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America in the Forties

America in the Forties: The Letters of Ole Munch Ræder

Translated and Edited by GUNNAR J. MALMIN
Preface by Theodore C. Blegen
Copyright Date: 1929
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 274
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt812
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  • Book Info
    America in the Forties
    Book Description:

    America in the Forties: Letters of Ole Munch Ræder was first published in 1929. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions. These lively, well-informed letters with their shrewd comment on the American scene are an important addition to Americana. Between De Tocqueville and Bryce there were few more competently trained observers than the author, Munch Ræder, a distinguished Norwegian jurist sent by his government in 1847 to study American legal institutions. Ræder traveled widely and wrote home to a Christiania newspaper his observations on many topics: American politics and social customs, the working of the “melting pot,” slavery, westward expansion, transportation, Chicago with a budding reputation as a tough town, New York where hogs on the open streets had been forbidden. Not without interest is the reaction of the United States to the European revolution of 1848 and Munch Ræder’s own dream of a Pan-Scandinavian Union. Dr. Gunnar J. Malmin has supplied an excellent translation of the necessary notes. Through the aid of descendants of Munch Ræder, he has added letters not published in the original Christiana journal._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3808-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)

    Numerous accounts of travel in America were produced by Europeans during the first half of the nineteenth century, and such works were widely read on both sides of the Atlantic by interested contemporaries. Indeed, a few books of this class, by virtue of their vivid description and incisive comment, are still read with pleasure by the general public. The historical value of such documents varies greatly, depending upon the education and training of a given author, his powers of observation, the extent of his travels, and his ability to record his experiences clearly and accurately. Even if the defects of...

  4. I FROM NEW YORK TO THE GREAT LAKES
    (pp. 1-9)

    On Wednesday, the fourteenth of July, we left New York and went by steamship up the Hudson River to Albany. The trip costs only half a dollar, and there are even some ships that charge only twenty-five cents. Last year the price was still a dollar and a half, and at one time it was as much as eight dollars. We went by rail from Albany to Buffalo, a distance of three hundred and seventy miles. The ticket costs twelve dollars, and, as is customary on the American railways, the expense does not become greater if the trip is broken...

  5. II MILWAUKEE AND MUSKEGO
    (pp. 10-21)

    Now I believe I have fully prepared the way for starting on my trip on the Lakes; and, in the nature of the case, I can make my account quite brief. After having returned from Niagara by the same railroad that took us out there, we went on board our ship and left at ten o’clock in the evening. The next morning we stopped a few hours at Erie to get coal and later we stopped at Cleveland and a few other cities, but only for a very short time. On Wednesday we passed the straits and Lake St. Clair,...

  6. III THE NORWEGIANS AND AMERICAN POLITICS
    (pp. 22-28)

    I have been greatly interested in finding out how far the Norwegians have progressed in their understanding of American affairs, for example, as to the differences between the political parties. I must say I believe they have not reached beyond the first rudiments of a republican education. To be sure, I shall not lay too much stress on the fact that a couple of them called the government price on land “the king’s price,” because it would be stretching the point a bit to charge a mere thoughtless expression to their political ignorance; even in Norway there are still many...

  7. IV POLITICS AND LANGUAGE IN THE WEST
    (pp. 29-36)

    Here in Wisconsin party loyalty will soon be put to a severe test when a delegate to Congress is to be elected. A convention was held by the Locos a few months ago and, after a few days’ debate, a Mr. Strong won the majority and became the candidate of that party, and thus it becomes the duty of every Loco paper and every Loco speaker to recommend him. However, not only do the Whigs declare this man to be a gambler and a drunkard, but the Locos themselves admit this, and he was even indicted by a grand jury...

