Mexico, as it was and as it is/Letter 1
AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS
VOYAGE TO VERA CRUZ.
I left New-York on the 27th of October, 1841, with a fair wind, and on the twelfth day after, at sunrise, saw the lofty peak of Orizaba, towering above the distant line of the western horizon.
I have rarely beheld a more beautiful sight than this was. The maritime Alps, as seen from the Gulf of Lyons, present a spectacle of great majesty and beauty. But this grand and solitary peak, lifting its head more than 17,000 feet above the ocean, the sentinel, as it were, of a land toward which you may still sail for days before you arrive, has struck every traveller with wonder since the days when Cortez first hailed it on his adventurous voyage for the conquest of Mexico.
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Our vessel has been quite full of passengers in cabin and steerage; merchants, going out to gather in their fortunes in this country; manufacturers, keen and thrifty, with their machinery, ready to take advantage of the ample profits to be reaped in the "cotton line" from the protection of national industry in Mexico; a German student, fresh from his alma mater, adventuring for fortune in Vera Cruz, in spite of all competition and the vomito; a gentle maiden, sighing for somebody at the end of the voyage; a staunch Scotch operative, with a wife and two children, the latter of whom made up in their little private volunteer squalls for the sea squalls we missed and last of all a worthy old Italian fighter, who had gone with Napoleon through all his campaigns, and, at length, determining that war was not a thriving occupation, had pitched upon a way of making his fortune by taking a dapper little Mexican body, for his wife, and the "hatting business," as a trade.
In fact, we had on board specimens of all that active industry and fearless enterprise, which push the fortunes of our native and adopted citizens all over the world, and make our country known as much by the resistless energy of her children, as by the political liberty they enjoy at home, or which is extended to them by the protection of her flag abroad.
I commenced this voyage in low spirits, and with but a slight desire to partake of the pleasures of the cabin; but, what with charming weather and good companionship, I was soon drawn forth from my state-room, to the social table, and rarely have I passed a more agreeable time in a voyage at sea. The variety of character thus blended together, was both amusing and instructive. There were tempers to suit the grave and the gay; and when the hour came for separation, we met for the last time around the board with saddened hearts, at the contemplation of the certainty that by far the larger portion of us would meet no more, and that all were about to encounter the uncertainties of fortune in a strange country, amid prejudices, disease, and revolutions.