Travels Through North America, during the years 1825 and 1826
By His Highness,
Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach
Before dinner I was introduced to all the guests present ; the descendants of Germans had almost forgotten their mother tongue; some of them were lawyers, some merchants, and some mechanics. At the dessert, several toasts were drank in honor of America and Germany, and also in honor of me; I of course thanked them in a short speech. Our waiters were blacks; even the music was performed by blacks, because white musicians will never perform at public entertainments. After every toast the music struck up; but our virtuosi were only acquainted with two German pieces. After drinking my health, they played "a dish and a song," &c.; and after the toast was given of "the German Athens," they played "Oh thou dear Augustin," &c. After the regular toasts by the president, Mr. Wampole, were finished, volunteer toasts were drank, ad infinitum. I soon retired to call upon Mr. Walsh, to whom I was introduced by letter.
At Mr. Walsh's I found a numerous assembly, mostly of scientific and literary gentlemen. This assembly is called " Wister Party;" it is a small learned circle which owes its existence to a Quaker physician, Dr. Wistar, who assembled all the literati and public characters of Philadelphia at his house, every Saturday evening, where all well-recommended foreigners were introduced. After his death, the society was continued by his friends, under the above title, with this difference, that they now assemble alternately at the houses of the members. The conversation generally relates to literary and scientific topics. I unexpectedly met Mr. E. Livingston in this assembly; I was also introduced to the mayor of the city, Mr. Watson, as well as most of the gentlemen present, whose interesting conversation afforded me much
Mr. Shoemaker accompanied us to a Quaker meeting. The Quakers, as is well known, have no parsons, but sit quietly assembled until the spirit moves some one. The individual thus excited, then preaches, ad libitum, whether male or female. The meeting was very quiet when we entered, and remained quiet for more than an hour; the spirit moved no one; at last this fatiguing sitting terminated, and we went home unedified. The church, or rather the meeting-house, is very simple, without the least ornament; the whole hall is filled with benches, and on an elevated form sit the elders of both sexes, with those who are in
the habit of preaching.
A Quaker, Mr. Vaux, is at the head of several public institutions in Philadelphia. I was introduced to him by Mr. Eddy: he received me kindly, although using the appellation "Thou," and promised to show me these institutions. The first objects we saw in his house, were paintings and copperplates referring to the first settlement of the Quakers in this state, and a model of a monument which is intended to be erected to the memory of William Penn. The model represented an obelisk, and was made of part of the elm tree under which this great benefactor of mankind concluded his treaty with the Indians, After that we drove to the new penitentiary, a prison which was built near the water works.