“Farewell unhappy land”

Janet Schaw, a Scotswoman, sailed to North Carolina in 1774 to visit her brother who was a merchant and plantation owner in North Carolina. Previous posts deal with her voyage and an incident with an alligator. Although her sympathies lay with the Loyalists, she was extremely critical of North Carolina society and of the poor state of agriculture in the area, which she believed was due to the indolence of the general population.

. . . [N]ature holds out to them every thing that can contribute to conveniency, or tempt to luxury, yet the inhabitants resist both, and if they can raise as much corn and pork, as to subsist them in the most slovenly manner, they ask no more; and as a very small proportion of their time serves for that purpose, the rest is spent in sauntering thro’ the woods with a gun or sitting under a rustick shade, drinking New England rum made into grog, the most shocking liquor you can imagine. By this manner of living, their blood is spoil’d and rendered thin beyond all proportion, so that it is constantly on the fret like bad small beer, and hence the constant slow fevers that wear down their constitutions, relax their nerves and infeeble the whole frame. Their appearance is in every respect the reverse of that which gives the idea of strength and vigor, and for which the British peasantry are so remarkable. They are tall and lean, with short waists and long limbs, sallow complexions and languid eyes, when not inflamed by spirits. Their feet are flat, their joints loose and their walk uneven. These I speak of are only the peasantry of this country, as hitherto I have seen nothing else, but I make no doubt when I come to see the better sort, they will be far from this description. For tho’ there is a most disgusting equality, yet I hope to find an American Gentleman a very different creature from an American clown. Heaven forefend else.

Schaw was also critical of the actions of the British, the tactics of the patriot Committee of Safety in the area, as well as of the populace who let themselves be easily convinced that they suffered from British rule.

. . . . The inclination of this country is . . . far from being generally for this work [of revolution]. Indolent and inactive, they have no desire to move, even where their own immediate interest calls them. All they are promised is too distant to interest them; they suffer none of those abuses they are told of and feel their liberty invaded only by the oppressive power of the Congress and their Agents, who at this Season are pressing them from their harvest, for they know not what purpose. . . . Three months ago, a very small number had not any thing to apprehend; a few troops landing and a general amnesty published would have secured them all at home. . . . At present the martial law stands thus: An officer or committeeman enters a plantation with his posse. The alternative is proposed. Agree to join us [Whigs] and your persons and properties are safe . . . if you refuse, we are directly to cut up your corn, shoot your pigs, burn your houses, seize your Negroes and perhaps tar and feather yourself. Not to choose the first requires more courage than they are possessed of, and I believe this method has seldom failed with the lower sort.

Upon leaving, she expressed her sadness at the ruination that she was sure would come to both sides.

Farewell unhappy land, for which my heart bleeds in pity. Little does it signify to you who are the conquered or who the victorious; you are devoted to ruin, whoever succeeds. Many years will not make up [for] these few past months of depredation and yet no enemy has landed on their coast. Themselves have ruined themselves; but let me not indulge this melancholy. . . .

Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality, being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal in the Years 1774 to 1776, Evangeline Walker Andrews and Charles McLean Andrews, compilers and editors (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1921), Electronic Edition, pages 153, 197-199, 211-212.

posted March 31st, 2014 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Farming, Loyalists, Patriots


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