Cambridge Jan. lst, 1848:
Walked into Boston in company with Parker and Mudge to subscribe our names for the Lowell Lectures. Saw the cannon ball in the church, in Brattle St. shot in the Revolution, it is near a window in the second story, and embedded in the brick about half its size.
Tuesday the 4th:
Went over to Boston in the morning to get my tickets for the Lowell Lectures on Ichthcology. Saw the house that belonged to John Hancock in which he lived; it is built of free stone, hewed in front, but rough upon the ends of the house, the windows are surrounded with a sort of marble or white stone, the corners of the house also is laid up with this same whitestone, there is a platform over the front door, and a railing on the roof, it looks antiquated now, but it evidently was built with much taste and expense at that time. His sons live there now and are said to be drunken and profligate; degenerate sons of an illustrious father.
This day closes our Law term; Greenleaf told us that he had practiced Law 42 years and his thirst for knowledge was as strong as ever; new fields were still opening, he dismissed us with the words of Lord Coke: "I wish unto the gladsome light of jurisprudence, the loveliness of temperance, the stability of fortitude and the solidities of justice." This term I think I have learned something how to study the Law and am in hopes that shall be able to pursue the study with increasing advantage for the future. ...
In the afternoon went into Boston and heard a lecture on Ichthyology, saw a young man there with a long cue behind, as was the custom in former times; as we came across the Common, we saw a vast number of boys skating on the pond, the same one that the British broke up in Revolutionary times. The little girls, also, were skipping about on the common like lambs in spring, compared with former times, it was a beautiful scene.
Jan. 14 1848:
Read Law in the forenoon, in the afternoon went into Boston and heard Agassir lecture on Common place book. Saw in Boston clothes hung out to dry on the tops of the houses. I thought that we in the country were fortunate that there was no occasion for wash women to climb so high in the world.
Jan. 19 th
Went into Boston immediately after breakfast and went into court, the Police, Municipal, Common Pleas and State Supreme Court were all in session in the court house went into the Senate gallery a little before eleven. The Senate was composed of very intelligent looking men, for the most part aged. .... .... Went into the Assembly chamber and there quite a contrast met my eye. The Members did not look as intelligent, more noise, .... it seemed more like a meeting where the Members were only careless listeners and not the actors. .... .... On the first floor of the Capitol in an alcove is a noble statue of Washington. The House adjourned a little after twelve I then took a walk across the common, there is an old elm near the pond that they have surrounded with a railing and it's branches are supported by rods and bands of iron fastened to the main trunk. [This was the Washington Elm, more in later excerpts]. Ed
In the afternoon went into Boston to hear a lecture, went by the way of Putnam Street and saw the remains of the fortifications raised by General Putnam, there is now only a trench and an embankment to
February 5th 1948:
In Boston this afternoon I could not help noticing how many ways there was devised to attract attention. One building nearly covered over with pictures of wax figures shown within and "wax figures" written in large characters on all sides. All the shop keepers strive to see who shall make the greatest show, outside, in order to attract attention to their shop.
Sunday, did not go to church, read some in the Bible and some in newspapers, walked up to fresh pond and saw them getting in ice. In the evening went to hear a temperance address at the Unitarian Church by Mr. Brown, Esquire, of Watertown, pretty good.
Read law in the forenoon. In the afternoon went over to Boston, went in and saw the wax figures and the serpents, and the ourang-outang, he looked very much like a human being, his arms and his hands and feet, his head was covered with hair came down the sides of his face and under his chin, like the whiskers of a man, his face was pretty much bare, his mouth was similar to mans, only the lips protruded more, his teeth seemed similar, his nose also, only very short, his natural way of traveling seemed to be on all fores, but he could walk erect like a man, his cough was like that of a man, and his general appearance, was strikingly similar to the human species, he would set up in the chair like a man. Went next and bought a pair of boots and came home and read in the evening.
