu we observed H.M.S. "Triumph," the flagship of Admiral de Horsey, commanding on the American station, at anchor outside the reef, as also a number of outrigger canoes fishing. We took a pilot on board at 10 a.m., and ran through the page 378entrance to the wharf, observing H.M.S. "Opal" at anchor inside. A mob of some thirty or forty boys swam out from the wharf to dive for sixpences, most of them in appearance regular Maoris, but among them some half-whites, as they are here called, and one who seemed to be quite white. We landed as soon as possible, and walked up to the hotel through streets where trees and flowers abounded, the heat being by no means great, and the aspect of things pleasing. The population seemed to be mostly Kanaka, with some Chinese, and a good many Europeans or Americans. The Kanakas seem to have reached a softer stage of civilisation than the Maoris. They do not fight, and are more gentle in demeanour. They also keep shops, wait at table, and make themselves generally useful. In respect of race and language the Kanakas are regular Maoris. The language, of course, varies a little, as might be expected, from the long separation of the two peoples, and the Kanakas have their voices higher pitched and softer. I tried them with the usual Maori salutation of tena koe, but met with no response, and found that aloha answered the purpose. This word, spelt aroha in Maori, means love in that language, and shows the adoption of a more affectionate form of address by the Kanakas. For the letter r in Maori l is substituted in Hawaian, but I am informed that the latter hold l and r to be synonymous. It is to be regretted that the Hawaian shows a similar decrease to that of the Maori race, the population page 379having fallen within a century from 140,000 to 60,000 or thereabouts.
We lunched at the hotel, which is a roomy, comfortable building, well adapted for a hot climate, and surrounded by shady trees; and I started afterwards with my boys on horseback to the Pali, the ride of Honolulu.
Our road passed for some distance through the town and suburbs, and was lined by nice villas surrounded by gardens filled with tropical plants. Palms were numerous, and bananas, besides many trees of which I did not know the names. Some blue gums were observed, and it is to be hoped that the numbers of this tree will be kept within moderation. A Gothic church was passed, supposed to be Anglican, and a clergyman, evidently of that persuasion, was observed waiting at the cemetery for a funeral. Honolulu is the seat of an Anglican Bishopric.
* Butcher birds.
The wall of the crater which should have bounded our view to seaward must have long ago disappeared beneath the waters of the ocean. I was at first rather disinclined to adopt the hypothesis of a crater of such magnitude as is here involved, but when I heard of existing craters, such as that in the island of Maui, of twenty-seven miles in circumference, I then saw no difficulty in what appears obvious in every other respect. A number of our fellow-passengers had assembled at the Pali, and the scene was lively. We observed that mules are much used on the island. The people affect a Mexican style of riding, and Mexican saddles are common. The seat is long, a sort of legging is attached to the stirrup; some use a sort of poncho; the horses generally adopt the ambling canter of Spanish-America, and it is the custom to have something waving in page 381the wind to impart a picturesque appearance. The horses are in general good, with excellent shoulders. The ladies all ride astride, with riding-habits fitted to cover each leg in front. These are frequently of gaudy colours. A lady, who rode for some time in front of us on our return, wore a habit of red and white check. We passed a funeral procession, apparently of some person of rank. The hearse was followed by many carriages, perhaps twenty, filled with native gentlemen and ladies. The turn-out was extremely well got up.
On our return to town, I found that the owner of our horses was a Kanaka, who told me he was "boss," and who received the amount for hire—viz., two dollars each. We heard that the King was about to land from an official visit to H.M.S. "Triumph," and went to the wharf to see the sight. Awaiting the landing, we saw walking up and down, and smoking the stump end of a cigar, a short, round Kanaka, somewhat of the shape of a barrel, dressed in full uniform, but he evidently did not wear braces, and his shirt was visible between his trousers and vest. His was the only absurd figure that we saw; and Wellington settlers will understand the figure he cut by fancying the late Te-ringa-kuri (Dog's-ear) dressed up in full uniform. From description, I supposed our friend to be one Kapena, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and who had on a previous day disturbed the relations between the Hawaian kingdom and the British Empire. It appeared that the Admiral proposed to wait upon the King, but, by some unfor-page 382tunate oversight, he had neglected to call previously upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs. This led to a contretemps, which seemed now to have been happily removed without war or bloodshed. The steam-launch of the Admiral's ship now ran to the wharf with the royal party, and the King landed with the Prince-Royal and others of the royal family, attended by various Ministers of State, all either in full uniform—a sort of diplomatic costume with cocked hat—or in black evening dress. All seemed to wear the Hawaian "order." The King and the rest of the party looked uncommonly well, and drove off in carriages which were in attendance. The King is a well-educated man, of a fine presence, and speaks English perfectly. He is very much liked by the white people, but I have heard it suggested that this popularity is purchased at the expense of his own race. The royal family are said to be well educated and brought up, but I was sorry to hear that they were unlikely to furnish the King with descendants in the next generation. After dark, H.M.S. "Triumph" exhibited the electric light, and threw its rays upon the town, the shipping, and the reef, affording a novel sight for some hours.
His Majesty afterwards came on board the steamer, and remained for a couple of hours. He brought his glee-club with him, which performed some beautiful songs and choruses. The King is said himself to be a good musical composer. We took on board 400 tons of sugar for San Francisco, and filled up with passengers, some of whom had been page 383left by the S.S. "City of New York," which had suffered damage from the tail of a hurricane on the previous month's voyage, not very far from New Zealand. We sailed at 1 a.m. on April 6th, the buoys being lighted to show the channel.
It would be pleasant to spend some weeks in the Sandwich Islands and visit the other islands of the group, such as Hawaii, with its still active crater always more or less in a state of eruption, and Maui, where is situated what is claimed to be the largest crater in the world, stated to me, by two different people, as twenty-seven and thirty-five miles in circumference. In Maui are the chief sugar-plantations. Some considerable fortunes seem to have been made by sugar-growing, but the planters complained that the present high price of labour had reduced their profits to zero. Possibly we may take this statement cum grano salis, but it may be true. A steamer plies round the islands in two and a half days, at a fare of $25. A melancholy feature in Hawaian life is the prevalence of leprosy, which disease seems common among the Polynesians. The lepers are all sent to an island called Molokai, where there are two establishments for their reception, called Kalopapa and Kalauro. Their numbers amount at present to 806. They are said to be well taken care of, and two Roman Catholic priests attend to their spiritual wants. The disease is naturally much dreaded, and is said to lie latent in the system for years, breaking out, for instance, in women after they have ceased to bear children, page 384although no signs of the disease had previously appeared. The symptoms are a decay and painless falling away of the extremities, fingers and toes; and there is also, I think, a scaly eruption on the face. I have heard it said that these are not the indications of true leprosy. As previously stated, I met with a case having similar symptoms at Roto Aira, near Lake Taupo, in New Zealand.
I gather from the Hawaian almanac that the royal family has reigned over an undivided kingdom since the year 1753, a tolerable length of dynasty, as things go in modern times. The list of kings sounds imposing:—Kamehameha I., Kame-hameha II., Kamehameha III., Kamehameha IV., Kamehameha V.; Lunalilo, 1873; Kalakaua, 1874.
The islands consist of Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii, with some smaller ones. I suppose they are all volcanic; they cannot well be otherwise.
The height of some of the volcanic peaks is very great. Mauna Kea, in Hawaii, attains a height of 13,805 feet, Mauna Loa 13,600. In the island of Maui the volcano of Haleakala reaches a height of 10,032 feet, and its crater is said to be at least twenty-seven miles in circumference.
The imports and exports of the islands are considerable, consisting in 1877 of imports, $2,554,356; exports, $2,676,202. The latter consisted chiefly of sugar, molasses, rice, paddy, coffee, wool, and hides. The taxes are levied on real estate, poll-tax, horses, mules, dogs, carriages, native seamen, and yielded in 1878 $291,745 for two years. The sup-page 385plies are voted for two years, and the King receives for that period $40,000, or say £4000 per annum— a small stipend for a king, but sufficient if his Majesty is careful. Probably he will get into debt, and require supplementary estimates. The range of the thermometer in the islands seems very small and the climate temperate, the maximum reading seldom exceeding 76° Fahrenheit.
