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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 420 Volume 17, New Series, January 17, 1852
Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Richard J. Shiffer and the PG Online
Distributed Proofreading Team



No. 420. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JANUARY 17, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d_.


This is a very common question, usually put and answered with more
or less levity. We seldom hear of any one answering very favourably
as to the usage he experiences from the world. More generally, the
questioned seems to feel that his treatment is not, and never has
been, quite what it ought to be. It has sometimes occurred to me,
that a great oversight is committed in our so seldom putting to
ourselves the co-relative question: What have I done to make the
world use me well? What merit have I shewn--by what good intention
towards the world have I been animated--what has been the positive
amount of those services of mine on which I found my pretensions to
the world's rewards? All of these are interrogations which it would
be necessary to answer satisfactorily before we could be truly
entitled to take measure of the world's goodness to us in return;
for surely it is not to be expected that the world is to pay in mere
expectancy: time enough, in all conscience, when the service has
been rendered, or at soonest, when a reasonable ground of hope has
been established that it will not be withheld or performed
slightingly. Only too much room there is to fear that, if these
questions were put and faithfully answered, the ordinary result
would be a conviction that the world had used us quite as well as we

Men are of course prevented from going through this process by their
self-love. Unwillingness to see or own their shortcomings, keeps
them in a sort of delusion on the subject. Well, I do not hope to
make an extensive change upon them in this respect; but perhaps it
may not be impossible to rouse one here and there to the correct
view, and thus accomplish a little good.

Let us address ourselves to commercial life first, for the labour by
which man lives is at the bottom of everything. Here we meet the now
well-recognised principle in political economy, that generally
wages, salaries, remunerations of all kinds, are in pretty exact
relation to the value of the services performed--this value being of
course determined, in a great degree, by the easiness or difficulty
of the work, the commonness or rarity of the faculties and skill
required for it, the risk of non-success in the profession, and so
forth. Many a good fellow who feels that his income is
inconveniently small, and wonders why it is not greater, might have
the mystery solved if he would take a clear, unprejudiced view of
the capacity in which he is acting towards the public. Is he a slave
of the desk, in some office of routine business? Then let him
consider how many hundreds of similar men would answer an
advertisement of his seat being vacant. The fatal thing in his case
evidently is, that the faculties and skill required in his situation
are possessed by so many of his fellow-creatures. Is he a shopkeeper
in some common line of business?--say a draper. Then let him
consider how easy it is to be a draper, and how simple are the
details of such a trade. While there are so many other drapers in
the same street, his going out of business would never be felt as an
inconvenience. He is perhaps not doing any real good to the public
at all, but only interloping with the already too small business of
those who were in 'the line' before him. Let him think of the many
hours he spends in idleness, or making mere appearances of business,
and ask if he is really doing any effective service to his
fellow-creatures by keeping a shop at all. It may be a hardship to
him to have failed in a good intention; but this cannot be helped.
He may succeed better in some other scheme. Let him quit this, and
try another, or set up in a place where there is what is called 'an
opening'--that is, where his services are required--the point
essential to his getting any reward for his work. We sometimes see
most wonderful efforts made by individuals in an overdone trade; for
example, those of a hatter, who feels that he must give mankind a
special direction to his shop, or die. Half-a-dozen tortoise-like
missionaries do nothing but walk about the streets from morning to
night, proclaiming from carapace and plastron,[1] that there are no
hats equal to those at No. 98 of such a street. A van like the
temple of Juggernauth parades about all day, propagating the same
faith. 'If you want a good hat,' exclaims a pathetic poster, 'try
No. 98.' As you walk along the street, a tiny bill is insinuated
into your hand, for no other purpose, as you learn on perusing it,
but to impress upon you the great truth, that there are no hats in
the world either so good or so cheap as those at No. 98. The same
dogma meets you in omnibuses, at railway platforms, and every other
place where it can be expected that mankind will pause for a moment,
and so have time to take in an idea. But it is all in vain if there
be a sufficient supply of good and cheap hats already in that
portion of the earth's surface. The superfluous hatter must submit
to the all-prevailing law, that for labours not required, and an
expenditure of capital useless as regards the public, there can be
no reward, no return.