Kept my room, felt rather-miserable, some better at the present time, at seven o'clock in the evening heard of the death of John Quincy Adams. Truly a great man has fallen, one who has passed through most of the scenes and events, that make up the history of our nation, one who has filled the first office in the nation but the old man has gone to his grave in a green old age, years have been multiplied unto him beyond the common lot of mortals. If our nation is never served by a man less qualified, less honest, or less fruitful, we may hope long to exist as a nation. He fell at his post, in his seat on the floor of Congress. He was 80 years, 7 months, 12 days old, 67 of which was spent almost entirely in the public service.
Sunday. Went to church in the forenoon, but was unable to keep my attention fixed upon the sermon very much, spent the rest of the day meditating upon mans future destiny and upon many other subjects, not at all befitting to the day, read the Bible some also. It is pretty good sleighing today and the rowdies have been riding and hollowing, racing, etc. I had always supposed that Massachusetts was more moral, more rigid, than N.Y. or any other state, but such hollowing, such swearing and racing as I have seen this day in this good city of Cambridge, I think would not be tolerated in a country town in New York. Sunday is a high day here, the chaps go out to Porters about a mile from here and get liquor and that fits them for making a noise in the world.
March 10th 1848:
Tended the lecture in the morning. In the afternoon went into Boston to see the funeral procession of John Quincy Adams. The body was drawn by 6 horses trimmed with crepe and each having a long black feather in his headstall. It was escorted by the military and followed by the committee consisting of Congressmen, 29 in number, one from each state. The shops in Boston was closed and the principal streets were shrouded in mourning, the flags were hung at half mast, etc. There was an immense crowd in the streets. The bells were tolling and minute guns firing.
Spent the day in the library, in the evening went to hear Samuel Houston speak in the Tremont. He is a pretty good speaker, he was listened to with much applause. He maintained that the U.S. had gained everything in annexing Texas while all Texas gained was she got herself into good society.
Tended the lectures in the morning. In the afternoon went into Boston to hear Wendell Phillips (abolitionist) address a committee of the legislature, upon a petition, signed by about one thousand persons white and black, for the legislature to take measures peaceably to withdraw from the union. He addressed the committee in the assembly chamber. There was quite an audience presents He spoke about two hours. He said our government has proved a failure, the constitution itself was a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell. He spoke eloquently and ably, but showed no sufficient reason to my mind for a dissolution of the Union. Mr. Garrison spoke also on the same subject, they were both confident that they would ultimately succeed. I was somewhat surprised that the committee should hear them upon such a subject, but 1 am told that in Massachusetts petitioners have a right to be heard upon their petition, through any means they may choose, and the committee evidently heard them for no other reason than to preserve inviolate the right of petition.
March 18 th:
Heard of the revolution in France.
Tended the lectures in the morning, in the afternoon the club, in the evening read law. Heard that the Pope has been driven from his throne because he refused to go on in the work of reform as the people wished.
March 24th, 1848:
This is my birthday, I am 25 years old and have as yet done scarcely anything in preparation for life or death and thus time flies; one year after another glides away and seems to leave no trace behind.
Read of the death of John Jacob Astor, the richest man in America He has not left an enviable name to the world in my estimation, he was penurious, it is said, his faculties, which were strong, was bent upon one object - the making of money. He was 84.
Went to Boston in the morning came back to the lectures and then went back to Boston and heard Daniel Webster for the first time in the state house, he is a good looking man, stands up very strait when he speaks, his enunciation is very slow, distinct and deliberate, his gestures do not seem to me as very impressive.
Went into Boston to hear the eulogy of Edward Everett, on John Quincy Adams, the law students were allowed a place in the procession, getting into Faneuil Hall (Image) was a little the most pressing work that I have ever experienced, it seemed as though our bodies would be broken in by the press, the benches and chairs were broken to splinters, and I deem myself very fortunate that I escaped with no broken limbs, although the crown of my hat was torn out, I at last obtained a very good situation, and heard the speech .... it was good. This I suppose will close the public ceremonies on Adams. They have been many, expensive and magnificent. Massachusetts, I think, takes more pride in honoring her men than any other state.
