Thursday, 8 May, 1828

Washington, D.C.

The morning glowing with a beautiful red in the sky indicating a pleasant and warm day. Rose early, called for our horses, paid off a moderate bill, bid the Landlord good morning and started for Washington, the seat of government of the United States. As our horses had now received the necessary repose and felt much refreshed, we drove nineteen miles before we stopped. And this brought us to the Waterloo Hotel. Here we took breakfast. It is a first-rate house, everything good and plenty and as a necessary consequence, the Landlord knows how to charge for it, but this much more just than to have to pay high and not get anything. But extravagant prices have of late become quite familiar to us, and do not sound as harsh as when they first greeted our ears and purses. At this place are many natural curiosities, some of which I have not had an opportunity of before seeing and one is a complete white chipping squirrel. It is a most beautiful little thing and remarkably active. It is shut up in a revolving cage which it would cause to revolve with great velocity. Also a yellow, Gray, and Black squirrel. All caged and appeared contented and lively. A large wharf Rat, a thing I never before saw - even the name Rat is disgusting to me - I could not fancy it. This was also in a cage. A very large Baldhead Eagle - he had the appearance of strength, his eyes bright and quick. With this bird is associated the idea of liberty and the American Revolution, and ornaments our national Flag which I hope will continue over the Union as long as there be air sufficient to support the Eagle in his flight. There is a penguin the only I ever saw. Besides these there are here many Parrots, Mockingbirds, Petrifactions of shells, skins, etc., with many curious Sticks, Roots, etc., to attract the foolish and cause them to pay an "eleven penny bit" for three cigars.

Having finished our repast and satisfied our curiosities in viewing curiosities, we got under way once more for Washington. The country is not such as would suit a New York farmer or one from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. All the Land along the road today is in reality miserably poor. Considering the road over which we have traveled today, situated between Baltimore and Washington, it is very bad. The land is of reddish appearance before mentioned and filled with isinglass so that in clear sun it has the reflecting power equal to polished silver. Farms are not well cultivated in this country - fences in dilapidated condition, soil is in a new state, very light and principally washed away. White people here seem to view labour as a degradation and shun it more than they do acts of the basest character. This condemnatory sentence drawn entirely from the evidence drawn from the appearance of the color of the slaves, as many of them must have originated from or by the intermixture of the whites. Slavery is in itself lamentable, but when combined with the prevalent vice as shown by the mulattoes, it is still more deplorable. i would not, however, be understood in this denunciation as including every individual situated on the road, for a man may have mulattoes in his family of slaves and be entirely innocent of any improper conduct with them himself. Yet, it is a vice that does not speak well of any place, and should be eradicated by the frowns of an intelligent community.

But few cattle or stock of any description are to be seen along the road. Fields growing up in wild vegetation and thrown into the commons as no longer fit for tillage. Houses look as though they could not much longer withstand the ravages of time, they are neglected and decaying. To see this state of things, everything depreciating on so public a road, did not argue strong in favour of slave cultivation and population. This picture brings us within four miles of the great emporium or city called Washington. And I should be glad if I could speak in higher terms of approbation but, alas, the sad picture if possible is still worse. The road and country assume a more dreadful aspect. Yes, it is horrible in the extreme - houses of the meanest construction or almost of no construction at all. Age and a worse disease, indolence, have permitted them to fall into ruin and decay. Shrubs and undergrowth extend their unfeeling extremities into the road and greet you, if it be night, in the face. These things, in such a deplorable condition so near to Washington, did not impress us with a very favorable idea of the place into which we soon expected to enter. During our ride after dark we met many travelers or residents on foot, apparently vagabonds, and I thought a more fit or congenial place than this could not well be found for such wretches, for here in an instant, they could conceal themselves in the thickets and gulphs. It is a complete place for thieves and footpads, etc., etc. The first part of the city that met our view was the Northeast, where the Capitol stands, and the Capitol the first object which attracted our attention as we approached the Town. It was just dark as we passed this stupendous edifice. We put up at D. Floyd's. Weather warm and evening pleasant. We walked through the place until ten o'clock and then feeling an inclination for sleep retired to bed with fond hope and expectation that the balmy slumbers of the night would prepare us for the morning's prospect. But, alas, how sadly and unexpectedly disappointed. All these fond anticipations were very far from being realized. Do not, however, imagine that it was from the thoughts of home, friends, or relations that drove sleep from my eyes. Ah! Glad would I have been ahd I even the liberty to have cast one long lingering thought on home and all its sweet endearments. Such ideas though they may deprive of sleep have a redeeming quality in them which makes them supportable. It was not from such mental disquietude, but pain, real bodily suffering, severe torture, inflicted on the system by thousands of punctures and scratches. I almost feel now while transcribing my notes of that night nearly nine years since the transaction. I was tormented the whole night by droves of these nasty, dirty, hateful little insects called in Southern prose chinches. I was so tormented and vexed. I got up several times, shook the sheets, and all the bed appertinances, but the effect was too trifling to be of any avail. No sooner than I was completely in a mood for sleeping than ten thousand feet and toes were crawling over me. The bed I do think must literally have been full. I endured until three o'clock when I left the room in no very pleasant mood. I came to the conclusion that Washington City at this time was infested with Bugs of every sort. There were the Bedbugs during the day eating the flesh from the people as fast as eight Dollars per day would do it. And here in the night are the Bedbugs as voracious as tigers living on the Blood of man. It is a Buggy place.