Sometimes great inconveniences are experienced in consequence of
local changes; such as those effected by railways, and the
displacement of hand-labour by machinery. A country inn that has
supplied post-horses since the days of the civil war, is all at
once, in consequence of the opening of some branch-line, deserted by
its business. It is a pitiable case; but the poor landlord must not
attempt to be an innkeeper without business, for then he would be a
misapplied human being, and would starve. Now the world uses him a
little hardly in the diversion of his customers; that may be
allowed: we must all lay our account with such hardships so long as
each person is left to see mainly after himself. But if he were to
persist in keeping his house open, and thus reduce himself to
uselessness, he would not be entitled to think himself ill-used by
reason of his making no profits, seeing that he did nothing for the
public to entitle him to a remuneration. The poor handloom
weavers--I grieve to think of the hardships they suffer. Well do I
remember when, in 1813 or 1814, a good workman in this craft could
realise 36s. a week. There were even traditions then of men who had
occasionally eaten pound-notes upon bread and butter, or allowed
their wives to spend L.8 upon a fine china tea-service. There being
a copious production of cotton-thread by machinery, but no machinery
to make it into cloth, was the cause of the high wages then given to
weavers. Afterwards came the powerloom; and weavers can now only
make perhaps 4s. 6d. per week, even while working for longer hours
than is good for their health. The result is most lamentable; but it
cannot be otherwise, for the public will only reward services in the
ratio of the value of these services to itself. It will not
encourage a human being, with his glorious apparatus of intelligence
and reflection, to mis-expend himself upon work which can be
executed equally well by unthinking machinery. Were the poor weavers
able so far to shake themselves free from what is perhaps a very
natural prejudice, as to ask what do we do to entitle us to any
better usage from the public, they would see that the fault lies in
their continuing to be weavers at all. They are precisely as the
innkeeper would be, if he kept his house open after the railway had
taken all his customers another way.

There are many cases in the professional walks of life fully as
deplorable as that of the weavers. Few things in the world are more
painful to contemplate than a well-educated and able man vainly
struggling to get bread as a physician, an artist, or an author. It
is of course right that such a man should not be too ready to
abandon the struggle as hopeless; for a little perseverance and
well-directed energy may bring him into a good position. But if a
fair experiment has been made, and it clearly appears that his
services are not wanted, the professional aspirant ought undoubtedly
to pause, and take a full unprejudiced view of his relation to the
world. 'Am I,' he may say, 'to expect reward if I persist in
offering the world what it does not want? Are my fellow-creatures
wrong in withholding a subsistence from me, while I am rather
consulting my own tastes and inclinations than their necessities?'
It may then occur to him that the great law must somehow be
obeyed--a something must be done for mankind which they require, and
it must be done where and how they require it, in order that each
individual may have a true claim upon the rest. To get into the
right and fitting place in the social machine may be difficult; but
there is no alternative. Let him above everything dismiss from his
mind the notion, that others can seriously help him. Let him be
self-helpful, think and do for himself, and he will have the better
chance of success.

We now come to a second branch of the subject--namely, as regards
our conduct and manners in the scenes of social life. One might
suppose it to be a very clear thing, that a person possessing no
pleasing accomplishment could never be so agreeable a member of
society as one who possessed one or more of such qualifications. It
might seem very evident, that a person who had never taken any
trouble to acquire such accomplishments, did not deserve so much of
society as one who had taken such trouble. Yet such is the blinding
influence of self-love, that we continually find the dull and
unaccomplished speaking and acting as if they considered themselves
entitled to equal regard with others who, on the contrary, can
contribute greatly to the enjoyments of their fellow-creatures. This
is surely most unreasonable--it is, as in the case of the
unnecessary shopkeeper or weaver, to desire the reward and yet not
perform the service. Were such persons to clear themselves of
prejudice, and take an unflattering view of their relation to
society, they would see that the reward can only be properly
expected where it has been worked for. They might in some instances
be prompted to make efforts to attain some of those accomplishments
which contribute to make the social hour pass agreeably, and thus
attain to a true desert, besides 'advancing themselves in the scale
of thinking beings.' If not, they might at least learn to submit
unrepiningly to that comparatively moderate degree of notice and
regard which is the due of those who are perfectly ordinary in their
minds, and fit only to take a place amongst the audience.