  8. V THE AMERICAN ATTITUDE TOWARD NEWCOMERS
    (pp. 37-46)

    The ease with which the Norwegians learn the English language has attracted the attention of the Americans, all the more because of the fact that they are altogether too ready to consider them entirely raw when they come here. “Never,” one of them told me a few days ago, “have I known people to become civilized so rapidly as your countrymen; they come here in motley crowds, dressed up with all kinds of dingle-dangle just like the Indians. But just look at them a year later: they speak English perfectly, and, as far as dress, manners, and ability are concerned,...

  9. VI RELIGIOUS WORK AMONG THE NORWEGIANS
    (pp. 47-53)

    As you know, three churches have been erected, at Koshkonong Prairie, at Luther Valley, and at Pine Lake and Ashippun; the first two are Lutheran; the last, Episcopalian. Besides, there is a Lutheran congregation at Muskego, where Clausen was minister before he was called to his present congregation. It is again organizing and has good hopes of securing as pastor a young and, it is said, a very talented theological candidate from Bergen by the name of Stub.¹ Pastor Dietrichson has through his efforts earned the gratitude of all who are interested in the cause of religious work among our...

  10. VII RELIGIOUS AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN THE UNITED STATES
    (pp. 54-61)

    From the above, it is evident that about three thousand Norwegians as yet do not belong to any religious organization. Such a situation is rather serious, and yet no worse than among the Americans themselves. The complaint is frequently heard here in the West that religion has few adherents and few ministers, but it must at the same time be admitted that progress is being made in this respect almost everywhere. Even if the situation is by no means what it was among the Puritan settlers in New England two hundred years ago, when a church was the first thing...

  11. VIII THE ECONOMIC SITUATION OF THE IMMIGRANT
    (pp. 62-69)

    Finally, we must bear in mind that interest on money is as high as seven per cent or more, and the taxes, although they are not yet heavy, must also be taken into account. They vary according to time and place, as to whether much or little is needed to keep the affairs of the community going, and the amount of land owned is not the only basis for taxation; in other words, taxes vary here just as among us in Norway, and there is no definite ratio. To judge by such tax lists as I have seen, however, the...

  12. IX FRONTIER AGRICULTURE
    (pp. 70-78)

    You will have noticed that I continually speak of the Norwegians alone, without saying anything about the Swedes or the Danes. The reason is that there are too few of them to be regarded as distinct social groups or to exert much influence on the Norwegians. A few of them live among the Norwegians, but most of them seem to prefer to live in small groups apart from the rest. It is true, of course, that here and wherever Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes appear among strangers far away from their mother countries, they become more conscious of their relationship and...

  13. X AMERICAN CUSTOMS
    (pp. 79-87)

    I suppose I have now prepared the way for a discussion of manners and customs out here in the West and particularly in Wisconsin, but I do not care to make use of the opportunity. Read half a dozen English travel accounts but subtract at least half of what is said at the expense of the Americans and you will possibly have cleared away the exaggerated statements so often made, partly on account of British prejudice and partly from a desire to be entertaining, and even so, that which remains will apply only to the West. Out here the customs...

  14. XI AMERICAN DEMOCRACY
    (pp. 88-95)

    In stating that the Americans consider Europe to be on the decline, I must make an exception in the case of one nation—Russia. I do not know whether it is a case of attraction between unlikes from the viewpoint of government or whether they are merely united in their common dislike for Great Britain. In either case there certainly seems to be a bond of sympathy between these two gigantic nations, each of which appears to be engaged in swallowing an entire continent. One hears very little criticism of the tyrannical Czar, and he is said to be particularly...

  15. XII THE GOVERNMENT OF WISCONSIN
    (pp. 96-111)

    If you have read everything so far you will probably feel as if you have had enough about Wisconsin for one time. It is quite in order, however, to say something about its political institutions,—enough, at least, to show to what extent the territory is its own master. The rule almost seems to be that a territory regards itself as an independent state when that is to its advantage; when this is not the case, it gladly renounces its claims! When suit was brought against it [Wisconsin] for a sum of money a few years ago, it declared that...