We still had the bad luck of meeting contrary winds, which, before reaching San Francisco, increased in strength. A good amateur performance helped to pass away the time. The temperature fell, and we found it rather chilly.
On the 23d April we sighted the Parallon Islands, and the mainland at 4.30 p.m., several sail being also in sight. We also saw a whale, the first that had been sighted during the voyage. The pilot boarded us from a pilot schooner at 5.40 p.m., and at 6 p.m. we ran through the Golden Gates, the surrounding land being much veiled in fog. We could see enough, however, to conclude that the entrance is a fine one, with moderately high land on each side. It was dark before we got to the anchorage, where we dropped our anchor at 7 p.m. A small steamer came alongside for the mails, and took on shore many of the passengers. We could see the lines of streets by the rows of gas lamps, but the view was much obscured by fog, and the night was damp and cold. These fogs are the weak point of the climate of San Francisco, and are said to be worse in summer than in winter. During the whole page 386time of our visit the land was never entirely free from fog, rolling from one point to another.
On the morning of 24th April the steamer was invaded by a host of touters, who distributed their cards in all directions. Many were thrown into my cabin before I was up, and fell like a shower upon my bed. The steamer hauled to the wharf, the luggage was inspected by the Custom House officers, who were very civil, and we proceeded to the Palace Hotel, said to be the biggest hotel in the world, and to have cost in building and furnishing more than £1,000,000 sterling. It is an immense building, occupying a whole block, and built round a quadrangle, with a carriage entrance and a drive round inside. The style is what may be called San Franciscan Gothic, viz., a multiplicity of highly ornate bow windows. Round each storey there run galleries, which open upon the quadrangle; and a good opportunity has been missed of making a handsome thing of this—the columns and arches being all of one pattern, instead of being varied; and this pattern is very plain. As usual in large American hotels, a lift is always working to take persons up or down.
The dining-saloon is a large and handsome room, fitted with separate tables, where guests dine à la carte. The cooking exhibits the variety so usual in American hotels, and ice was plentiful.
In the afternoon we had a drive in the cars of the California Street Tramway, which is worthy of mention. This tramway has been constructed for page 387a length of more than two miles over a succession of ridges, the steepest of which, I was informed by the conductor, is 75 feet in 300. The line is worked by a steel rope moved by steam power, and running in a sort of slit below, formed of concrete. All seems to work well and easily, but I heard that there was a difficulty in readily getting at the gear for examination or repair. To do this it would be necessary to break up the concrete.
On the following day we drove to Cliff House, on the shores, of the Golden Gates, where we saw tame seals on the adjacent rocks. We drove back by the Park—a very large reserve of, I think, three thousand acres, the greater part of which, however, is pure sand. This is gradually in process of reclamation by means of planting and of covering up with earth or clay. I was informed that a sum of 100,000 dollars is annually spent upon the Park. If this expenditure is kept up, it will become a fine place in course of time. I observed many irrigating pumps, which draw water by wind power from wells for domestic purposes and for irrigation. In the afternoon we visited Woodward Garden, where we found a fair collection of animals. It is a zoological garden.
San Francisco is a fine city, and a wonderful city considering the short term of its existence, and for purposes of description it may be as well to compare it with Melbourne. It is stated, with its suburbs, to contain some 320,000 inhabitants, and is therefore more populous than Melbourne, which page 388has 250,000. Its harbour is, I should say, superior to that of Melbourne, but the position of the city is inferior, as it seems difficult to obtain a good view of the whole, whereas Melbourne shows out well from the surrounding country. San Francisco, being mostly built of wood, is vastly inferior in construction to Melbourne, whose buildings are of the most solid character. There is also a remarkably effective, although, as I have already remarked, accidental, grouping of steeples and towers at Melbourne, which is not perceptible in San Francisco. There seems to be a greater movement in the streets of the latter, and there are plenty of tramways, which are unknown in Melbourne, but the movement by railway to or from the latter is much the greater. I speak particularly of the short local railways. By the way, why should the Americans object to street tramways being worked by steam when they allow railway engines and cars to traverse the streets without enclosure? The populations of San Francisco and Melbourne are somewhat alike in physique and perhaps general character. Of course there are differences. One sees no negroes in Melbourne, and the horseman of San Francisco affects the Mexican seat and trappings, whereas the Melbourne seat and saddle are English. I was struck, however, by the apparently total absence of the Mexican element in the population of the city. One hears no Spanish spoken, nor sees any Spanish faces. One man who was selling ground-nuts seemed to me to have a foreign aspect, but on inquiry he proved to be a page 389Greek. He looked surprised when I said "Good day" to him in Romaic (this, however, being nearly the extent of my knowledge of that language).
We found San Francisco in the throes of a political movement to effect a change in the constitution, the motion for which has since been carried by a considerable majority of the State Legislature, and which seems likely to have eventful, and probably disastrous, consequences upon the future of the State of California. Americans whom I have heard speak upon the subject say they think the catastrophe will do good, as showing the mischief of the changes made, and acting as a warning to other States—in fact, making of Californians a race of Helots to disgust the Spartan youth of the Eastern States with their drunken antics. "Fiat experimentum crucis" &c. It is possible that in New Zealand we might study this view of the subject to advantage, but it can be only as making the best of a bad job that such a rôle should be imposed upon a sovereign State of the American Union. To an outsider it would seem advisable that the law should be such that no State should be allowed to change its constitution in any fundamental part without the assent of the General Government. There are breakers ahead in the political voyage of the United States, and perhaps the rocks of California may be those to encounter the first of the storm. If Congress should allow State after State to become socialistic and communistic in its government, then eventually page 390Socialism and Communism may overawe and conquer Congress.
On April 25th we started on our overland journey at 8 a.m. We first crossed to Oaklands in one of the fine ferryboats for which America is remarkable, and then embarked in our Palace car, which was to be our abode for the next two days and nights. This we found in all respects comfortable, and far superior to an English first-class carriage. Our road ran up the valley of the Sacramento, a splendid open valley with trees sparsely dotted about. Being early spring, everything looked green and bright, the trees not quite in full leaf. A rolling country bounded the plain, and occasionally views were obtained of the snowy ridges of the Sierra Nevada. The soil was generally red and appeared to be fertile, and the aspect of the towns English—that is to say, not Scotch, nor Irish, nor European-Continental, but in the main English. Under the early spring garb it wore, the Sacramento valley seemed to me to be about the finest country I had ever seen—good for golden grain, or for vines and olives and fig-trees and fruit of all kinds, or for flocks and herds. I heard, however, that serious droughts had just been experienced, causing immense losses in live stock, so that I had to come to the old conclusion that "all is not gold that glitters." The fences were poor affairs compared with those of Australia or New Zealand. They were generally made of sawn stuff, with three planks for rails.page 391
A striking feature of the State of California is the great number of small windmills on the farms, for the purpose of pumping water for the use of the farm or for irrigation. This is an invention which ought to be introduced into New Zealand, in many parts of which it would be found of great use and economical value.
I was at first under the impression that the Cali-fornians must be a very church-going people, as at every station I heard a deep-toned bell slowly tolling. I soon found, however, that the bell was on the train, and that it tolled whenever we passed through a town or village. Near Stockton we passed a number of vineyards. Sacramento, which is the capital of the State, is very like an English country town, say in Lincolnshire. The country is low and very flat, and not much above the level of the river. The city is embowered in foliage, with fine avenues of trees. The Capitol seems a fine building, on the usual plan of Capitols, and has a dome or cupola. I should say that it is high time to introduce some little variety in the plans of Capitols, as a constant repetition of the same plan of building gets tiresome. I am not sure that the next generation will not tire of the endless English Gothic churches which are now spread all over the earth. Although, because they are Gothic, the style admits of endless variety, still they are all of a type, and fashion changes in these matters.
