The Western Country in 1793: Reports on Kentucky and Virginia

The Western Country in 1793: Reports on Kentucky and Virginia

The Western Country in 1793: Reports on Kentucky and Virginia

The Western Country in 1793: Reports on Kentucky and Virginia

Excerpt

In the year 1793 Harry Toulmin, a young Unitarian minister of Chowbent, Lancashire, left England for America. One of his purposes was to travel through America and report to his parishioners on the suitability of its various sections for other would-be emigrants. He fulfilled this trust admirably, keeping a journal and writing lengthy letters and reports on the social, economic, and political conditions of Virginia and Kentucky in particular. The reports have never been published, and whether or not they stimulated the recipients to emigrate is unknown. But to the presentday reader and historian the factual details contained in Toulmin’s account are so vivid and so exact that they warrant publication today, many years after their composition.

The motives which prompted an Englishman like Harry Toulmin to emigrate in the 1790’s were unusually powerful. The land hunger and desire for social betterment, which had existed from the earliest days of colonization, had become intensified by economic changes. Enclosures and large-scale farming had already reduced many small farmers to the ranks of laborers, and the Industrial Revolution, although in its infancy, was threatening to multiply the number of artisans dependent all their lives on wages. The marked increase of population during the eighteenth century was making the supply of food grown at home insufficient and during the last decade the poor harvests, by causing prices to rise, worsened the condition of all with fixed incomes.

As a minister with a fixed stipend, Harry Toulmin was no doubt a victim of the economic changes England was undergoing, but as a Unitarian he had some special grievances. A long series of statutes excluded Unitarians from national and local politics, and the ecclesiastical and social contempt they had to bear was an additional burden. The gradually increasing antagonism towards Revolutionary France and her English sympathizers made the condition of Unitarians even more critical. The reaction which set in against all reform as a result of revolutionary excesses in Paris must have been almost heartbreaking to earnest liberals like the Toulmins, father . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.