  16. XIII A CIRCUIT-TOUR WITH A FEDERAL JUDGE
    (pp. 112-119)

    I believe I told you in my last letter that I planned to go with Judge Irvin on a circuit-tour, and now I have done so. First I spent a week at Jefferson, then two weeks at Elkhorn, and we arrived here in Rock County day before yesterday. You may well believe, there is a stir in a little town like Janesville when the court and its followers come to town. These little county seats are still as a rule so small that the houses are packed when the thirty-six petit jurors, sixteen grand jurors, a score or two of...

  17. XIV ON A MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT
    (pp. 120-126)

    I am writing this at a particularly interesting spot called Le Claire,¹ a mile above the upper rapids of the Mississippi on board the steamship “Red Wing.” I left Galena the day before yesterday and arrived here yesterday noon. By the time the boat had been loaded it was getting so late in the day that the captain did not dare to start on the voyage down the rapids, which have a length of no less than eighteen miles; a violent storm was just setting in, too. We simply had to be patient and wait, and that is not an...

  18. XV THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY
    (pp. 127-134)

    I have been spending my time looking at sky, water, and land—over, under, and about me; I have explored the little country towns where we have landed, and I have made excursions up into the country. But I must say that the particular fascination that the Mississippi has for people across the Atlantic or even in the American states disappears when one has spent a couple of days on the river, half of the time lounging around the squalid little houses which bear the name of Le Claire. So far there has not been anything particularly interesting about the...

  19. XVI FRONTIER COMMUNITIES IN WISCONSIN
    (pp. 135-140)

    I have not yet given an account of the last part of my stay in Wisconsin. I told you before about going with Judge Irvin on some of his circuit-tours. While I was in Rock County, I spent a Sunday with Pastor Clausen at Luther Valley, where he has built a handsome stone house. He plans to enlarge it later and to add a piazza or veranda in true American style. Near by a beautiful stone church is being built, the walls of which are already completed. A schoolhouse now serves as a church also. Clausen’s ill health has not...

  20. XVII THE AMERICAN INDIANS
    (pp. 141-147)

    At Jefferson I saw, for the first time, a real canoe, made of a hollow tree trunk. Naturally, I got into it and tried the little paddle by which it is propelled. Here on our steamboat we have two birch-bark canoes which are so light that a person can easily carry one on his back. The pieces of bark are sewed together with root-fibers, and the seams are coated with tar. The bark is lined with thin boards, and the whole thing is held together by ribs a few inches apart.

    I caught a glimpse of an Indian wigwam on...

  21. XVIII SOCIAL LIFE ON THE FRONTIER
    (pp. 148-153)

    During my sojourn in Wisconsin I had a pretty good opportunity to become acquainted with the state of affairs and to admire the earnestness and the intelligence with which people strove to better their conditions. Very little can be said about the customs of the people that will apply to all, because in a group so recently thrown together from all parts of the earth, there are not as yet any distinct group characteristics. Because in most places there is not a single grown man or woman native to the place or, indeed, to the territory, there is not, of...

  22. XIX A WINTER JOURNEY THROUGH THE ALLEGHENIES
    (pp. 154-163)

    Dear Caroline:

    Believe me, I was glad when I finally received the letter, dated September 17, from you and the other dear ones at home, after I had not heard a word from you for several months. It was not without some anxiety that I opened the envelope which enclosed writing of such great importance to me, but I soon felt relieved at the information that nothing startling had taken place, and so I settled down to a real enjoyment of the letters and to meditations on the life back home, of which they all gave such a faithful portrayal...

  23. XX EUROPEAN ECHOES IN NEW YORK
    (pp. 164-168)

    Here in New York there is a great deal of excitement these days occasioned by the new French revolution. The news reached us last Saturday by a steamship from Liverpool. People here, however, have not much knowledge of what has actually taken place, except that the mob which had gathered about the Foreign Office became furious at the bloody scene that was enacted there; it is said that a provisional government has been established, or has established itself, and that a republic has been proclaimed by some. This report has here been accepted as an absolute certainty, and it is...