From Sacramento the road strikes off to the right away from the river, and granite crops out between page 392Roseville and Pino stations. Here we began to ascend the slopes of the Sierra Nevada, passing from granite to schists and getting into a mineral district, where pines appeared on the hills. We continued the ascent of the Sierra, passing Cape Horn nearly at dusk. This is a side cutting round a sharp spur, from which one looks down into deep-wooded gullies with rivers below. One is accustomed to this sort of thing in New Zealand, and probably the view may not be so striking to a New Zealand traveller as to the inhabitants of the plains. It is a fine view, however. We passed through many show-sheds, but the night set in, and as we could see nothing, we retired to bed without seeing the summit of the Sierra, which we passed at 11 p.m. and where snow was lying. This summit is at a height of about 7000 feet. I was struck with the alacrity with which our beds were made up, the curtains drawn, and every one retired to rest. The mulatto attendants were very attentive to our wants and very handy fellows. In the morning we found ourselves in the alkali plains, having dropped from 7000 to 4000 feet.
The scene was remarkable, and in many respects unique. Fine ranges of sharply-ridged mountains, having in the main a north and south direction, bounded the view. These were snow-capped, partially pine covered, and gave the purple colouring of the best mountain scenery. Their age appeared to be palaeozoic, probably Silurian. The road ran up the valley of the Humboldt, a river which is said page 393to lose itself and disappear after emerging upon a softer country lower down. The striking feature of the country, however, is the alkali plains, which occupy the whole valley. These plains are covered by unsightly plants, one or more of which bear the name of sage, and which seem to give a very precarious subsistence to a few very thin cattle and other animals.
The soil is so impregnated with alkalies that it is incapable of cultivation without irrigation. The land, however, is far from sterile, for when it is irrigated and the excess of alkali removed, it produces abundantly. The question of how these plains were formed at once forces itself upon the mind, and the only result at which I can arrive is that they are lake deposits, and that there was formerly an enormous area of this high country, between 4000 and 5000 feet, covered by water, of which the great Salt Lake and a few other lakes are the insignificant remains. This involves the supposition of an enormous area at one time covered by water, an area represented in width by a full day and night journey by rail. What the length of this country may be in a north and south direction, I had no means of judging, but it must undoubtedly be very great.
We have to suppose that the higher land of the district was strongly impregnated with alkalies, which, during the lake period, were with other alluvia washed into the valleys, then filled with water, and there deposited. The lakes would find an exit, or exits, at the lowest saddles, at first page 394allowing the surplus water to run off at a high level, and Gradually decreasing the areas of the lakes the effluent water cut deeper channels, until at length the greater number of the valleys were laid dry. I have had occasion, in speaking of New Zealand geology, to call attention to the former great extension of lakes in that country, and I can see that lakes formed a prominent feature in many countries before the river channels had been cut to a sufficient depth to drain the upper country. The high level at which these lakes of the Sierra Nevada must have been found form their most characteristic feature, the level of their dried-up beds exceeding 4000 feet.
During the whole day we kept running up the valley of the Humboldt. We breakfasted at Humboldt township. Here I observed lucerne cultivated by means of irrigation, and trees were induced to row by the same means. At the Winnemucca station a horned toad was sold to one of the passengers. A silver mine is reported in this neighbourhood, said to be rich. We dined at Battle Mountain. Napkins were supplied. Fine snowy ranges were in sight all day.
On the morning of the 28th we found ourselves in a similar country of sage plains and snowy ranges, but as we approached the irrigation of the Mormons, the plains became covered with verdure, and with growing crops and trees. The idea of desolation departed, and the rich herbage, the trees, and the dwellings formed a pleasing fore page 395ground to the picturesque mountains. We reached Corinne at 7 a.m., a place of some size, situated on the Bear River, and lying within the basin of the great Salt Lake. We breakfasted at Ogden, where is the junction of the railway to Salt Lake. Here we saw plenty of irrigation fields, off which I was told they cut three crops of lucerne per annum, giving two tons of hay an acre to each crop. This is very good for a height of 4000 feet above the sea, but is nothing, I should think, to what may be done in New Zealand, where double that amount, or more, could no doubt be readily obtained.
After breakfast we took the branch railway to Salt Lake City, and enjoyed the trip amazingly, the day being magnificently bright, and the waters of the lake and the snow-covered peaks of the Wasatch mountains glittering under the brilliant sunlight. The fields were full of a profusion of flowers, apparently wild hyacinths, eschscholtzia, sunflowers, &c., but it is difficult to botanise correctly looking from a railway train. How did those flowering plants come there? Have they lain dormant in the sage-covered soil until the effects of irrigation brought them into vigorous growth, or have they arrived from the Eastern States or from Europe in grass seed, and found a congenial home?
The Wasatch mountains may, I suppose, be considered as part of the Sierra Nevada range, but where the Sierra Nevada ends and the Rocky Mountains begin is not very clear as seen from the page 396railway. I shall have more to say on this subject by and by. We reached Salt Lake City at noon, and drove in a smart carriage and pair to Walker House, the charge being half a dollar for each person. Walker House is an excellent hotel, by no means so large or so grand as the "Palace" of San Francisco, but clean, comfortable, and well conducted. I found no hotel in the United States which I liked better. The plan of the city is easily understood, as it is laid out in right angles on a plain. The streets are all planted with shade trees, and the gardens with fruit trees. Strong streams of water are running continually along the gutters of the main streets, so that they are kept sweet, and the necessity for underground drainage is probably not felt.
We took a carriage after lunch and went round by Douglas Camp, after driving round the city. Our first visit was to the Mormon Tabernacle, a building which has been so often described that I need not enlarge upon it. On entering the enclosure, we were immediately accosted by a tall red-haired man, who came out of the lodge, drew up at the side of the carriage, and at once commenced his description of the new ecclesiastical building adjoining, as follows:—"The walls of this building are nine feet six inches in thickness; it is built of granite, and is intended to be finished in five years' time; it will cost so much, be so many feet high, and is intended for the performance of the sacred rites of the Church, but not for preaching, for which the page 397Tabernacle will be retained." Having taken breath after this, he proceeded with us to the Tabernacle. This building is of wood, lathed and plastered, and covered by a gigantic dome-shaped roof. The appearance is that of an elongated mushroom. The principle of the construction can be easily understood when I mention that the roof is formed on the lattice-girder plan. The lattice-work being covered inside and outside, I should think would be subject to decay without the opportunity of seeing where the damage was occurring, and therefore I should not be surprised to hear some day that the roof had come down by the run. The interior is admirably adapted to seat the greatest number of individuals possible, it is to be hoped on the principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. At the north end is the pulpit and the organ, and all the seats in the body of the building and of the large gallery (which goes round three sides of the church) face towards this. The organ is large, I think the guide said the largest in the world, and was built in the city. Great praise is given to the acoustic properties of the building, and the sound of a pin dropped at one end can be distinctly heard at the other end, that is, at a distance of 250 feet; but I was informed by an unbelieving Gentile that when the building is filled those of the congregation who sit in the middle cannot hear at all. Perhaps this may be no great loss. The new building will be a very fine one and very costly, being built of solid granite. It is in a sort of Gothic style, which, for page 398want of a better name, we may call Mormon-Gothic. We found here the usual attention to business. In the lodge were a number of Mormon books, plans of the Temple, &c., for sale. The guide demanded no fee, but one was expected to be given.
We continued our drive round the city, the coachman pointing out the various Mormon houses thus:—"In this house there are two wives." "In this house three wives." "Here a man married three sisters and then committed suicide." "Here a man married a mother and two daughters, and thus did away with the mother-in-law." "Here was Brigham Young's establishment, and in this house live two of his widows." "Here is President Taylor's establishment of six wives." These were in separate houses of a rather shabby description. Many of the houses are fine villas, but these do not always belong to Mormons. As we drove up the hill towards Douglas Camp, the sun became so powerful that we had to put up the hood of the carriage. We now reached a gravel terrace at a considerable elevation above the waters of Salt Lake; the coachman said 700 feet. I should think this too high an estimate, but it is difficult to judge the height of a long and sloping plain by the eye alone. I was told that by Indian tradition the warpath at one time led along this terrace, the waters of the lake reaching to the foot of it. Here is an interesting subject for investigation. The camp is well laid out, with comfortable barracks, and houses for the officers. The latter have nice gardens about page 399them, and in one I observed statuary. The troopers were big strapping fellows, and looked thoroughly serviceable. On our way back we called at a brewery, which was apparently a regular place of call for strangers.
