THE ARISTOCRATIC JOURNEY
LETTERS WRITTEN DURING A STAY IN AMERICA, 1827-1828
BY MARGARET HALL
Captain Basil Hall went to America to investigate the prisons, asylums,
and schools in 1827; he went armed with over one hundred letters of introduction
and his formidable wife, Margaret. Accompanied by their daughter, Eliza,
and her nurse, Mrs. Cownie, the Halls visited New York, Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, Virginia,
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky,
Margaret Hall came to America from the well-to-do society in Edinburgh.
Hall had a taste for travel, having grown up in Spain, and related her
experiences in America to her sister Jane in a series of letters home.
These letters were collected and published as The Aristocratic Journey
a century later.
Although Hall's husband spoke frequently and fondly of his experiences
as a young man in New York and Boston, in her letters Hall found the new
country strange and crude. She was particularly dismayed at the entertainments
and fashions of society women, and at the separation of men and women in
practically all amusements. Her descriptions of slave auctions and of slave
life on the plantations in South Carolina, however, proved her to be a
keener observer of the institution of slavery than were Tocqueville and
October 13, 1827
Yesterday we were up betimes and off at nine o'clock to the great manufacturing
establishment at Lowell, which has grown up in the last five years. The
journey was twenty-five miles, and we made it out by one o'clock. We went
at once to the house of Mr. Kirke Boott under whose immediate superintendence
the works are. We rather expected that we should have had time to visit
the manufacturies before dinner, which by the way was somewhat young
in us, considering the experience we have had of American hours, but we
were not prepared to find (altho' we arrived at one) we had kept the family
waiting beyond their usual dining hour. In ten minutes we were seated at
table, and such is the capability of one's appetite to accommodate itself
to any hour, that, dining at one or at six, I always feel equally hungry.
We swallowed our dinner with somewhat of American speed, as the days are
short now and we had a great deal to see before dark. Five years ago Mr.
and Mrs Kirke Boott took up their residence at Lowell where there was then
no building except one or two little hovels, but last night we went over
very extensive cotton manufacturies that have sprung up since that time,
and on every side fresh ones are starting into life. This State is so
very bad for agricultural purposes that they are driven to manufactures
to gain a livelihood, but as yet they have neither skill nor capital to
attempt anything fine or expensive, and the finest cottons they make at
Lowell (printed ones I mean) are not beyond the value of fifteen pence
a yard I should think. But with time and their desire to improve they will
soon advance the quality.