Took a stroll in Mount Auburn cemetery situated in Cambridge, about a mile and a half from the colleges, and about five miles from Boston. It contains a hundred and ten acres of lawn .... made up of hills and dales, ravines and valleys, covered with trees and shrubbery of various kinds, interspersed with the wild flower, contain also several beautiful little ponds of water...a wild romantic place, where the student of nature might feed his craving mind to the full. It is a delightful place for a walk, for contemplation, for reflection and to obtain instruction from the silent, though impressive voice of the tomb.
Sunday about 6 o'clock we had a delightful shower, it ceased before 7 and sitting in my window fronting a little square ornamented with trees and shrubbery, it seemed to me that I never before enjoyed such a fresh, such a beautiful, such a delightful rainscape ... trees with their young leaves refreshed by the gentle shower, the grass quickened to new life, the pure air, the sun casting his soft beams over all, and last of all the rainbow, the crowning work of all earthly beauties, the bow of promise, the pledge of God.
July 4th 1848:
they are making a great noise this morning, with powder, ringing of bells,etc. We went over to Boston after breakfast .... the beauty and chivalry of Boston is out today, the sporting children, the blushing damsel, the sedate matron, the old man leaning upon his staff, all enjoying a nations jubilee ...to celebrate the birthday of freedom.
July 7th (1848): The term closes. I have not accomplished so much as I intended this term, but I think I have made some progress in the law, in the knowledge of the world and of human nature. I can now only be thankful for what advancement I have been enabled to make, regret that I have not employed my time better, and by the light of past experience endeavor to do better for the future.
8th: Went to Concord and Lexington today with Elder [a friend - Ed]. We went by the turnpike direct from this place to Concord.... .... the houses though as a general thing far apart and the land very poor and stoney. We had a fine view of Boston and the surrounding country on an eminence some five miles on our journey. We visited the monument at Concord, saw the battle field, where the first Britton fell. We then went to Lexington - a distance of six miles and saw the monument there. This monument was erected in 1789; the battle was fought April 19, 1775. We came from Lexington in the cars, having walked all the rest of the way, a distance of about twenty miles. Visiting these first battlefields of the revolution strengthens ones love of country and renews our determination to preserve our liberties for us so nobly gained, and hand down to our posterity the same rich legacy that has been bequeathed to us.
11 th: Went to Plymouth with (friend) Elder, a distance of thirty miles. Was well paid for my visit. They have many curiosities and relics of the Pilgrims collected in Pilgrim Hall; King Phillip's original letter to Governor Price, the gun barrel with which he was killed, some of the bibles belonging to the Pilgrims and some of the furnature etc., brought over in the Mayflower. I also saw the old character of the colony - the Plymouth Rock and as I stood upon the rock, I thought what must have been the feeling of the Pilgrims when they first put foot upon it, a wilderness before them full of savage beasts and savage men and in the depth of winter (20 Dec. 1620).
15th: In the Municipal court they had about thirty prisoners up for sentence some very small boys, some pretty girls, some negroes, some men - most of them would make honest citizens in the country, I think, .... they do not know what an easy living they might obtain in the country.
July 19th (1848): We passed the house in which Washington made his headquarters while in Cambridge. It was at that time an elegant house and is still in a good state of repair, the chamber where he lodged is now kept vacant and the same furniture which was in it at that time is still in it.
22nd: Went to Charlestown early in the morning visiting on the way a very fine garden, saw many beautiful flowers and rare plants, saw in a hot-house lemons and oranges hanging on the trees. .... the roof of the house was covered on the inside with grapes which hung in beautiful clusters; they are worth a dollar a pound.
25th: Came back by the Washington Elm, which is the tree under which Washington took command of the Continental Army. It is a venerable tree, its branches extend to almost the side of the street each side, it is yet vigorous and thriving, it is surrounded with a railing of iron and preserved with great care. I had the good fortune to fall in with an old man who saw the transaction, he said he was twelve years old at the time, but remembered it perfectly well - he showed with much satisfaction where Washington stood, and where the army was, he said the army was drawn up on parade .... ....