The population of Salt Lake City, both Mormon and Gentile, is essentially English, and it is probably not very complimentary to the English intellect that this should be the case with regard to the former; but apart from superstitious absurdities, there are plenty of sharp clever men at Salt Lake. The landlord of the hotel was an Englishman and a member of the Middlesex Cricket Club, and made much of the English cricketers who were with us.
I observed in the local newspapers that further prosecutions against Mormons for bigamy were in progress, but there seemed to be great difficulty in empanelling a jury. Every juryman seemed to be challenged either by the prosecution or the defence, and it appeared that questions were allowed which would not have been permitted in England or her colonies, such as the opinions of the juror upon polygamy, &c. The prosecution in question broke down for want of a jury. It must be admitted that, if we take a comprehensive view of the question, including its incidence in the realms governed by England, a prosecution of a Mormon for bigamy may be expedient, but is not altogether logical. England governs many Mahommedan peoples and other races who practise polygamy, and who cannot be prosecuted for so doing. Suppose an Eng-page 400lishman in India to be converted to the faith of Islam and to establish a harem, can he be legally prosecuted for bigamy? I understand that the case has occurred, and that a conviction followed, and perhaps this was the best result that could have been attained; but where the principle of religious toleration is accepted, the conviction is certainly illogical.
In a country which prides itself so highly on religious toleration as does the United States, a similar illogicality appears in the prosecution of a Mormon for bigamy. The Mormons, under the principle of religious toleration, are entitled with others to hold any religious opinions which they please, and to carry them out without molestation. The logical consequences would be intolerable to a Frenchman, but probably the Anglo-Saxon mind will say, "Hang the logic! We must draw the line somewhere, and we don't intend to allow polygamy."
I was struck with the absence of cold during the night at Salt Lake City, and in general at the high altitude over which we had travelled, between 4000 and 5000 feet above the sea. In Otago the interior plains stand at a height of from 1000 to 2000 feet, and there the nights set in very cold as soon as the sun has gone below the horizon. At Salt Lake City the nights were cool but by no means cold, while the sun in the middle of the day was very powerful. Those of the Mormon ladies who were seen about the doors of their houses appeared to be persons of very ordinary description, and page 401seemed to offer little or no temptation to break through the usual law of monogamy, unless, in the dearth of domestic servants, it might seem advisable to secure cooks and housemaids by making wives of them.
A week might be passed very pleasantly at Salt Lake City, particularly by an artist or by a geologist. The effects of aerial colouring on the mountains are very fine, and there must be much to interest in the rocks of the district. The system of irrigation might also be advantageously studied by a New Zealand settler. It is no doubt susceptible of much improvement, but it is on the rough-and-ready plan, executed at small cost, and answers its purpose well for a beginning. The whole shows the indomitable power of will of Brigham Young. A fortuitous concourse of atoms could never have carried out the irrigation canals and other works required. On the morning of Tuesday, 29th April, we left Salt Lake City by train. I observed the old beach-marks along the hills as we went along, and a gentleman informed me that they could be traced north and south for hundreds of miles.
We left Ogden at 9.45 a.m. and soon afterwards entered the Weber canon and began the ascent of the Rocky Mountains. I saw at once that we had changed the geological formation, and got into a totally different country. The rocks appeared to me to be "carboniferous," and I was soon confirmed in the opinion that they were at all events coal-bearing, from seeing specimen blocks of coal at the page 402stations, and works for coal-mining in places. As I cannot find "carboniferous" rocks laid down in this district in the geological map which I got in New York, I suppose that the coal must belong to a more recent epoch than the palaeozoic. I was also informed by a mining engineer that the coal seams are vertical, and consequently the rocks have been much disturbed.
The Weber canon has some fine rock scenery, but is not much to speak about in the way of canons. The rocks are sandstones and conglomerates. We emerged upon a rolling country nearly 7000 feet above the sea, grassy and looking well for a sheep country, were it not for the numerous lines of hurdles placed so as to catch the drifts and keep the snow off the line, thus indicating a very severe winter climate. This country may be described as a high rolling plateau. It is decidedly unpicturesque, from the want of leading features, although occasionally we saw snow-capped ranges of high elevation and picturesque outline, but they were far off.
I have been forgetting the Indians. We saw a good many of them hanging about the stations, but mostly on the Pacific side of Ogden. They seemed to have accomplished the descent to unmitigated "loafing," trusting to what they could pick up from travellers to get them tobacco or other luxuries. Their actual wants are, I believe, supplied by the United States Government. They were mostly painted red, and got up theatrically. They did not seem to have anything like the intelligence of the page 403Maori, and I hope the latter will never sink to their level.
We dined at Evanton, and got very good trout, which indeed we often fell in with in the mountain country. Bear River, near Ogden, is celebrated for them. At Evanton we saw fossil fish for sale, brought from a distance of sixty miles, but out of what formation I do not know. We supped at Green River, and soon afterwards retired to rest. On Wednesday, 30th April, we found ourselves running over a tableland similar to that of the previous day, with snowy ranges in sight. The country looks as if it might be brought under cultivation, but this may be in appearance only, as it certainly lies very high. There is little or no cultivation about the railway stations. A coal mine is worked near the line. At Rock Creek, where we breakfasted, I observed coal cropping out. We passed several herds of antelopes. They took little or no notice of the train, but they were a long way off.
Laramie, which we reached at 11.30 a.m., is a considerable township, being a repairing place for the railway. Here there were skins and stuffed specimens of deer and bison for sale, also fossil fish and various crystals. Near Dale Creek bridge we changed the rock, passing on to granite, and the scenery decidedly improved; pines were dotted about, and the view became somewhat park-like. Snowy ranges were visible in the distance. We passed the highest summit on the line, 8240 feet, near Sherman, page 404on granite; ran down to Cheyenne and there dined on antelope. The junction of the line which runs south to Colorado is here. Soon afterwards we appeared to have left the mountains, running down through gently undulating grass land. At Pine Bluff we seemed to be fairly in the prairie — beautiful grass; the soil mostly decomposed granite.
On the morning of Thursday, 1st May, we found ourselves running down the valley of the Platte, a fine level valley, and no land in sight higher than the bluffs of the river, which only reached a very moderate elevation. Farms were dotted about in all directions, and no trees were visible except planted ones.
The farmer here has little preparatory work to do. There seems to be nothing to clear, and the plough can be put in at once. No fencing is required, as the farmers arrange to have their cattle herded, except when sent to the mountains in summer. The land appears to be very rich, and I was told that above the bluffs it was equally rich for corn (maize), although not for wheat. I heard of drawbacks, however—swarms of grasshoppers, and high winds, which damaged the crops. To obviate the latter risk the State paid farmers for planting rows of trees. We breakfasted at Grand Island, where I observed an English-looking parson in the usual costume. We had crossed the Platte at 2 a.m., and afterwards ran down its valley for 300 miles. From old descriptions of novelists I expected a wild scene in the Platte valley, but it is as tame and as peaceful-page 405looking as Berkshire. We crossed the Loup River at 11 a.m. by a long bridge. Columbus is a town of some size. We dined at Fremonton, and afterwards came to what is called the rolling prairie—gentle undulations, instead of a dead level. We reached Omaha, on the left bank of the Missouri, at 3.40 p.m., a city of large size and growing importance, and connected with the town of Council Bluffs on the opposite side of the river.
We had run for hundreds of miles through the State of Nebraska, a level, rich, and agricultural State, forming a striking contrast to the State or territory of Wyoming, which is entirely mountainous, and devoted only to grazing and mining. I am told that, rich as Nebraska is as an agricultural State, it did not produce such crops as those of the State of Iowa, upon which we were about to enter. The fact of the former State lying higher above the sea probably accounts for the difference—the mean height being about 1500 feet, from 2000 feet near the mountains to 900 feet at Omaha.
It strikes me that, unless danger from Indian attacks were the cause, the Americans were an unduly long time in making their way over the mountains to the west coast. Although the height is great, the country seems to present few difficulties to the explorer. It is very open, and one can see in all directions; it has few swamps; there seems to be in general plenty of grass, and, except perhaps in the higher ranges of the Sierra Nevada, there is page 406little precipitous country. There are rivers to cross, but these lie mostly in the plains, and although broader, are hardly so dangerous as some of our New Zealand rivers, such as the Rakaia or the Waitaki, I suppose the Indians must have constituted the difficulty.