Society, as is well known, has its favourites, and also its
unpopular characters. If we dissect the character of the favourite,
we shall invariably find a great substratum of the amiable. He will
probably have accomplishments also, and thus be able to add to the
happiness of his fellows. It is not improbable that in many cases a
good share of love of approbation will be detected; but this is of
no consequence in the matter. The general fact we assume to be, that
the genuinely amiable is there in some force. It will, I believe, be
likewise found that the unpopular character has something too much
of the centripetal system about him--that is to say, desires things
to centre in himself as much as possible--and neither has any great
natural impulse to the amiable, nor will take the trouble to assume
the complaisant. Now, it is not uncommon to observe traces of
dissatisfaction in the unpopular characters, as if they felt
themselves to be treated unjustly by the world. But can these
persons reasonably expect to be received with the same favour as men
who are at once gentle and inoffensive in their ordinary demeanour,
and actively good among their fellow-creatures? Certainly not. Let
us see here, too, the complaining party take an unprejudiced view of
his relation to society. Let him understand that he only will be
loved if he is lovable, and we may hope to see him taking some pains
to correct his selfishness, and both seem and be a kind and genial
man. Most assuredly, in no other way will his reputation and his
treatment by the world be reversed.

In fine, we would have all who are inclined to doubt whether the
world uses them well or not, to ask of themselves, in the first
place, how they use the world. If they find that they do little for
it--are stupid, illiterate, possessed of not one graceful
accomplishment, neither useful nor ornamental, but selfish, sulky,
and unamiable, then let them try whether a remedy cannot be found in
themselves. It is not to be expected of all that they are to be
greatly serviceable in any way to the world, or very agreeable
either; but it is the duty of all who desire the world's good
treatment, to do the best they can for the general interest, and to
be as good and amiable as possible. At the worst, if they cannot
make any change on themselves, let them resign themselves to be
comparatively poor and neglected, as such is, by the rules of
Providence, their inevitable fate.

* * * * *

[Footnote 1: The upper and under plates of the tortoise are so called by


In continental countries, much of that charitable ministration which
with us is left to rates and institutions, is the work of
individuals acting directly under a religious impulse. The
difference is perhaps not entirely in favour of the countries of the
Romish faith; but there is no denying that it leads to our being
presented with pictures of heroic self-devotion and generous
self-sacrifice, such as it would be gratifying to see in our own
country. Many of the forms of charity met with in Catholic states
had their rise in one enthusiastically benevolent man, the
celebrated Vincent de St Paul. Born in 1576, on the skirts of the
Pyrenees, and brought up as a shepherd-boy--possessed of course of
none of the advantages of fortune, this remarkable man shewed a
singular spirit of charity before he had readied manhood. He became
a priest; he passed through a slavery in one of the African
piratical states, and with difficulty made his escape. At length we
see him in the position of a parish pastor in France, exerting
himself in plans for the improvement of the humbler classes, exactly
like those which have become fashionable among ourselves only during
the last twenty years. His exertions succeeded, and generous persons
of rank enabled him to extend them. In a short time, he saw no fewer
than twenty-five establishments founded in his own country, in
Piedmont, Poland, and other states, for charitable purposes.
Stimulated by this success to increase his exertions, he quickly
formed associations of charitable persons, chiefly females, for the
succour of distressed humanity. It was a most wonderful movement for
the age, and must be held as no little offset against the horrible
barbarities arising from religious troubles in the reign of Louis
XIII. Among Vincent's happiest efforts, was that which established
the _Sisters of Charity_, a sodality of self-devoted women, which
exists in vigour at the present day.