  24. XXI THE AMERICANS AND EUROPE
    (pp. 169-176)

    The Americans are as interested as ever in watching developments in Europe. Every time the telegraph brings the news that a steamship is in sight off Boston harbor, or that one has arrived at New York, the streets are filled with people curious to hear the latest reports. All flock to the newspaper offices and there is great competition among the various papers as to which one shall reap the profits of satisfying the public. An army of little boys waits impatiently outside the newspaper offices. As soon as the papers are out they rush off in every direction noisily...

  25. XXII FROM THE PAGES OF A NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
    (pp. 177-185)

    Nordlysetfrom Wisconsin indicates that the Norwegians there are learning American methods of advertising.

    Notice, for example, the following:

    If you care about your health at all, go to H. M. Hansen’s Norwegian Drug-Store in Kilbourntown, Milwaukee, at the sign of the red mortar, near the upper bridge. You will find an assortment of the following medicines, prepared by the best doctors in the United States and Germany: fever and ague medicines, guaranteed cure; colic medicine—

    and so on. This is followed by :

    N. B. My medicines haven’t that fine property of curing all sorts of diseases at once,...

  26. XXIII RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE IN NORWAY
    (pp. 186-192)

    Let me repeat that I do not believe the time is yet ripe for such radical changes in Norway. Far from it. When great and noble reforms are involved, such as concern not only an individual people but the progress of humanity as a whole, we are particularly slow to act and not without reason. We are frightened at the thought of being among the first to put into practice new principles that open up new courses for the stream of civilization. We are keenly aware of our own smallness, and even if we are able to grasp the larger...

  27. XXIV PAN-SCANDINAVIANISM: A PROPOSED FEDERATION
    (pp. 193-204)

    Among other news items from Europe, of which we have received an abundance lately, is one reporting that Holstein and Schleswig have declared their independence of the Danish throne and that Denmark is about to receive a liberal constitution.¹ These are the only definite facts I have managed to extract from the confused, idiotic accounts in the English papers and the even more absurd versions in the American papers. Several times I have come across the rather naïve account that the Danes were hauling cannon down to the Sound in order to stop a Russian fleet on its way to...

  28. XXV PAN-SCANDINAVIANISM: THE KING’S POSITION
    (pp. 205-214)

    If the king is given the right of absolute veto, we shall have to introduce the so-called parliamentary form of government, according to which the cabinet—and the executive power—is dependent on the majority in parliament or at any rate in one house, and must resign whenever that majority changes. Such a system leads to party remuneration, party corruption, and arbitrariness, and is fraught with danger to the crown itself, if we are to interpret the constitution literally, because it gives the crown greater power than is advisable for it to use and thus offers a temptation which may...

  29. XXVI PAN-SCANDINAVIANISM: DIFFICULTIES
    (pp. 215-223)

    A great deal has been said about the advantages of a union with Denmark. I shall merely mention one point, which, indeed, has already been referred to. There are certain peculiar difficulties connected with a union consisting only of Norway and Sweden that will disappear or at any rate lose much of their effect if Denmark is included. The decision of disputed questions will never be left to chance, as is largely the case where the division is one against one. There will always be a majority one way or the other, and this is a most important matter.

    The...

  30. XXVII ON THE EVE OF DEPARTURE
    (pp. 224-238)

    Dear brother and good friend :

    It will not be long before I bid this continent farewell and start out to cross the huge pool of water that now separates us. I have now been here again in New York almost three weeks, and during this time I have made a number of plans as to my return home. I had originally planned to cross to some point in northern Germany or France, but the war prevents German ships from going out, and the voyage to Havre on one of the liners would be a little too expensive for me....

  31. INDEX
    (pp. 239-244)