29th: Into Boston early in the morning and saw some white mice end' also a dwarf who was a very singular looking personage. Went into the Municipal court and herd the trial of an Irish woman, she pled her own case and done it with so much Irish spirit and Irish brogue that I and some others laughed so that we were spoken to by the sheriff. It is all important for a-young lawyer to attract attention of the court at the commencement of his practice, I have exceeded in doing it this early.
August 1, 1848: Went into Boston to see cousin Gershem and his wife at the Marlboro house, went with him to South Boston to a foundry, saw them casting, boring and polishing cannons; the overseer said that it took five tons of metal to cast a cannon, but when it was finished it only weighed about three tons. Went also to see the Greek Slave. It is a highly finished work of art, seeming perfect in all its parts, or rather an ideal perfection of what a woman should be, chiseled out of pure white marble. The foot, the leg, the hand, the nails, the neck, the hair, the body all executed with the most exquisite symmetery and the chain that binds the hands and the clasps around the wrists, all cut out so perfectly and the pedestal upon which she leans, all carved out of the same block of marble and all done so tastefully, so perfectly and so symmetrically, that it may well be called one of the highest works of art and deserves the high celebrity it has acquired. It ought to give the artist an enduring fame and give to him the name of the American Phidias.
15th: Went to Lowell - "the city of spindles." Saw the machinery, the girls (there are many thousands of them there). The carpet power looms are a great curiosity to a stranger, there was some two hundred of them in one room, all tended by girls, all the weaving is done by machinery, the shuttle is thrown through by machinery and all the girls have to do is to put the yarn in the shuttles. I saw eleven shuttles in one loom, it was so fixed that the one with such a kind of yarn, would be shot through just when it was wanted and so with all the rest.
17th: Into Boston to a book auction and made some purchases. Saw an Indian without feet, he nevertheless carried an organ upon which he played with one hand and the other took change.
August 23rd 1848: This is commencement day [Harvard Law School. Ed]. The governor and dignitaries of Boston were escorted out here by a band and the lancers. The governor is noted as the man who never wears a dickey. His name is Briggs. The church was very full, of course, a great number of ladies were present, all looking very pretty. The speaking was pretty good, all the speakers wore black gowns and caps like the presidents, they did not of course have the caps on while speaking. The President conferred the various degrees with considerable dignity, he sat in the very chair used at the first commencement of the college and used every year since. It is quite an ancient looking piece of furniture, made of round posts - the whole of it.
September 2nd 1848: Went into Boston in the afternoon to see Dr. Merill go up with a balloon. The balloon held sixty five thousand gallons of gas. It ascended very regularly indeed and kept soaring away, first penetrating the clouds that in detached clusters were lowering above us and lost from our view within them, then gliding onward and upward, until the man became no larger than a sea-birds wing, then a mere speck, then totally invisible, but still we could see the balloon mounting higher and higher, as if in a vain attempt to reach the stars, until itself seemed no larger than a turtles egg, and finally
the eye is no longer able to follow the track of a human being sporting amid the clouds.
Sept 3rd: Heard that the balloon man came down at Marshfield, on the farm of Daniel Webster some fifteen or twenty miles from where he started.
Sept. 12th: Sat up until twelve o'clock to see a total eclipse of the moon.
Sept 13th: Went into Boston after the forenoon exercises to see another Balloon Ascension. A man and woman attempted to go up but they soon came to the ground, the woman got out, and some of the ballast was taken out, then the man went up alone. Very well he ascended, almost perpendicularly to a great height and then floated off to the south - a direction directly contrary to the direction of the wind on the ground
Sept. 14th Missed the lectures to go to see the Vermont Launched - a man of war, seventy-four guns - she went into the water beautifully. There was an immense concourse of people to witness it. The rigging of the other men of war was filled with the sailors, all dressed alike, white pantaloons, blue roundabouts, and tarpolitan hats.