During a lengthened residence in Prague, we have had much
satisfaction in visiting the establishment of the Sisters, and
inquiring into their doings. The house, which was founded in the
seventeenth century, and contains seventy inmates, is situated near
to the palace of Prince Lobkowitz, in the Kleine Seite, or that part
of the city which lies on the right bank of the Moldau. It has much
the character of a suburban villa, being surrounded by a kind of
_plaisance_, enclosed in high walls, and containing shrubberies,
alleys, and large clumps of chestnuts. In this pleasant retreat may
often be found such of the Sisters as are not engaged in the more
pressing kind of duties--never quite idle, however; for, even while
seeking recreation, they will be found busied in preparing clothing
for the poor, or perhaps in making medicines from herbs, if not
imparting instruction to children let loose from the school which
forms a part of their establishment. The place is remarkable for its
perfumes, there being assembled here not merely the usual amount of
roses, lilacs, jasmines, tuberoses, and lilies, but a profusion of
aromatic plants, cultivated either for medicinal purposes, or to
serve in the fabrication of essences and powders, which the Sisters
distribute over the world in tiny bottles and small pillow-cases and
bags, in order to raise funds for the poor.

In the house, which, having been erected for a private family, is
not well suited for its present purpose, everything is an example of
cleanliness and order. The hospital is in the main part of the
building, and is fitted up with every possible convenience. A large
apothecaries' hall is attached to it, furnished with every appliance
that medical art has devised, and under the superintendence of a
highly-educated professional man. It is most affecting to enter the
great sick-room, and see the gentle Sisters in their modest attire
ministering to the patients, bending over them with their sweet and
cheerful countenances, as if they felt that relief from pain and
restoration to life and its enjoyments depended on their smiles. It
is scarcely necessary to say, that the hospital is almost always
full. Sometimes, indeed, the floor is occupied with extra beds; for
the Sisters will never close their doors to any who apply, even
though they should have to abandon their own simple places of repose
to the new-comer, and stretch themselves on the bare floor.

We observed, in one of our visits, an old woman who was lying in one
of the beds of the hospital, in a kind of trance, neither sleeping
nor waking, apparently suffering no pain, but quite insensible to
everything which passed around her. Her complaint was that of
extreme old age, mere physical exhaustion. She had been for many
years a pensioner, fed and clothed by the Sisters: having outlived
all her relations, and having no friends in the world but them, she
had come in, as she said herself, 'to die in peace among them.' Not
far from her lay a girl, about sixteen or seventeen years of age,
whose extreme paleness, or rather marble whiteness, vied with the
snowy sheets which covered all but that lily face; and but for the
quivering of the little frill of her cap, and the slow movement of
her large blue eyes, it would have been difficult to believe that it
was not the alabaster figure of some saint that reposed there. The
superior looked kindly and sadly upon her, bent down, kissed her
pale forehead, and went on; and though the sufferer did not move or
speak, nor the feeble head turn, her large blue eyes followed the
reverend mother with an expression which was all its own--an
expression to be felt, deeply, intensely, but which cannot be
described. And who was she, that pale, silent girl? She was an
orphan, neglected by the world, betrayed and abandoned by one who
appeared the only _friend_ she had. Crushed in spirit, enfeebled by
want and misery, without a roof to shelter her young drooping head,
she had been found by the Sisters of Charity sitting alone, _her
eyes fixed on the river_. They took her in, clothed, fed, and warmed
her. They poured into her heart the blessed words of peace and
comfort, till that poor breaking heart gushed forth in a wild tide
of feeling too strong for the feeble frame; and we now saw her
slowly recovering from a frightful fever, the result of past
sufferings, and of that agitation which even a reaction towards hope
had occasioned.

It would be too much for the present sketch to describe the many
invalids before whom we passed in our visits to the sick-chambers of
the Sisters of Charity, though every single case would be a lesson
to humanity. The homeless, the forsaken, the orphan, each had his or
her own bitter history, previous to reposing within the sanctuary of
that blessed retreat; each was attended by some of those benevolent
beings, whose gentle steps and sweet sunny smiles brought peace to
their hearts. None who are destitute are rejected at that gate of
mercy. Whatever their faults may have been, whatever their
frailties, if overtaken by want or sickness--if, deserted and
trampled upon, they sink without any visible hand being stretched
out to save them from despair and death--then do the Sisters of
Charity interpose to succour and to save. To them it is sufficient
that the sufferer requires their aid. There every medical assistance
is promptly given; every comfort, and even luxury.

