Abbildungen der Seite

census had been taken, beginning at 1790, were thus in round numbers, 43,000, 68,000, 89,000, 110,000, 140,000. The greater proportionate increase of population within the last eight years, from immigration and other causes, induces the belief here that the next census of 1840 will exhibit a population of 200,000 for the city and suburbs, which will probably be the case. The proportion of coloured people to whites is not large, being in the city, at the last census, 9256 coloured to 71,150 white, and these proportions remain nearly the same. In each race there were a greater number of females than males, the white population exhibiting a return of 37,619 females, and 33,531 males, and the coloured population exhibiting a return of 5231 females, and 4025 males. The number of deaths in 1831 was 4939, of which 2720 were children, and 2219 adults; the total of deaths being, therefore, in round numbers, 5000, and the total of population in round numbers, 140,000; the proportion of deaths was 1 in 28, or about three and a half per cent. in the whole year. The greatest mortality in 1831 was in December, the number being 708, while the average of the other months was about 350 ; and in 1832 the greatest mortality was in August, the deaths being 1689, the av. erage of the other months being about 450.

The classes into which the population are divided in Phil. adelphia are very similar to those of New York and Baltimore. Though there is no titled nobility or hereditary aristocracy, there is a decided aristocracy of family connexion as well as of wealth ; and of the two, the first are the most fastidious about the rank and station of their associates. The expressions of respect for those who are descended from the first families, or who belong to some of the oldest families of Pennsylvania, or Maryland, or New Jersey, or Virginia, are as frequently heard from the lips of Americans, as from those of the most aristocratic circles in our small country towns in England ; and the phrases “they are people of yesterday,” and “people of no family,” convey as much odium to an American ear as to an English one.

The greater number of those select gentry inherit land, or houses, or stock from their parents, and are not engaged in trade. They are occasionally joined by families who have acquired fortunes in business, and retire, when they form a small leisure class, whose chief occupation is visiting and social intercourse when at home, and travelling to the seaside, or to the springs of Virginia or Saratoga, in the

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

warm season. The style of living observed by this class is what would be deemed elegant in any part of Europe; their houses are large and well furnished; their domestics numerous, though nearly all coloured; their parties gay and brilliant; their manners polished and refined; and their conversation intelligent and agreeable.

The class next in order of consequence or consideration is the aristocracy of wealth, which is more extended in numbers, not so exclusive or scrupulous about the rank or fortune of their associates, and more easily accessible to persons of inferior pretensions to themselves. Their style of living is more profuse and expensive, though not so refined and elegant; their parties are larger and more costly, and their visiting more frequent and more general.

Among these, however, are to be found many philanthropic and benevolent individuals, who devote a large portion of their wealth, as well as their labour and their time, to the promotion of charitable and religious objects. There is no country on earth, perhaps, where so large a portion of the wealthy are generous philanthropists as in America; and in no city of America are there more of this class than in Philadelphia. Mr. Matthew Carcy, an Irishman and a Catha olic; Mr. William Birch, an Englishman and a Unitarian; and Mr. Matthew Newkirk, an American and a Presbyte. rian, are splendid examples of this, and show that neither origin, country, nor peculiarity of creed prevents the exer. cise of the higher virtues of charity and benevolence by the most wealthy individuals who have hearts to feel for the woes of others.

The middle class of society in Philadelphia, removed from either extreme of bare competency (for of abject poverty there is very little) and great wealth, is composed of mer. chants, traders, professional men, including the clergy, phy. sicians, lawyers, and sojourners from different parts of the country. These form, of course, a very mixed and miscellaneous class, but they are, on the whole, the most intelligent, and most agreeable to strangers. No scrupulous apprehensions about low birth or want of high family connexions, and no dread of associating with a man of small fortune or none at all, ever interrupt the full flow of hilarity and good-humour which is so characteristic of this mixed class, among whom there is a sufficient amount of intelli, gence on all general subjects, and a sufficient frankness in the expression of their opinions, to render their society both instructive and entertaining.

One of the most agreeable entertainments that I had the pleasure to enjoy in Philadelphia was a public dinner giren by the bar to the bench, at which there were about two hundred gentlemen of the legal profession, and forty or fifty others invited as guests. The circumstances which led to the dinner were these: From the first ratification of the Con. stitution of Pennsylvania, the judges of the Supreme and other courts have held their offices during good behaviour; but by the late Convention held in Philadelphia to consider the propriety of revising the Constitution, an amendment was carried for fixing a limited period, I think fifteen years, for the services of a judge, instead of the life tenure, which the term of good behaviour generally includes. This was interpreted by many as implying a disapprobation of the general conduct of the judges, and a want of confidence in their impartiality. To counteract this, the bar of Pennsylvania gave the present entertainment, avowedly as a mark of respect and confidence towards the bench at large. Nearly all the judges (to the number perhaps of twenty) were present. Mr. Binning, a barrister of advanced years and large practice, presided, and his introductory speech was clear, able, and well delivered. The speeches that followed were of a character to sustain the high reputation of the Philadelphia bar, and the whole entertainment was of a dignified and intellectual cast. I was unexpectedly called upon by name to respond to the toast of “The Bench and Bar of England,” and it was extremely gratifying to hear, in almost every one of the speeches delivered, the highest admiration expressed of England and her laws, her lawyers and her judges.

