Through Others' Eyes: Published Accounts of Antebellum Montgomery, Alabama
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Through Others' Eyes includes descriptions of traveling to and from Montgomery, but it focuses on the travelers' descriptions of Montgomery itself. The twenty-eight published accounts between 1825 and 1861 were written by Americans and Europeans with a variety of backgrounds. A few are as objective as can reasonably be expected considering the short durations of the writers' visits. Some are prone to display their preconceptions and prejudices. Most exaggerate-they had to make their books marketable. The accounts are sometimes insightful or incredulous, often humorous and colorful, always giving the reader a vicarious experience of being there. For most of its forty-year antebellum history, Montgomery was a frontier river town. These accounts of it do not reveal moonlight and magnolias, but a rather coarse culture. The touring authors don't mince words about slavery; after all, their readers expected commentary about the most peculiar of Southern institutions. However, the writers' diverse views of slavery are as complicated and contradictory as was the institution itself. Together, these accounts sketch a fascinating world populated by individuals and with customs that would have inspired Charles Dickens had he overcome his prejudices and ventured further south than Richmond in 1842. The "Epilogue" provides a description of the first capital of the Confederacy.
your arm, and which at all seasons sends forth a stream of water, pure and cool. The wood of the Alabama prairies is all young and recent, having no appearance of antiquity. The trees are scattered over the meadow, forming ornaments rather than covers; and, by preserving the ground in some measure from the scorching sun, allow the rich pasture to spring up. Montgomery, as a town, is only twenty-five years old, having passed in that period from log-houses to frame-houses, and from frame-houses to
mothers and fathers feed the fever by dressing them up as Zouaves or Chasseurs. Mrs. Davis had a small levee to-day in right of her position as wife of the President. Several ladies there probably looked forward to the time when their states might secede from the new Confederation, and afford them the pleasure of holding a reception. Why not Presidents of the State of Georgia, or Alabama? Why not King of South Carolina, or Emperor of Florida? Soldiers of fortune, make your game! Gentlemen
his peculiar institutions, the Southerner at last is driven to a fanaticism—a sacred faith which is above all reason or logical attack in the propriety, righteousness, and divinity of slavery. The chaplain, a venerable old man, loudly invoked curses on the heads of the enemy, and blessings on the arms and councils of the New State. When he was done, Mr. Howell Cobb, a fat, double-chinned, mellow-eyed man, rapped with his hammer on the desk before the chair on which he sat as speaker of the
to find out a lodging. I was told that Major Johnson, a Scottish gentleman, who is well known in the United States, on account of the exertions he made to save part of the Archives at Washington, on occasion of the British incursion, resided in the suburbs, and was always glad to see his countrymen. It turned out, unluckily, when I went to his house, that neither he nor any of his family were at home. I called at two or three other places which were pointed out to me, but had no better success,
the Balkans had been leveled by Nicolae Ceausescu in a mad failed attempt to rebuild the city on a monumental scale; Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin came to mind as I walked. Thanks to our military mission, I was also able to spend one day in Transylvania with a University of Texas professor. We visited a fortified Saxon (German) village that had no electricity, running water, or gas. Most shocking was looking in the home of a Gypsy family who had been slaves until the fall of Ceausescu in 1989,