Most surprising it is to the common worldling to see these gentle
beings thus living entirely for others, seeking no reward but that
inspired by Christian promises and hopes. Nor is it mere drudgery
and self-denial which constitute their great merit. When humanity
calls from the midst of danger, whether in the shape of pestilence
or of war, they are equally unfailing. It has been our lot to see a
city taken by storm, the streets on fire and half-choked with ruins,
and these ruins thickly strewed with the dead and dying. There,
before the wild scene had been in the least calmed--amid smoke, and
rain, and the frequent rattling fire of musketry--we have seen the
black dresses and long white kerchiefs of the Sisters of Charity
flitting about, emblems of mercy in a world which might otherwise
seem only fit for demons. The place we speak of was Arcis-sur-Aube.
Napoleon, who looked on the system of this sisterhood 'as one of the
most sublime conceptions of the human mind,' was then in the act of
falling back with 30,000 men, after having been attacked the evening
before (March 19, 1814) by 130,000 Austrians. He was within three
weeks of the prostration of his power, and he must have felt
bitterly the crushing reverses he was experiencing. Yet he stopped
on the nearly demolished bridge of the town, and ordered 300
Napoleons to be given out of his then scanty resources to the
Sisters of Charity, of whose devotion he had been an eye-witness
from the commencement of the attack. As he crossed the bridge
immediately afterwards, part of it gave way, and he was precipitated
into the Aube, but, by the help of his horse, soon gained the safe

The good works of the Sisters do not stop with their exertions for
the sick and miserable. They have also their schools for orphans and
foundlings. Here the tender human plant, perhaps deserted by a
heartless mother, often gains more than it has lost. It is only to
infants in these extraordinary circumstances that they are called
upon to give shelter, for the children of the poor in general are
provided for in public establishments. When we last visited the
convent in Prague, we found about thirty girls entertained as
inmates. As soon as they are capable of learning, they are
instructed in every branch of domestic economy; and as they grow up,
and their several talents develop themselves, they are educated
accordingly: some for instructresses, either in music or any general
branch of education; others, as seamstresses, ladies-maids, cooks,
laundry-maids, house-maids. In short, every branch of useful
domestic science is taught.

When the girls attain sufficient age and experience to occupy the
several situations for which they have been instructed--that is,
from seventeen to eighteen, the superior of the convent procures
them a place in the family of some of her friends or acquaintance,
and always, so far as lies in her power, with a mistress as much as
possible suited to the intelligence and instruction of her
_protégée_. The day of separation, however, is always painful. It
is, in fact, the parting of a mother and her child. We have seen the
orphan cling to her adopted mother, and as she knelt to receive her
blessing, bathe her hands in tears of gratitude and affection; while
the reverend superior would clasp her to her bosom, and recommend to
her adopted child the blessed principles which she had inculcated
from her infancy. Nor do they leave the home of their childhood
empty. Each girl on quitting the convent is provided with a little
_trousseau_ or outfit for her first appearance in the world: this
consists of two complete suits of clothes--an ordinary and a better
one, four petticoats, four chemises, six pair of stockings, the same
number of gloves, and two pair of shoes. We have seen many of these
orphans and foundlings in after-life; some of them occupying the
most respectable situations, as the wives of opulent citizens, and
others filling places of the most important trust in some of the
highest families of the empire; we have also had several in our own
service, and have always had reason to congratulate ourselves on our
good-fortune in engaging them.