The general appearance of the inhabitants of Philadelphia is highly favourable. The universal aspect of competency and comfort which is presented on every side as one walks through the streets, where one meets none but well-dressed persons, of whatever class, is extremely agreeable. The gentlemen have not that ease and polish of manners which seemed to us to characterize the same class at Baltimore, nor did the ladies appear to us so graceful and perfectly well-bred. But the number of pretty and elegantly-dressed women, between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, that are to be seen in the principal streets of Philadelphia on a fine day, is as great, perhaps, as in any city of the world; though we did not find in either sex that hearty frankness and cordial generosity which exist so generally at Baltimore, and which are said to be characteristic of the people of the entire South.

[blocks in formation]

The Philadelphians have the reputation of being cold, formal, and difficult of approach ; and, in comparison with the same class of society in New York and Baltimore, we found them so, and heard this defect admitted by themselves as well as reported of them by others. There was one feature, however, which we noticed so often and saw so prominently, that we could not fail to be strongly impressed with it, which was the settled conviction that seemed to be imprinted on the minds, and even the persons, of almost all the native Pennsylvanians we saw, that not only was their city one of the best built, cleanest, and most agreeable on the globe (which would be readily conceded by most), but that its inhabitants were among the handsomest and most intelligent people anywhere to be found ; a conviction which must, no doubt, be very pleasurable to those who indulge it, and which was indicated by the look and air of self-satisfaction that sat on almost every countenance we saw among the fashionable groups engaged in shopping, walking, or visiting their neighbours.

Notwithstanding the competency and comfort which reign so generally throughout the city, and the entire absence of those revolting scenes of drunkenness, prostitution, wretchedness, and misery which obtrude themselves on the eye in almost every part of the great towns of England, there is yet a portion of suffering among even the sober and industrious classes of labourers here for want of adequate remuneration. In a valuable tract, entitled "A Plea for the Poor, particularly Females, being an inquiry how far the charges alleged against them, of idleness, improvidence, and dissipation, are founded in truth," and of which the eighth edition is before me, written by the benevolent Matthew Carey, are some statements respecting the condition of this class in Philadelphia, which exhibit a melancholy contrast to the general comfort, and even opulence, of the rest of its inhabitants. These statements are all supported by such abundant authority as to leave no room whatever to doubt their accuracy. I read through the whole of this appeal, with its appendix of proofs, in detail, and I had an opportunity of consulting many individuals who had the best means of knowing the truth or error of the statements made; and the result of the whole was my thorough conviction that the following position is unequivocally established, namely, “ that misery and distress may be found in Philadelphia equal in intensity, though not in extent, to anything that is found in London or Paris.'

Of individual cases of such distress the catalogue is a long and painful one, and the testimonies of public men, as well as of benevolent women, who interest themselves in works of charity in this city, as to the accuracy of the statements made, are so numerous that it would occupy many pages to print them.

In the course of my conversations with the most zealous friends of the poor, with whom I had many opportunities of conferring, I learned from almost all of them, that just in proportion as the wealth of the city increased did the disposition to benevolence diminish ; and that it was far more difficult to obtain 20 or 50,000 dollars for any benevolent purpose now than it was twenty or thirty years ago. They were, in general, surprised at this; but I confess that it did not astonish me, because the result of my experience in all countries has been to convince me that this is the general course of things. Men constantly find the love of wealth increase with the amount of their possessions, and grow less and less disposed to part with it just in proportion as they are more and more abundantly supplied. The consequence is, that the most truly generous people in every country are the poor, who will part with a penny out of the only shilling they have in the world to relieve a distressed fellow-creature, with more readiness than a man of a thousand a year will part with a guinea for the same purpose.

The only just test of true generosity is the proportion of a man's income that he will part with for charitable purposes; and judged by this test, it may be assumed as a rule, to which there are very few exceptions, that the poorer men are, the larger the proportion of their income will they part with to give bread to the hungry and clothing to the naked; while, as men grow richer and richer, the proportion they are willing to part with grows less and less, until the heart is sometimes sealed up entirely by the very excess of the wealth of its owner.

It is much to be desired that some benevolent society should be established on the principle of self-taxation exercised on all its members to the extent of 5 or 10 per cent. per annum, so as to raise a sum which in every city would be sufficient to assist all who were helpless with shelter, food, and raiment, and furnish to those who could work labour at remunerating prices, as the means of earning their own subsistence. This would be perfectly practicable if the rich would set the example, for the poor would most readily follow them.

« ZurückWeiter »