Omaha is built mostly of wood, and the streets are not metalled; indeed, there seems to be a general absence of metal in the roads of America, indicating a want of stone over large areas. There seemed to be many nice villas on the outskirts of Omaha, with well-planted gardens. I cannot say much for the planting of the State of Nebraska; most of the trees seemed to be cotton wood, willows, or other quick-growing trees of little commercial value, no doubt planted to give shelter to the open plains as rapidly as possible.
We crossed the Missouri by a long bridge; the river looked wonderfully muddy, and it was said to be always so. It seemed also to be full of sandbanks, which, I was told, were constantly shifting, making navigation troublesome. Council Bluffs, on the left bank, has many fine buildings, and may be as big as Omaha, as far as one could judge from the railway. We had now passed into the State of Iowa. By the way, I would suggest that the spelling of this name should be changed to Aiowa, and that of Ohio to Ohaio. The names would be then intelligible to foreigners, and as much so to English-speaking people as they are under the present orthography.page 407
At Council Bluffs we changed our train, and found ourselves still running over prairie country, with fine land and farms as far as the eve could reach, but with more wood than in the State of Nebraska, chiefly cotton wood, poplar, and willow, and a few pines. We spent another night in the train. On the morning of Friday, 2nd May, we were still running through prairie country, but all farmed. We observed many hogs grazing. The cattle were good and all of English type, mostly, if not all, short-horns. Indeed, the whole aspect was decidedly English — the people, the horses and cattle, even the houses, although these were mostly built of wood. The farmers and their ladies, whom we met in the train, seemed very homely, kindly people. There appeared to be an absence of any pleasure grounds round the farmhouses. There might be an orchard, but in general the ploughed ground came right up to the door. The land was said to fetch from thirty to seventy-five dollars an acre. At 8 a.m. we crossed the Mississippi at a large town called Davenport. Rock Island lies on the other side. Here there are Government barracks and an arsenal, and here prisoners were kept during the civil war. In crossing both the Missouri and the Mississippi we found the air sharp and cold from the draught of the rivers. We had an excellent breakfast in the cars, including white fish, snipe, &c. As we progressed we seemed to be getting into old forest of second growth, hard wood such as oak page 408making its appearance. Windmill pumps became common, stones appeared in the fields, looking like travelled boulders, and gravels and sands in the cuttings. The cattle, horses, and pigs were all English-looking, the mules not so. There are a good many mule teams in the Western States, notably in California. The farms and fields were enclosed, and orchards became frequent, some of them being of considerable size. We touched on the river Peru at a town of the same name. At the town of Jolliette we observed the State Penitentiary. Oaks began to prevail. We reached Chicago at 3.40 p.m., and went to the Palmer House. This is a very large hotel, and built regardless of expense. The floors, the fittings, the ornamentation, the furniture, were of the best and most expensive kind; marble and granite were largely used. The cuisine and other arrangements of the house were in the best style.
Notwithstanding the disasters by fire to which Chicago has been subject, we found it a magnificent city, built of the most solid materials in stone and brick. Polished granite columns were common. There are many fine public buildings, notably the new law courts. The city has somewhat the aspect of Liverpool, but I should say that the buildings are finer, more solid, and higher. The population reaches the high figure of 500,000. The stern republicans of America are extremely luxurious in their habits; at the hotel there were five meals a day, of all of which any lodger might partake who page 409was capable of the feat. This arrangement is usual at the American hotels. Bath-rooms with hot and cold water are almost universal. The bread throughout America was excellent and light, and the cooking good. I observed that the "larrikin" tribe was not unknown in Chicago. Some boys of that species hung about the hotel, and were inclined to be "cheeky."
We had now got within the influence of the great lakes, upon which the ice was breaking up, and this caused a decided change in the climate. Hitherto we had travelled under a brilliant sun all the way from San Francisco, but now the sky was cloudy and the air felt chill, as if it held particles of ice in suspension. The clouds were light, but dense enough to intercept the warmth of the sun. At night the temperature was very cold, although the hotel was so well warmed that one did not feel this indoors.
On the following morning we drove round the lake shore and Lincoln Park, and visited the Water Works' engine. The day was dismal and drizzling, and therefore we did not ascend the tower, as we should have seen nothing. The pumping engines are magnificent. It is well known that the water is led to the pumping-engine by a tunnel carried a considerable distance into the lake, so as to secure purity in the water. On the lake shore I observed men transplanting trees of considerable size. It appeared to me to be late in the season for this work, as the trees were bursting into leaf. Pro-page 410bably the severe winter had prevented its being done sooner. In Lincoln Park there are a few wild animals, among which we observed bison and elk. The lake shore park is, I believe, mostly reclaimed from the sandy shores of the lake.
I saw little beauty in these American lakes; they seem bounded by low shores, and looking out upon them is like looking on the ocean with no land ahead to break the view. We drove under the Chicago river by one of the tunnels, of which there are two. The freestone used in building came, I was informed, from Fremont, the granite from the State of New York. Splendid slabs of stone are used for the foot pavements; they seemed to be limestone. The Post Office, and Custom House, and Grand Pacific Hotel are fine buildings. I was sorry that I had not time to visit the stockyards, one of the chief sights of Chicago, where immense numbers of cattle are slaughtered, and where thousands of pigs are said to be put in alive at one end and come out in a short time at the other end as casks of salted pork!
We left Chicago at 5.15 p.m. by the lake shore line of rail. There are several competing lines, and it is always advisable to get independent information as to which is the best to see the country. We soon got into a pine forest, the lake bounded by sand: soon afterwards the forest was of mixed hardwood and pine, the trees mostly small. I suppose all the big trees have been cut out. The land is poor, and the trees probably the best crop page 411that can be grown. Talking to a fellow-passenger about the influence of forests upon rainfall, he told me that it was an established fact that the formation of the Pacific Railway had increased the rainfall of the dry country of the interior. If true, this will be a good idea for Australia, and may induce the Southern Colonies to push on their railroads. Victoria and New South Wales have, however, a good many railroads already, and I have not heard that droughts have ceased in consequence. As we proceeded, the land improved in quality, although it was far inferior to the plains of Iowa and Nebraska, and cultivated farms appeared, but much of the land was wet.
I may say that from Chicago to New York the soil appeared to be wanting in humus, although an old forest country; whereas in Nebraska and Iowa the soil appeared to be rich in that ingredient, although there was little or no natural forest. Where did the humus come from in the soils of these latter-named States?
We supped at Laporte, which appeared in the dark to be a town of considerable size; indeed, towns large and small were now frequent.
We spent another and our last night in the cars. On getting up on the morning of 4th May we found ourselves running through a level and thoroughly English-looking country, consisting of large fields under the plough, trees, forests, towns, villages. I observed some vineyards near Cleveland, where we breakfasted. These did not seem to be in a page 412favourable soil, as it was clayey and flat. Many of the fences were the old-fashioned zigzag. Australia can teach America how to make fences. Any animal with the least pretence to activity would walk over the zigzags which we saw. Cleveland is said to be the chief refining place for mineral oil, and I was told that coal was worked not far off. We observed that the fields were manured in this district; indeed, I should think that farming would not be profitable here without manure. Low hills appeared towards the south. We reached the large city of Buffalo, near Lake Erie, at 1.20 p.m.
We went to Pearce's Hotel, a large new building, driving for half an hour through streets which were bordered by fine residences and well planted. The hotel is a splendid building, the woodwork in excellent taste, and the flooring of encaustic tiles. It was built expressly for invalids and tourists, and the Russian and Turkish baths were the most complete and best fitted of their kind that I have seen anywhere.
Buffalo is a very fine city, and contains a population of about 135,000 souls. It is well and substantially built of freestone. The Town Hall is very fine, and very large blocks of freestone have been employed in its construction. It has statues on the tower.
On the morning of 5th May we started for Niagara at 8.40, passing over a flat country of poor clay, such as one would see in a coal district in page 413Britain. The train passes into Canada over a suspension bridge lower down than the falls. My first impression was as follows:— "This river looks as if it did not carry more water than the Clutha, and is not nearly so beautiful as the middle Whanganui." These impressions were soon considerably modified. I found that the depth of water below the falls was 186 feet, whereas that of the Clutha cannot I suppose exceed 20 feet; and the rush of the Niagara must much exceed that of the Clutha in speed, although the latter runs with great rapidity. I therefore came to the conclusion that the body of water discharged by the Niagara is enormously in excess of that by the Clutha, but that the gorge or cañon is much inferior to that of the middle Whanganui in beauty.