One of the first principles of education in the orphan schools of
the Sisters of Charity is economy: while they spare nothing in the
cause of humanity, so far as their means will go, the strictest
frugality reigns throughout, and is always inculcated as the
foundation of the means of doing good. Consequently, all of whom we
have had any experience, who were educated in these charitable
institutions, never failed, however humble their situation, to make
some little savings: one whom we have at this moment in our eye, and
who not many years since served us in the capacity of cook, and
fulfilled her charge with great fidelity and zeal, has, by her
extraordinary industry and economy, collected in the savings' bank
in Prague no less than 700 florins, or L.70 sterling. And yet with
all this economy she was so charitable and liberal in giving of her
own to the poor, that we have often had to caution her against
extravagance in that respect. By this spirit of economy, we have
also known several of the orphans and foundlings arrive at a degree
of independence which enables them in their turn to assist the
deserted generation of to-day, and to do for them as they themselves
had been done by. Many also have been the means of rescuing others
from crime and starvation by conducting them to that blessed
institution, to which, under Heaven, they owe all their prosperity
and happiness in life.

Of these charitable communities there are many orders, which differ
from the above chiefly in name, and in the Sisters never quitting
their sanctuary or the precincts of their gardens. The Sisters of
Charity, properly so called, not being vowed to seclusion, are more
generally known to the world, who see them, and therefore believe
that they exist for charitable purposes, while of those of whom they
see nothing they know nothing; and should the casual observer meet
in the street on a festival, or day of examination, a column of from
300 to 800 children, from six to ten or twelve years of age, neatly
clothed, and whose happy countenances and beautiful behaviour
bespeak the care with which their early education has been
conducted--it never once occurs to him that these are the children
of the poor, the children of the free schools of the 'Sisters' of
the Ursaline Convent, or of the Congregation of Notre Dame, or of
some other religious establishment of the kind. But perhaps we shall
have an opportunity hereafter of introducing these invisible Sisters
of Charity to the notice of our readers.

Suffice it now to say, that the 'Sisters of Mercy,' the 'Ursalines,'
the 'Congregations of Notre Dame,' the 'English Ladies,' and many
others, are all in practice Sisters of Charity.

It is not uncommon to hear their condition deplored, as one from
which all earthly enjoyments are excluded, or as a kind of death in
life. But personal observation has given us different ideas on this
subject. Within those lofty, and sometimes sullen-looking walls
which enclose the convents of the sisterhoods we speak of, we have
spent some of the most agreeable hours of our life, conversing with
refined and enlightened women on the works of beneficence in which
they were engaged; everything bearing an aspect of that cheerfulness
and animation which only can be expected in places where worthy
duties are well performed.


Robert Jackson, the son of a small landed proprietor of limited
income but respectable character in Lanarkshire, was born in 1750,
at Stonebyres, in that county. He received his education first at
the barony school of Wandon, and afterwards under the care of Mr
Wilson, a teacher of considerable local celebrity at Crawford, one
of the wildest spots in the Southern Highlands. He was subsequently
apprenticed to Mr William Baillie, of Biggar; and in 1766 proceeded,
for the completion of his professional training, to the university
of Edinburgh, at that time illustrated and adorned by the genius and
learning of such men as the Monros, the Cullens, and the Blacks.

In pursuing his studies at this favoured abode of science and
literature, young Jackson is said to have evinced all that purity of
morals and singleness of heart which characterised him in
after-life, and to have resisted the allurements of dissipation by
which, in those days especially, the youthful student was tempted to
wander from the paths of virtuous industry. His circumstances were,
however, distressingly narrow; and not only was he forced to forego
the means of professional improvement open only to the more opulent
student; but in order to meet the expenses of the winter-sessions,
he was obliged to employ the summer, not in the study but in the
practice of his profession. He engaged himself as medical officer to
a Greenland whaler, and in two successive summers visited, in that
capacity, 'the thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice;' returning on
each occasion with a recruited purse and a frame strengthened and
invigorated by exposure and exercise. During these expeditions he
occupied his leisure with the study of the Greek and Roman
languages, and the careful and repeated perusal of the best authors
in both.

His third winter-sessions at Edinburgh having passed away, he was
induced to go out and seek his fortune in Jamaica, and accordingly
proceeded thither in a vessel commanded by one Captain Cunningham,
who had previously been employed as master of a transport at the
siege of Havannah. It is far from improbable that it was from his
conversations with this individual that Jackson derived those hints,
of which at a future time he availed himself, respecting the
transmission of troops by sea without injury to their health; but it
is quite certain his conviction of the enormous value of cold-water
affusions as a curative agent in the last stage of febrile
affections, was imbibed from this source.