October 9th: Went to the theater in the evening, for the first time
since I have been in Massachusetts. Heard Forest, his form is very fine
and his acting good, he played Othello. It was well done, and I think I
received some benefit in various ways, but I did not enjoy myself much.
The audience were composed mostly of the boyish and probably the theater
has been one of the means that has made them loafers. They create a taste
for some exciting amusement every evening and then are unable to do without
it. I should think that the theaters in Boston are supported mainly by
the lowest grades although the very wealthy attend some, both ladies and
gentlemen, although I should think that a modest young lady would be somewhat
shocked. I am on the whole decidedly of the opinion that theaters as they
are conducted are decidedly immoral in their tendency and would operate
in ease of a student to draw off his attention from his books. I therefore
conclude that I shall attend them but very little and when I do, endeavor,
as I endeavor in all things, to lay hold of its benefits and reject its
Oct. 24: Into Boston after dinner to hear (Daniel) Webster who was to speak at four. After standing in a dense crowd by the door of Fanueil Hall for about an hour we were permitted to go in and we did so with a rush. Webster arrived and made his way through the crowd to the rostrum, a little before four. Rufus Choate was elected chairman of the meeting and made a few remarks, all in the terms of the highest eulogy of Webster, who sat before him. ... ... his whole eulogy, I thought, was a little too exaggerated, not to say immodest, even for as great a man as Choate to say of as great a man as Webster, and that too in his presence. But it did not seem to be half enough for the audience. The citizens of Massachusetts feel proud of Webster, they respect him, they admire him, nay they worship him, ... ... he is undoubtedly the greatest man in the nation. He spoke above two hours and mainly upon the sub-treasury and the tariff. He did not say but very little in regard to Taylor, but said that he had made up his mind to go for him, as he thought we should thereby get a Whig administration. He speaks slowly, distinctly and forcibly, his gesticulations are very fine. He stands up very strait, so much so as to seem to lean back, he rolls his eye over his audience with much dignity and he has got a sort of a smile that produces a wonderful effect. All together he has a wonderful and a mighty control over his hearers and that not only in Mass. but would have anywhere I think. He is now fast on the decline of life, his hair is iron grey and he is a little bald, he cannot much longer be the strong pillar of Whigery and if the Whigs mean to give him, what he so justly deserves, the highest office as the gift of the people, they must do it before many more presidential terms shall have returned, else he will be beyond earthly honour and renown, but be this as it may his name will exist as long as our glorious stars and stripes shall wave over a world of freedom as an honour to his country, the property of the nation [This was 1848 - Daniel Webster died in 1852. Ed] The crowd was very oppressive in the hall, the mass of human beings on the floor swayed to and fro [There were no seats on the main floor in those days. Ed] like the waves of the sea, but the ladies in the gallery [where there were seats. Ed] got into quite an exciting crowd and showed themselves to be quite as ferocious as men.
One poor man, whom they took a notion to crowd out, barely escaped with his life. O Women! thou hast human failings and worse still when man teaches thee that thee must always be entitled to the first rank, thou art apt to become tyranical.
Oct. 25th: This has been a great day to Boston, made so by the admission of water into the city, brought about fifteen miles from a lake. A procession was formed, probably four miles in length, made up of the military and societies and bodies of men of such number that I shall not attempt to enumerate them. What appeared the most novel to me was a band of Scottsmen in full highland costume and their music, their native bagpipe, also the sons of Erin with their banners; a vessel fully rigged and two boats, half a dozen of young girls on a side, in a wagon making artificial flowers. Adam and Eve standing under a tree, loaded with fruit and Eve had an apple in her hand, the skin of an elephant and a rich saddle upon it, which was mounted by a negro queen, two servants; also the market men, preceded by wagon containing all kinds of provisions. It was very tedious waiting for such masses of men to move and it was near dark before the water was let on, but it was then a splendid sight - it came through a six inch orifice and rose to a height of sixty or eighty feet and was a magnificent sight indeed. There was then some excellent fireworks and in the end proved to be well worth the fatigue experienced. As we came through all Boston seemed to be in the streets, the Tremont and the Revere were splendidly illuminated and flags of all kinds waving in the street. It is a joyful day to Boston and well may they rejoice for pure water is one of the best of Heavens gifts. ... I had rather an awkward time of it having the nose bleed in the street.