The railway deposited us at the town of Clifton on the Canadian side. Here we obtained a carriage and drove up to the falls, and descended in water-proof dresses under them, where we found much ice still remaining. We made purchases of photographs, &c., in the adjoining house; drove through the islands as far as the gas springs, then back to Clifton to a lunch at the Windsor Hotel, which was plain, quiet, and cheap.
We next drove down stream to the whirlpool rapids, and then crossing the river by a bridge, drove from the American side to Goat Island, where pretty roads have been made; thence we passed to some small islands, called the Three Sisters. From these islands one sees the power and rush of water better page 414than anywhere else, and from the point on Goat Island, where Sam Patch is said to have jumped over the fall, perhaps the best view of the actual fall is obtained.
The chief beauty of the scene seemed to me to lie in the wooded islands with the water rushing past them. The falls and the whirlpool are more an exhibition of force than of beauty, and perhaps nowhere in the world is force brought so visibly before the senses. We look at the sun or at Sirius, and we know that the force exerted at either is such that Niagara is as nothing in comparison. We know that our earth goes round its axis in twenty-four hours, showing a force before which that of Niagara is insignificant, but the force of gravity exerted at Niagara is at once apparent to the senses, while the forces in the others named require knowledge and reason to be appreciated. The Niagara river above the falls runs over a hard horizontal stratum of rock. At the base of the falls the rock is a soft crumbling shale. Were it not for the hardness of the upper rock, the cutting down of the gorge would proceed with extreme rapidity. Already the Table rock has disappeared, and I was told this had spoilt the regular horseshoe shape of the Canadian fall.
From various points of view the impression given is that the Canadian fall is the direct fall of the river as it proceeds in its course, and that the American fall is an offshoot, which creeps round Goat Island and falls over the side wall of the river. On the American side a large flour-mill has been erected page 415some distance below the falls, and a small part of the upper waters led off to turn the wheel. It struck me that there was some danger of the waste water wearing away the bank and undermining the end of the mill, unless considerable expense were gone to in building retaining walls.
A great deal of ice was hurrying down the rapids and tumbling over the falls. The deciduous trees had burst their foliage, but they were not in full leaf. A small cedar is very common in the neighbourhood, and on the islands forms a pleasing contrast to the deciduous foliage. I tried to get some seeds of it in the shops, but no one had them.
The rocks of the vicinity had a strong appearance of belonging to the carboniferous period. I suppose them to belong to lower carboniferous, or possibly Devonian. The chief hotels only open during the summer season. The "International" opened on the day of our visit.
Niagara has a bad reputation among travellers from New Zealand for the opportunity it offers for catching colds. The houses are kept very warm with hot-water pipes, and the change from the warm air indoors to the chilly draughts on the river affects the lungs. I caught a cold there which did not leave me for a long time. The expense of a visit to Niagara is serious. There is a constant shelling out of dollars—half a dollar for this sight, one dollar for that. There are legions of photographers pressing their wares upon the traveller and asking him to sit for his picture with the falls as a background, page 416and there are sellers of curiosities, Indian and others. I should have enjoyed my visit much more had I been left to go about by myself or with my party without molestation. I had a party of four, and the clay's excursion cost me nearly £10.
At the Windsor Hotel an American gave the sharpest intonation I had heard of the word "how." This word is used by the Americans where an Englishman would say "what," and is generally pronounced with a sharp nasal twang. The gentleman at the "Windsor" had an extra sharp twang.
We returned to Buffalo to sleep, and as we approached that city, we swept through a fire on the line, some large wooden buildings belonging to the company being in full blaze. As we passed, the burning embers struck the carriages, being blown against them by the wind, but we escaped without damage.
On the morning of 6th May we started at 8 a.m. by the Erie Railway for New York in a drawing-room car. This car was very lofty and well-ventilated, and fitted with easy-chairs which revolved on their centres, so that they could be turned in any desired direction. The extra charge was about one and a quarter dollar per head for the journey to New York.
It may be a question whether American cars would be preferable in England to the English railway-carriage, but there can be no doubt that for the long journeys that are made in America the English carriage would be intolerable. In the page 417American cars you can walk about, change your seat, talk to one passenger after another, walk into the other cars, and into the smoking-car when you wish, and so stretch your limbs and relieve your mind from monotony; whereas in the English carriage the passenger is imprisoned in a box for the term of his journey. The ventilation and the height of the American cars are also better and greater than in the English, and the fittings are superior. The plan of having a great distance between the wheels of the American cars produces less jolting than in the English carriages, but on some of the lines the swinging of the cars was very great, and seemed to me to be hardly safe; besides which, I should think it might tend to give a feeling of seasickness.
Our road led through the States of New York and Pennsylvania, and at first over the plateau country extending from the lakes. The soil in general appeared to be of inferior quality, having the yellow look of clay without humus. Till and boulder formation seemed to be common. The farms were formed from cleared forest, with a good many stumps still left. Patches of snow were still visible. Orchards were numerous, and the land appeared to be farmed in rotation of crops, and manure used.
Before long we got into the valley of the Canisteo, and continued our farther course through narrow valleys, until darkness stopped the view. Towns were as numerous as in an old country in Europe.page 418
The Canisteo river falls into the Shemong, the latter into the Susquehannah. We dined at Elmira, a considerable town, where there is a large reformatory. Here the valley opens out considerably. We were waited upon by females, which was a strange circumstance for some time back.
I was puzzled on our farther course to find the Susquehannah running north, but on inquiry found that it made a great bend. It may give an idea of the number of railway trucks used on this line when I state that I saw one numbered 40,025. One thing struck me as a contrast to Europe, viz., that there was no really waste land. There were no heaths, nor peat-bogs, nor big swamps. What land is not cultivated or in pasture grows timber. We crossed a viaduct having a fine view of a long stretch of river and valley, and then turned off from the valley of the Susquehannah and got into that of the Delaware.
We supped at Narrowsburg, an appropriate name, as the valley narrows much there; and near Laxawaxen found several bridges, a canal, and a viaduct. The narrows of the Delaware carry railroad, road, and canal.
We saw fine sections of the rock all the way down the valleys. It looked to me like Upper Silurian. I find by the map that it is laid down as Devonian or lower carboniferous. At Port Jervis the country appears to open out, but it was then getting dark, and I can say no more of its aspect. We reached Jersey City at 10.15 p.m., crossed the ferry, gave up the baggage checks to the proper officer, drove to page 419the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York, and found our baggage there soon afterwards.
The Fifth Avenue Hotel is a fine building, and very-much frequented, chiefly by politicians, as I learned. It is, however, comparatively old, and is not so well fitted with the latest improvements in bath-rooms, &c., as hotels of more modern date. There is always an amusement in American hotels in observing the costumes and appearance of the guests, hundreds of gentlemen and ladies frequenting them daily. Some peculiarities may be noted. The elderly ladies affect wigs of a grey colour, curled or frizzled all over, while others have tall erections of grey hair. The effect is good. The younger ladies often rejoice in yellow hair cut short across the forehead. There are many fine heads among the gentlemen, and I observed several elderly ones who had adopted the fashion of long hair, in what we should call the poetical style. This effect was also good. On the following morning (7th May) I went to the end of Broadway to inquire about a steamer to Europe; and such was the rush of passengers that it was with difficulty that I secured berths in the S.S. "Baltic" of the "White Star" line. I found plenty of touters in the vicinity of the offices, recommending their respective lines —"Cunard," "White Star," "German Lloyds," "Inman," &c. I returned by the elevated or aerial railway. This railway is raised upon iron pillars to the height of the second or third storeys of the houses. I remarked to an official that much com-page 420pensation must have been paid to the householders. He replied, "Not a cent. I guess they do that sort of thing in London, but not here." In highly democratic countries, such as the United States or the British Colonies, there is not the jealous guarding of personal liberty or of the rights of property that there is in England. The trains by this railway run with great rapidity, and follow each other at very short intervals, so that no doubt it is a great convenience. No tramways are allowed in Broadway, except for a very short distance. I had occasion to call upon a merchant, who pointed out to me a telegraph apparatus in his office which continuously printed off the news of the day, so that he had only to run over the slips to see what was going on. For this accommodation he paid £4 a month. He could also telegraph at any moment to the office for a fireman or a messenger, who would be sent without delay.