Arriving in Jamaica, he in 1774 became assistant to an eminent
general practitioner at Savana-la-Mar, Dr King, who was also in
medical charge of a detachment of the first battalion of the 60th
regiment. This latter he consigned to Jackson's care; and well
worthy of the trust did our young adventurer, though but twenty-four
years of age, approve himself--visiting three or four times a day
the quarters of the troops to detect incipient disease, and studying
with ardour and intelligent attention the varied phenomena of
tropical maladies. Four years thus passed profitably away, and they
would have been as pleasant as profitable, but for one circumstance.
The existence of slavery and its concomitant horrors appears to have
made a deep impression on Jackson's mind, and, at last, to have
produced in him such sentiments of disgust and abhorrence, that he
resolved on quitting the island altogether, and, as the phrase is,
trying his luck in North America, where the revolutionary war was
then raging. This resolution--due perhaps, as much to his love of
travel as to the motive assigned--was not altogether unfortunate,
for shortly after his departure, October 3, 1780, Savana-la-Mar was
totally destroyed, and the surrounding country for a considerable
distance desolated, by a terrible hurricane and sweeping inroad of
the sea, in which Dr King, his family and partner, together with
numbers of others, unhappily perished.

The law of Jamaica forbade any one to leave the island without
having given previous notice of his intention, or having obtained
the bond of some respectable person as security for such debts as he
might have outstanding. Jackson, when he embarked for America, had
no debts whatever, and was, moreover, ignorant of the law, with
whose requirements therefore he did not comply. Nor did he become
aware of his mistake until, when off the easternmost point of the
island, the master of the vessel approached him and said: 'We are
now, sir, off Point-Morant; you will therefore have the goodness to
favour me with your security-bond. It is a mere legal form, but we
are obliged to respect it.' Finding this 'legal form' had not been
complied with, the master then, in spite of Jackson's protestations
and entreaties, set him on shore, and the vessel continued on her
voyage. What was to be done? Almost penniless, landed on a part of
the coast where he knew not a soul, Jackson well-nigh gave himself
up to despair. There was a vessel for New York loading, it was true,
at Lucea; but Lucea was 150 miles distant, on the westernmost side
of the island, and not to be reached by sea, whilst our adventurer's
purse would not suffer him to hire a horse. No choice was left him
but to walk, and that in a country where the exigencies of the
climate make pedestrianism perilous in the extreme to the white man.
Having reached Kingston, which was in the neighbourhood, in a boat,
and obtained the necessary certificate, he started on his dangerous
expedition, and on the first day walked eighteen miles, being
sheltered at night in the house of a benevolent planter. The next
day he pushed on for Rio Bueno, which he had almost reached, when,
overcome by thirst, he stopped by the way to refresh himself, and
imprudently standing in an open piazza exposed to a smart easterly
breeze, whilst his lemonade was preparing, contracted a severe chill
that almost took from him the power of motion, and left him to crawl
along the road slowly and with pain, until he reached his