November 30th, 1848: Thanksgiving day, attended by feasting and some heartful thankfulness. It is a great day throughout New England ... ... saw the ground over which the Americans retreated after the battle of Bunker Hill.
There has been a great fire this evening within a few rods of my room. It was a magnificent sight, a large barn and livery stable went first. When it was completely on fire it was a picture for a painter, the flames rushed out in sheets, between the seams of the boards on the sides of the building and burst out both gable ends with violent fury. The waves of fire rolled along the roof like the surges of the sea and all mixing together sent their liquid glare to the sky. Several other buildings went afterwards ... ... I saw a dove fly a round the fire for a while and then apparently attempt to fly across it, but drawn into the flame. There has been an exhibition at the Lyceum this evening of Moscow on fire, which is faintly illustrated in the scene just past.
December 26th, 1848: Into Boston and bought of Little and Brown, one hundred and thirty eight dollars worth of law books, which in addition to some dozen volumes which I have picked up at auctions in Boston, etc., and one or two volumes of the librarian will constitute my library to commence practice.
[After graduating from Harvard Law School, D. R. Bigelow went home to Belleville, New York. He left Belleville on the 7th of May 1849 and went to Indiana where he intended to stay, but left because of "the unhealthiness of the State - too mueh marsh and standing water." Ed]
September 5th, 1849: The past four months have been spent in looking for a location. I like this State the best of any of the western states, but have been at much loss to determine where to settle, but have concluded to stop at this place [Dodgeville, Wisconsin - Ed]
October 24th: 1849: Received the first money in the line of my profession 45 cts. In the evening saw the prairie on fire making a perfect sheet of flame for a long distance, producing as well my be imagined a splendid sight.
November 11th, 1849: The wires of the telegraph came through town.
November 16th 1849: Had my first trial before Justice, received a fee of $5.00; an assult and battery ease, was for the state, the defendant was fined $10 and costs.
December 18th: Was initiated into the order of sons of temperance. Do not get much business but am studying in hopes to qualify myself to do it if it should happen to come along.
December 28th, 1849: Went in the evening to see some experiments in chemistry and philosophy. Saw among other things an engine propelled by electro magnetism, which is now quite a new thing under the sun, cannot tell what it may be in a few years.
December 29th, 1849: Extremely cold, froze my fingers in carrying two pails of water about 20 rods, bare handed.
January 1, 1851: I have now been some 16 months at Dodgeville, which time has been rather unprofitably spent, owing principally to bodily infirmity. I have been afflicted with inflamation in my eyes since April last, to such a degree, as to deprive me of their use to a great extent. They are still bad, but I live in hope that they will yet recover. I have almost despaired many times on their account, but am becoming more resigned to my fate, whatever it may be, resolved to do the best I can with what eyes I have left. I intend now to go to Oregon in the Spring, I believe that there are now many reasons why Oregon must improve rapidly and I wish to be there to see. It has been very sickly here the past summer, it is estimated that there has been about a hundred and forty deaths, principally from cholera.
March 23, 1851: I start for Oregon tomorrow with an ox team. I am 28 years old on said day and feel that I ought to be settled down, but my eyes are so weak that I cannot study much and cannot therefore lose much time on that ground in going and I am anxious to see the Pacific coast believing that it is destined to become the right arm of the Republic.
END OF SERIES
This seems to be a logical and natural breaking point to end this series of excerpts from Daniel's diary There yet remains an abundance of material in his diary but the nature of it is such that it could easily permit separation into two very interesting articles, one about his cross country journey and the other about the California Gold Rush It may be that at a future date Pat Bigelow, who returns as editor of Forge with the January 1983 issue, will use the remaining material. I hope you have enjoyed Daniel's diary as much as I have.