In New York I met several professional beggars, the first I had met with in America. Possibly they may have been importations from Europe. I saw no drunken people there, nor indeed elsewhere in America, except at Salt Lake City, where I saw two. One was in the gutter and the other making a traverse course along the street. In the evening we went to the French Opera at the Park Theatre to hear Mademoiselle Aimée in "Le Petit Duc." The performance was amusing, and the orchestra very good.
New York is undoubtedly a splendid city, and page 421probably within the next, century will be the largest and most populous city in the world. It already contains, with its suburbs, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Jersey City, and Hoboken, 1,441,234 inhabitants. Although it cannot boast of cathedrals like St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey, nor of buildings like the British Houses of Parliament, yet, on the average, it is a far better built city than London, and has some very handsome churches and other public buildings. It must be remembered that New York is not the capital of the United States, nor even of the State of New York, and that buildings for the use of the Legislatures are therefore erected in other cities. The houses appeared to me to average five storeys in height, but those of the better class are higher in each storey, and therefore higher altogether than the average in London or other British cities.
If I may be allowed an adverse criticism, I should say that there is a want of leading features, such as the grouping of tower and steeple, which comes out so well in Melbourne. One or more big towers, steeples, or domes would be a great improvement. Certainly the new suspension bridge to Brooklyn will give one commanding feature from some points of view.
The climate of New York seemed to me to be splendid. There was a brilliant sun every day without any excess of heat, but later in the summer the weather is said to be very hot, and during the winter very cold. The Central Park is a very fine page 422one, quite equal, if not superior, to anything of the sort in England, except that the trees are still rather young and small.
New York cannot compete with London in equipages. There are many nice carriages, but generally of a comparatively small description. There is not also the pomp of many attendants. The coachman is generally the only servant. Cockades are not uncommon. In the Park we observed a few equestrians, but nothing like the crowds which may be seen in Rotten Row. The American horses are good, and have particularly fine shoulders. They have more size than the Melbourne horses, but do not show so much blood. They are well suited for the carriage in common use in America, which is heavy compared with an English cab. It is, I suppose, what is called a landau, and made to open or shut.*
On 8th May we made a trip to Philadelphia and back. An American gentleman at the hotel insisted that I must go to Washington, saying that a traveller might as well go to France without seeing Paris as go to America without visiting Washington. I quite agreed with the reasoning, but, considering the detention it would cause, was obliged to give up the scheme. I had time, however, to take a glance at Philadelphia.
* I was sorry to see the bearing rein in general use in America. A republication in that country of Sir Francis Head's works would be desirable.
The Americans ought to have very good eyes, if one may judge by the small and bad print of their newspapers. I found reading them very trying to my eyes, but I am long-sighted. Possibly shortsighted persons, with a more microscopic vision, may be able to read them easily. I may have incurred no great loss, because the American newspapers appear to be very inferior, not only to those of Great Britain, but even to the Australian press. What may be called the metropolitan papers of New York are below the standard which might have been expected, and many of the local prints seem to be mere advertising sheets, even the leading articles bearing upon some material for sale, or touting for some railway company, or other matter of profit and loss.
I have avoided touching upon the political or public institutions of America, because in a rapid journey through it or any other country the impressions one might form are likely to be erroneous. I do not think the British Colonies have much to learn from American institutions, but they may see what to avoid.
Absolute universal suffrage has been productive of much mischief, both in the United States and in page 425the colony of Victoria, as might reasonably have been expected. Out of ignorance knowledge is not likely to flow. The qualification for the suffrage in New Zealand is so low that any man who chooses can obtain it, but the nomadic population is still to a great extent excluded.
The election of judges by popular vote is one of the chief blots on the constitution of the United States. It had produced much mischief and scandal. That it has worked at all shows that there is great sense at bottom in the American people.
The election of President, and his absolute power during his term of four years' office, is a plan not so consistent with the working of free institutions as that of a responsible Ministry in vogue in Great Britain and her Colonies, where the Government is consequently kept in accord with public opinion in the country, instead of in antagonism to it, as is often the case in America.
There seems to be a question whether or not American institutions can be worked without corruption. There is also a tendency in this direction in the Colonies, but in them there is more power to check the danger at once and nip it in the bud than there is in America.
Although the Americans cannot teach the Colonies much in the way of politics, there are other matters in which the latter could take a lesson. At the head of these I would place the supply of good bread. Everywhere in America we found the bread excellent, light, and wholesome, whereas the Colonies page 426follow the English system of the plain heavy dough loaf, more adapted for a missile than for food, which hangs heavy on the stomach, and causes indigestion and irritation. A fellow-passenger explained to me what were the chief causes of the baking of good bread in America. He was secretary to the Austrian Bakery Company of New York, and it appears that the Austrians have a particular kind of oven, and are the best bakers in the world. The establishment of the Austrian Bakery Company in New York, with branches throughout the States, put all the other bakers on their mettle, so that good bread is now general throughout the Union. A sine qua non for the making of good bread is to use good flour. The sooner that Austrian Bakery Companies are established in the Australasian Colonies, the better it will be for the comfort and health of the inhabitants.
The institution of iced water is another matter which might be followed with advantage, particularly in Australia. In America wine is so dear, thanks, I suppose, to the protective tariff, that it is almost a sin to drink it. Ordinary water is flat and not pleasant to drink, but ice seems to give a body to it. My experience is that in America I could be satisfied with iced water and dispense with wine altogether. The liquor business at the American hotels seems to have reached a point of utter absurdity. One asks at the bar for a glass of some mixture, such as whisky and water. The barman makes a lot of flourishes with whisky, water, and ice, and page 427at length produces about a large wine-glassful of the mixture, for which he charges twenty cents, or tenpence. Le jeu ne vaut pas la chandelle. In fact, the present generation of Americans seem to have sacrificed themselves for the supposed benefit of posterity. By their protectionist fiscal laws they have made everything as dear as possible, and have placed such articles as good wine at an almost prohibitory price to the mass of the people. The absurdity of the proceeding consists in this, that supposing the Americans determined to become a great manufacturing community, they have only to bide their time and let the manufactures grow gradually and naturally without artificial disturbance to the course of trade. I fully believe that the chief danger to the predominance of British manufacturing power will be found in the competition of the United States. That country possesses all that has raised Great Britain to its present state of manufacturing power. It has coal in great abundance, enormous water power, and the raw materials of iron, cotton, and wool; and although I am not very well informed on the subject, it appeared to me that wages for manufacturing purposes are not much higher than in England. Added to this we must place the great activity and ingenuity of the people. The drawback to the success of both countries lies in the frequency of strikes, but these are perhaps more prevalent in Great Britain than in the States. There is thus every reason to suspect that the manufacturing sceptre may before many years pass page 428from Europe to America. None of the European States except Great Britain offer the same facilities for manufacture, inasmuch as none of them have the same supplies of coal. Of all the absurd attempts to foster manufactures by means of protection, that of the colony of Victoria is the most notable example. Victoria, although a fertile country, and rich in wool, in cereals, in wine, and other products of the soil, contains within its bounds neither coal nor water power, nor any other power. It has, notwithstanding, tried by fiscal measures to create and bolster up a number of manufactures, which are, no doubt, destined to come to grief as soon as the artificial support is withdrawn. Any permanent manufactures in Australasia are likely to cluster around the coal of New South Wales or the coal or water power of New Zealand.
Another American institution which might be copied with advantage is that of checking baggage on the railroads. Each package has a number attached, and a brass plate with the corresponding number is handed to the passenger, who on reaching his destination, hands it to the commissioner of the hotel to which he is about to proceed, and he takes all further trouble out of his hands. I would, however, give a hint to the employés on the American lines not to handle the baggage quite so roughly, of which practice there is general complaint. I had in New York to put five trunks under repair. This, however, has nothing to do with the system of checks.page 429
Another commendable American institution is good cookery. For quality it is superior, and for variety it is infinitely so, to that of England. It may not reach the high delicacy and talent of the cookery of France, but on that point there may be a doubt. I should say that French cooks excelled in the higher part of the profession, viz., stews, while the Americans were pre-eminent in broils, both avoiding the barbarism of the frying-pan, so much used in England and the Colonies. The French plan of a number of small dishes, instead of huge joints, is general in America.
