Hamilton’s Itinerarium – Alexander Hamilton
Among the numerous journals and narratives of travel during the Colonial period, few are so lively and so full of good-humored comment on people and customs as the Itinerarium of Dr. Hamilton. The subject of this volume is a journey which Dr. Hamilton undertook in 1744, leaving Annapolis May 30, and travelling overland northward through New Castle, Wilmington, and Chester to Philadelphia. Mr. Hasell, of Barbados, whom he had expected to travel with him from Annapolis, he found at Philadelphia, where he stayed a week. June 13, he resumed his journey and spent three days on the road to New York, crossing the Delaware near Bristol, and passing through Trenton and Princeton to Perth Amboy; and thence, via three ferries, to Staten Island, across the Narrows, and across the East River to New York, that being apparently the surest and most convenient route. After six days in New York, he started, June 21, in a sloop for Albany, together with Rev. John Miln, formerly a clergyman in Albany. The journey up occupied nearly five days; he stayed about a week in and around Albany and spent three days on the return sloop journey. After five days’ stay in New York, July 5 to 10, he started eastward with two Boston merchants, journeying through Long Island to the neighborhood of Montauk Point, thence across the Sound to New London, and thence through Stonington, Newport, Bristol, and Dedham to Boston, the whole journey occupying eight days. At Boston he stayed ten days, and then, July 28, started northward, stopping at Marblehead, Salem, Ipswich, and Newbury, to Portsmouth and New Castle, and back by the same route, a week’s journey in all. After about two weeks in Boston, he started southward August 18, going through Providence and Bristol to Newport, where he stayed a week. He resumed his travels August 24, passing New London, Saybrook, New Haven, and Norwalk to New York, a week’s journey. The second visit in New York occupied two weeks; he left September 13, and after five days’ stay in Philadelphia, reached home again September 27, having travelled, as he records it, 1624 miles.
Excerpt from the text:
Annapolis, Wednesday, May 30th. -I set out from Annapolis in Maryland, upon Wednesday the 30th of May at eleven o’clock in the morning; contrary winds and bad weather prevented my intended passage over Chesapeake Bay; so taking the Patapsco road, I proposed going by the way of Bohemia to Newtown upon Chester, a very circumflex course, but as the journey was intended only for health and recreation, I was indifferent whether I took the nearest or the farthest route, having likewise a desire to see that part of the country. I was in seeming bad order at my first setting out, being suspicious that one of my horses was lame; but he performed well, and beyond my expectation. I travelled but twenty-six miles this day; there was a cloudy sky, and an appearance of rain. Some miles from town I met Mr. H––t [i]going to Annapolis. He returned with me to his own house, where I was well entertained and had one night’s lodging and a country dinner.
Mr. H––l [ii] , a gentleman of Barbados, with whom I expected to have the pleasure of travelling a good part of my intended journey, had left Annapolis a week or ten days before me, and had appointed to meet me att Philadelphia. He went to Bohemia by water, and then took chaise over land to Newcastle and Wilmington, being forbid for certain physical reasons to travel on horseback. This was a polite and facetious gentleman, and I was sorry that his tedious stay in some places put it out my power to tarry for him; so I was deprived of his conversation the far greatest part of the journey.
Mr. H––t and I, after dinner, drank some punch, and conversed like a couple of virtuosos. His wife had no share in the conversation; he is blessed indeed with a silent woman; but her muteness is owing to a defect in her hearing, that without bawling out to her she cannot understand what is spoken, and therefore not knowing how to make pertinent replies, she chooses to hold her tongue. It is well I have thus accounted for it, else such a character in the sex would appear quite out of nature. At night I went to Annapolis and retired to bed at ten o’clock.
Thursday, May 31st. – I got up betimes this morning, pour prendre le frais, as the French term it, and found it heavy and cloudy, portending rain. At nine o’clock I took my leave of Mr. H––t, his wife and sister, and took horse.
A little before I reached Patapsco ferry, I was overtaken by a certain captain of a tobacco ship, whose name I know not, nor did I inquire concerning it, lest he should think me impertinent.
We crossed the ferry together at ten o’clock. He talked inveterately against the clergy, and particularly the Maryland clerks of the holy cloth; but I soon found that he was a prejudiced person, for it seems he had been lately cheated by one of our parsons.
This man accompanied me to Baltimore Town,[iii] and after I parted with him I had a solitary journey till I came within three miles of Gunpowder Ferry, where I met one Matthew Baker, a horse-jockey.
Crossing the ferry I came to Joppa, a village pleasantly situated, and lying close upon the river; there I called at one Brown’s, who keeps a good tavern in a large brick house. The landlord was ill with intermitting fevers, and understanding from someone there who knew me, that I professed physics, he asked my advice, which I gave him.
Here I encountered Mr. D––n, the minister of the parish, who (after we had despatched a bowl of sangaree ) carried me to his house. There passed between him, his wife, and me some odd rambling conversation, which turned chiefly upon politicks. I heard him read with great patience some letters from his correspondents in England, written in a gazette style, which seemed to be an abridgement of the political history of the times and a dissection of the machinations of the French, in their late designs upon Great Britain. This reverend gentleman and his wife seemed to express their indignation, with some zeal, against certain of our St-sm-n [iv] and C––rs [v] at Annapolis, who it seems had opposed the interest of the clergy by attempting to reduce the number of the Taxables. This brought the proverb in my mind, The shirt is nearest the skin. Touch a man in his private interest, and you immediately procure his ill will.