Having finally arrived, friendless and moneyless, in New York, then
in the occupation of the British, he endeavoured first to obtain a
commission in the New York volunteers, and afterwards employment as
mate in the Naval Hospital. In his endeavours, he was kindly
assisted by a Jamaica gentleman, a fellow-passenger, whose regard
during the voyage he had succeeded in conciliating by his amiable
manners and evident abilities; but his efforts were all in vain, and
poor Jackson, familiar with poverty from childhood, began now to
experience the misery of destitution. In truth, starvation stared
him in the face, and a sense of delicacy withheld him from seeking
from his Jamaica friend the most trifling pecuniary assistance. In
this, his state of desperation, he determined upon passing the
British lines, and endeavouring to obtain amongst the insurgents the
food he had hitherto sought in vain; resolving, however, under no
circumstances to bear arms against his native country. Whilst
moodily and slowly walking towards the British outposts to carry
into execution this scheme, having in one pocket a shirt, and in
another a Greek Testament and a Homer, he was met half-way by a
British officer, who fixed his eyes steadily on him in passing.
Jackson in his agitation thought he read in the glance a knowledge
of his purpose and a disapprobation of it. Struck by the incident,
he turned back, and, after a moment's reflection, resolved on
offering himself as a volunteer in the first battalion of the 71st
regiment (Sutherland Highlanders), then in cantonment near New
York. Arriving at the place, he presented himself to the notice of
Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards Sir Archibald) Campbell, who, having
first ascertained that he was a Scotsman, inquired to whom he was
known at New York. Jackson replied, to no one; but that a
fellow-passenger from Jamaica would readily testify to his being a
gentleman. 'I require no testimony to your being a gentleman,'
returned the kind-hearted colonel. 'Your countenance and address
satisfy me on that head. I will receive you into the regiment with
pleasure; but then I have to inform you, Mr Jackson, that there are
seventeen on the list before you, who are of course entitled to
prior promotion.' The next day, at the instance of Colonel Campbell,
the regimental-surgeon, Dr Stuart, appointed Jackson acting hospital
or surgeon's mate--a rank now happily abolished in the British army;
for those who filled it, whatever might be their competency or
skill, were accounted and treated no better than drudges. Although
discharging the duties that now devolve on the assistant-surgeon,
they were not, like him, commissioned, but only warrant-officers,
and therefore had no title to half-pay.

Dr Stuart, who appears to have been a man superior to vulgar
prejudice, and to have appreciated at once the extent of Jackson's
acquirements and the vigour of his intellect, relinquished to him,
almost without control, the charge of the regimental hospital. Here
it was that this able young officer began to put in practice that
amended system of army medical treatment which since his time, but
in conformity with his teachings, has been so successfully carried
out as to reduce the mortality amongst our soldiery from what it
formerly was--something like 15 per cent.--to what it is now, about
2-1/2 per cent.

In the army hospitals, at the period Jackson commenced a career that
was to eventuate so gloriously, there was no regulated system of
diet, no classification of the sick. What are now well known as
'medical comforts,' were things unheard of; the sick soldier, like
the healthy soldier, had his ration of salt-beef or pork, and his
allowance of rum. The hospital furnished him with no bedding; he
must bring his own blanket. Any place would do for an hospital. That
in which Jackson began his labours had originally been a
commissary's store; but happily its roof was water-tight--an unusual
occurrence--and its site being in close proximity to a wood, our
active surgeon's mate managed, by the aid of a common fatigue party,
to surround the walls with wicker-work platforms, which served the
patients as tolerably comfortable couches. A further and still more
important change he effected related to the article of diet. He
suggested, and the suggestion was adopted--honour to the courageous
humanity which did not shrink from so righteous an innovation!--that
instead of his salt ration and spirits, which he could not consume,
the sick soldier should be supplied with fresh meat, broth, &c.; and
that, as the quantity required for the invalid would be necessarily
small, the quarter-master should allow the saving on the commuted
ration to be expended in the common market on other comforts, such
as sago, &c. suitable for the patient. Thus proper hospital diet was
furnished, without entailing any additional expense on the state.[2]

Indefatigable in the discharge of his interesting duties, Mr Jackson
speedily obtained the confidence of his military superiors, who
remarked with admiration not only his intelligent zeal in performing
his hospital functions, but his calmness, quickness of perception,
and generous self-devotion when in the field of battle. On one
occasion, although suffering at the time from severe indisposition,
he remained, under a heavy fire, succouring the wounded, in spite of
the remonstrances of the officers present. On another, having
observed the British commander, Colonel (afterwards General)
Tarleton, in danger of falling into the hands of the enemy, who had
routed the royalist troops, he galloped up to the colonel--whom a
musket-ball had just dismounted--pressed him to mount his own horse
and escape, whilst he himself, with a white handkerchief displayed,
quietly proceeded in the direction of the advancing foe, and
surrendered himself at once. The American commander, who did not
know what to make of such conduct, asked him who he was?

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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 420 Volume 17, New Series, January 17, 1852