Friday, August 3, 2007

Lazy as Boiled Cod-Fish

Just the other day, in The March of Progress, we featured a passage from one traveler’s account of life in Cherokee Country ca. 1837. George William Featherstonhaugh was a geologist and linguist who traveled through the mountains of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina and published A Canoe Voyage up the Minnay Sotor based on his diaries. Featherstonhaugh is just too descriptive a writer not to revisit. He was less than favorably impressed with the political acumen and industriousness of the north Georgia citizens he encountered on July 31, 1837:

The people about were tall, thin, cadaverous-looking animals, looking as melancholy and lazy as boiled cod-fish, and when they dragged themselves about, formed a striking contrast to some of the swarthy, athletic-looking Cherokees. This, no doubt, is to be attributed to their wretched diet and manner of life; for the better class of Georgians, who lead more generous lives, contains many fine-looking individuals.

What these long parsnip-looking country fellows seem to enjoy most is political disputation in the bar-room of their filthy taverns, exhibiting much bitterness against each other in supporting the respective candidates of the Union and State-rights parties which divide the State, and this without seeming to have the slightest information respecting the principles of either. Execration and vociferation, and "Well, I'm for Jackson, by --!" were the nearest approach to logic ever made in my presence.

Their miserable attempts at farming, when compared with the energy, foresight, and neatness of the people of the Northern States, are as absurd as they are ridiculous; indeed, it is quite distressing to see the most numerous class in the community condemned by their ignorance to be the slaves of those demagogues, who with their eternal elections encourage them in these tavern-haunting habits, which bring nothing but misery and ruin upon themselves and their families, generation after generation.

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