Journal of occurances in a journey

Cover of an anonymous travel journal, 1800. Ms 01811.

Cover of an anonymous travel journal, 1800. Ms 01811.

In May of 1800 an as yet anonymous man traveled from New Haven to New York City and on to Philadelphia in the company of Jeremiah Day, a tutor at Yale. They took a boat from New Haven to New York, where the city was in an uproar from recent state elections. From there, the men took a stage on their way to the former capital city. He comments on the landscape and agricultural and industrial potential, gives descriptions of taverns where they stayed (one was particularly poor), and describes the other people in the stage.

This journal recently joined the collections here at CHS. It is a fascinating travelogue—the writer mentions visiting the sites where the Hessians were captured and where George Washington crossed the Delaware. That was when the General and men from the Continental Army and militia crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 and marched to Trenton, New JerseyThere they attacked and defeated Hessian troops quartered in and around the village and changed the course of the war with  Britain. It is amazing that these were tourist sites even in 1800!

Once in Philadelphia, the writer meets with Connecticut’s congressional delegation, including Senators Hillhouse and Davenport, tours the city where he finds oranges, lemons and limes growing, approves of the layout of the city, and attends a debate in Congress Hall.  He not only describes the hall in some detail, but expresses his opinions on the deliveries of various Congressmen.

Tuesday 6th day of May Went to Congr[es]s. Hall heard [Robert Goodlow] Harper, [Roger] Griswold, [Henry] Lee, [Albert] Gallatin, [Josiah] Parker. I confess I was much disappointed in ye gentlemen I found much noise from Harper but he was by no means the man I expected to find him he was loud, boisterous, dogmatical, assuming and appeared as if he believed himself the only man possessed of either knowledge or information in the House, and it appeared by this and sundry speeches I after heard that he was deficient in necessary informn. he is an ill looking man . . . Griswold was opposed to him and spake much better shewed much more information on the subject than he – Parker appeared decent, Lee was outrageously pompous but spoke easily had words at command but was much in the windy way Gallatin was hard to be understood but he was shrewd, sensible cool dispassionate well informed almost logical conclusive reasoner . . . he is a diminutive looking man . . .

Page from the 1800 journal describing the President's house in Philadelphia. Ms 101811

Page from the 1800 journal describing the President’s house in Philadelphia. Ms 101811

He also has a tour of the President’s house which was soon to be vacated for the move to Washington, DC, the new nation’s capitol. He describes two flights of stairs in a half circular form in the main entry, the main room he estimates at 30 feet by 36 feet, notes two fireplaces in every room with chimney pieces of marble, remarks how all the rooms are very large, and concludes that the entire house was larger than the New Haven State House.

Personal perceptions of national events are what make manuscripts such a valuable resource. I really like his critique of the Congressmen, something that rarely finds documented. You may see this diminutive volume in the Research Center by asking to see Ms 101811, Journal of Occurrances, 1800. Now to identify the author . . .

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