On the whole, we enjoyed our journey across America very much. Except when within the influence of the lakes, we had brilliant sunshine during the whole time of our visit, forming a striking contrast to our after-reception in Europe.
The Americans I found particularly civil and obliging, more so than perhaps the people of any other country would have been. I don't think the caricature type of a lanky, cadaverous-looking individual is very common among them. One sees it occasionally, as one sees now and then in England the John Bull of "Punch;" but the greater number of the Americans struck me as being both taller than the average Englishman, and as particularly square in the shoulders. The peculiar Yankee accent also is by no means general, particularly in the Western States; and as an instance of how one may be deceived, I may state that a fellow-passenger, with the thin features supposed to characterise the page 430Yankee, and with a strong nasal twang, proved upon inquiry to have been born a Scotchman, while another with the bluff aspect of "John Bull" and no accent in particular proved to have come from Boston, and to be of Pilgrim descent. I must leave it to younger pens to describe the ladies. There are certainly many pretty American girls, and very well dressed too, and many very nice-looking old ladies. There may be a higher tone of manners in good English society than in that of America, but, taking the average of the whole people, I think that the balance would turn in favour of America, although during the last twenty-five years there has been a marked improvement in the manners of the English.
I think I found out what the supposed fondness of Americans for titles amounted to—such as colonel, general, judge, and so on. It is simply "chaff," and has frequently no reference whatever to the titled person's occupation in life. A pleasant and highly intelligent fellow-traveller from New Zealand was at once dubbed judge by his American friends, though he was not a lawyer at all, but a mercantile man. He accepted the position with equanimity.
Most Englishmen are accustomed to associate America with boundless forests, but, to my astonishment, we crossed the continent without seeing anything which would warrant the name of forest. With the exception of the wooded slopes of the Sierra Nevada, and some clumps of pines hanging on the slopes of the mountains farther east, we saw page 431no natural wood until after we crossed the Missouri at Omaha and Council Bluffs, and even then very little until we passed Chicago. From that place to New York the country had been at one time covered with forest, but now it is so opened by farms, and the large timber has so much disappeared, that the aspect of the country is more that of a cultivated and wooded country than of a forest. Forests I am told there are—pine forests in Northern Michigan, and hardwood farther south; but I was certainly surprised at travelling so far without traversing forest lands. It is evident that the American forest is far from inexhaustible. What woods we did see appeared to be of twenty or thirty years' growth, requiring perhaps another thirty or forty years to become good timber. In the meantime some management in the way of periodical thinning would appear to be desirable. The American woods seemed to be very open underneath, so that they might be readily traversed on foot, or even on horseback. There was none of the dense undergrowth with which we are familiar in New Zealand.
I must not leave New York without a remark upon Broadway. "I guess" it is an uncommonly fine street, and I do not think there is anything in London to equal it. Regent Street is too short for comparison, and its houses look flimsy compared with those of Broadway. It must also be held superior to the main artery of London consisting of the Strand and its continuations to Guildhall.
We embarked in the S.S. "Baltic" of the "White page 432Star" line, and sailed at 8.30 a.m. on 10th May. We found our old friends the English cricketers on board, who had given the New Yorkers a signal defeat in one innings, and one of the party had beaten the crack tennis player at that game. We passed the S.S. "Britannic" on her way to the wharf, she having arrived the previous evening after a very short passage of seven days and some hours. She was a newer ship than the "Baltic," and considerably larger. We met the S.S. "Italia" and many ships running in. The morning was lovely, with a light air from the westward. We passed Sandy Hook and got into the Atlantic, which we found calm and placid, and, as far as our present experience went, much more tranquil than the Pacific. Until we cleared the Banks of Newfoundland on Wednesday, the air was chilly, and on the Banks rather foggy. On Thursday we passed the French steamer "L'Amérique" going west, and apparently full of passengers. We were in an ocean highway, and almost always some ships were in sight, mostly heading for America. This was a contrast to the Pacific, where we only saw one sail from New Zealand to Honolulu. The contrast of the speed of the present day over that of my younger days struck me as being remarkable. In olden times, if a vessel was sighted, she was probably in view for hours, if not for the whole day, whereas in the "Baltic" we would sight a ship ahead, in a few minutes she was abeam, and in a few more out of sight astern. I never sailed in a steadier vessel page 433than the "Baltic." We had certainly no bad weather, but we had at times enough sea to cause a vessel to roll which had any tendency that way, and the "Baltic" declined to roll. She often went sixteen knots, and seldom less than fourteen. If the Pacific steamers could be replaced by vessels like the "Baltic," the American route would become much more popular. Probably as the steamers of the "White Star" line grow in size, the smaller vessels of the line might be made available for the Pacific service. The additional expenditure of coal would not be very much increased. The present Pacific steamers expend over forty tons, and the "Baltic" over seventy tons per diem; but the latter might make the journey in nearly one-third less time, and save coals upon that. If Auckland could be brought within a fortnight or thereabouts of San Francisco, and the steamers were as roomy and as steady as the "Baltic," the voyage throughout would be a veritable pleasure trip.
On Saturday night the musical part of the passengers came to the front and gave us some capital songs, winding up with "God Save the Queen" and the "Star-Spangled Banner." I must say I like the American choruses and many of the songs. They have a sort of national character, like Scotch or Irish songs, which is wanting in English music.
On Sunday at 3.30 p.m. we sighted the coast of Ireland, passed Kinsale Head light at 9.30 p.m., and arrived in Queenstown at 11. The night was very dark and cold, and we saw nothing but the lights page 434and the tug-steamers. We landed mails and passengers, and sailed at midnight for Liverpool, groped through a fog in the Irish Channel, and reached Liverpool at 7 p.m. It rained then, and it has rained almost every day since for two months, thus forming a striking contrast to the brilliant sunshine we had passed through in America. But the comparison is not fair. New York and San Francisco are in the same latitude as the centre of Spain; if we had traversed a zone in America in a corresponding latitude to that of London we might have found a very different climate in America—probably not rainy, but certainly much colder. In the present state of depression of the farming interest, one is tempted, however, to ask if a climate with so much rain as England can compete in wheat growing with the dry and sunny climates of the Western States of America? Wheat requires little rain after it is once started, and is of best quality in dry climates. In another half century, when the gilt has been taken off the virgin soils of the Western States by continuous cropping the case may be different, climate notwithstanding. It is not to be supposed that all America is a wheat and corn growing country. The breadth of the backbone of the continent, at a level of from 4000 to 6000 and 7000 feet, struck me with astonishment. From Saturday afternoon until Wednesday night we were travelling night and day over this high country, with the exception of Monday, which was spent in an excursion to Salt Lake City. The country at an altitude of 4000 feet, namely, the page 435sage plains of the Sierra Nevada and Salt Lake, can grow wheat and other cereals by means of irrigation only; but when we reach the height of from 6000 to 7000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, the growth of cereals seems to be out of the question. The mountainous country, however, is full of minerals, and affords good pasture during the summer months. But apart from the high country, the wheat and corn growing States of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and the Canadian Manitoba, &c., cover an enormous area, likely to throw vast quantities of food into Europe for many years to come. In course of time, however, the growth of population in America, and thereby the increased local consumption, combined with the exhaustion produced by constant cropping without manure, must raise prices and check the European importation. That the Western farmers must at present be content with a very low price for their produce was brought home to me very clearly when I found a tenant of mine feeding his sheep upon American maize, bought in Glasgow for 13s. for 280 lbs. weight. Deducting carriage from farm, freight, and charges, I wonder how much the farmer got.
As great discussion has been going on in Great Britain and the Colonies as to the comparative advantages of large and small farms, I wonder what would be thought of some of the wheat-farms in America. I met with a farmer who had 7000 acres under crop in California, most of it in wheat; and I believe some farms are much larger than this.