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[138]

To his sister Jane, aged fourteen.

Washington, March 4, 1834.
my dear Jane,—I wrote a letter home yesterday, which will be carried by Charles G. Loring, Esq. This letter will go by the mail at nine o'clock this evening. Mr. Loring left town this morning at nine o'clock. You will see how much quicker the mail goes than a private traveller. I have no doubt that you will receive this at least a day earlier than that first written. Letters are carried by mail with all the speed possible. No delay is allowed at any place. They are hurried from one post-office to another, till they reach their final destination. Letters are never tired, as travellers are. They require no sleep or food. Relays of horses and changes of drivers are arranged, so that there may be no stoppage. The post-office is a vast establishment, and is an invention of very modern times. The first appearance of any thing like it was as late as James I. Since then it has received constant improvement and enlargement. And here you will see the importance of the railroads and canals which are now building throughout the whole country. They cause a quick interchange of goods and products, and also of opinions. Steam is now the great and surely powerful agent of this intercommunication. Thirty years ago, its use for this object was hardly known. All transportation of goods and letters was then by horses or ships. But now steam, with a swiftness that never tires, and which literally outstrips the wind, is fast becoming the universal agent. In a year or two, one will be able to go all the way to Washington by steam. Indeed, there are now but seventy miles on which horses are used, and railways are constructing over these miles. I refer to the roads from Boston to Providence, and from Baltimore to Washington. There is something partaking of the sublime in the sense that you are going at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, drawn by an insensible agent, the contrivance of man, who ‘has sought out many inventions;’ enjoying, if you are in a boat, all the comforts and luxuries of the finest hotel, walking over carpets or sitting at a table loaded with all the products of the season; or, if in a railroad car, enjoying at least a comfortable and easy seat, from which you may see the country over which you are flying as a bird. Steam will be a great revolutionist. You, Jane, will hardly understand this word in the sense in which I use it. Yet I am persuaded that the idea intended to be conveyed by it is correct. A journey to Washington now is but a trifle; not so great an affair as a journey to New York twenty years ago. And a voyage to Europe is fast becoming as common and as easy as a journey to Washington. Steamboats are now erecting at Liverpool (I think) to run between that port and New York. Steam, you will see, is destined to be the great link of nations.

Pardon the above dissertation. I have been betrayed into it by my desire to impress upon your mind something that, though it may not be entirely new, still may be slightly instructive; or, at least, show you that I think of your instruction at the distance now between us. I hope you continue to study your Latin. You will not care to be an accomplished Latin scholar; out I trust you will have an ambition to acquire enough of that noble language


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