Leaving Joppa I fell in company with one Captain Waters and with Mr. D––gs, a virtuoso in botany. He affected some knowledge in Natural Philosophy, but his learning that way was but superficial.
He showed me a print or figure of the Gensing, [vi] which he told me was to be found in the rich bottoms near Susquehanna. The plant is of one stem or stalk, and jointed. From each joint issues four small branches, at the extremity of each of these is a cinquefoil, or five leaves, somewhat oblong, notched and veined. Upon the top of the stem it bears a bunch of red berries, but I could not learn if it had any apparent flower, the colour of that flower, or at what season of the year it blossomed or bore fruit. I intended, however, to look for it upon the branches of Susquehanna, not that I imagined it of any singular virtue, for I think it has really no more than what may be in the common liquorice root, mixed with an aromatic, or spicy drug, but I had a curiosity to see a thing which has been so famous.
After parting with this company, I put up at one Tradaway’s, about ten miles from Joppa. The road here is pretty hilly, stony, and full of a small gravel. I observed some stone, which I thought looked like limestone.
Just as I dismounted at Tradaway’s, I found a drunken Club dismissing. Most of them had got upon their horses, and were seated in an oblique situation, deviating much from a perpendicular to the horizontal plane, a posture quite necessary for keeping the center of gravity within its proper base, for the support of the superstructure; hence we deduce the true physical reason why our heads overloaded with liquor become too ponderous for our heels. Their discourse was as oblique as their position: the only thing intelligible in it was oaths and Goddamnes; the rest was an inarticulate sound like Rabelais’ frozen words a-thawing, interlaced with hickupings and belchings. I was uneasy till they were gone, and my landlord, seeing me stare, made that trite apology, –– That indeed he did not care to have such disorderly fellows come about his house; he was always noted far and near for keeping a quiet house and entertaining only gentlemen or such like; but these were country people, his neighbours, and it was not prudent to disoblige them upon slight occasions. “Alas, sir!” added he, “we that entertain travellers must strive to oblige everybody, for it is our daily bread.” While he spoke thus our Bacchanalians finding no more rum in play, rid off helter-skelter, as if the devil had possessed them, every man sitting his horse in a seesaw manner like a bunch of rags tied upon the saddle. I found nothing particular or worth notice in my landlord’s character or conversation, only as to his bodily make. He was a fat pursy man and had large bubbies like a woman. I supped upon fried chickens and bacon, and after supper the conversation turned upon politics, news, and the dreaded French war; but it was so very lumpish and heavy that it disposed me mightily to sleep. This learned company consisted of the landlord, his overseer and miller, and another greasy-thumbed fellow, who, as I understood, professed physics, and particularly surgery in the drawing of teeth.
He practised upon the housemaid, a dirty piece of lumber, who made such screaming and squawling as made me imagine there was murder going forwards in the house. However, the artist got the tooth out at last, with a great clumsy pair of blacksmith’s forceps; and indeed it seemed to require such an instrument, for when he showed it to us it resembled a horse-nail more than a tooth.
The miller I found professed music, and would have tuned his crowd [vii] to us, but unfortunately the two middle strings betwixt the bass and treble were broke. This man told us that he could play by the book.
After having had my fill of this elegant company, I went to bed at ten o’clock.
Friday, June 1st. -The sun rose in a clear horizon, and the air in these highlands was for two hours in the morning very cool and refreshing. I breakfasted upon some dirty chocolate, but the best that the house could afford, and took horse about half an hour after six in the morning. For the first thirteen miles the road seemed gravelly and hilly, and the land but indifferent.
When I came near Susquehanna Ferry I looked narrowly in the bottoms for the gensing, but could not discover it. The lower ferry of Susquehanna, which I crossed, is above a mile broad. It is kept by a little old man, whom I found at vittles with his wife and family upon a homely dish of fish, without any kind of sauce. They desired me to eat, but I told them I had no stomach. They had no cloth upon the table, and their mess was in a dirty, deep, wooden dish, which they evacuated with their hands, cramming down skins, scales, and all. They used neither knife, fork, spoon, plate, or napkin, because, I suppose, they had none to use. I looked upon this as a picture of that primitive simplicity practised by our forefathers, long before the mechanic arts had supplied them with instruments for the luxury and elegance of life. I drank some of their cider, which was very good, and crossed the ferry in company with a certain Scots-Irishman, by name Thomas Quiet. The land about Susquehanna is pretty high and woody, and the channel of the river rocky.
Mr. Quiet rid a little scrub bay mare, which he said was sick and ailing, and could not carry him, and therefore he lighted every half mile and ran a couple of miles at a footman’s pace, to “spell the poor beast” (as he termed it). He informed me he lived at Monocosy and had been out three weeks in quest of his creatures (horses), four of which had strayed from his plantation. I condoled his loss, and asked him what his mare’s distemper was, resolving to prescribe for her, but all that I could get out of him was that the poor silly beast had choaked herself in eating her oats; so I told him that if she was choaked she was past my art to recover. This fellow I observed had a particular down-hanging look, which made me suspect he was one of our New-light bigots.
I guessed right, for he introduced a discourse concerning Whitefield, [viii] and enlarged pretty much and with some warmth upon the doctrines of that apostle, speaking much in his praise. I took upon me, in a ludicrous manner, to impugn some of his doctrines, which by degrees put Mr. Quiet in a passion. He told me flatly that I was damned without redemption. I replied that I thought his name and behaviour were very incongruous, and desired him to change it with all speed, for it was very improper that such an angry turbulent mortal as he should be called by the name of Thomas Quiet.