Continued from April 23, 2012
After being legally deprived of some sleep (chatty lawyers nearby in the hotel) the Stuarts arose early the next morning and plowed ahead, breaking their fast at Lewis's Hotel in Kinderhook, lunching fourteen miles further on, at Richardson's Hotel across from Albany, then making Troy by evening, where they checked into Troy House, a hotel near the river on First Street, run by Platt Titus. Stage lines to Albany had been departing from in front of Troy House since the early days of the century, so the Stuarts were staying right in one of the main hubs of activity. He briefly describes Troy, "a considerable city, and the greatest erected upon the alluvial banks of the Hudson, — in fact, it is not above eight or ten feet above the level of high water-mark about six miles above Albany. The population has increased from 3000 or 4000 in 1810, to 11,000 or 12,000 at the present time." He also mentions Mount Ida, rising to the east above the city to a height of about 400 feet.
Stuart considers the Titus establishment well-run and adds, "for the first time, since we left New York, we found bells in the house — which are a positive annoyance to those for some time unaccustomed to their noise." Meaning himself, we presume. "There are also male waiters here." And he hadn't escaped voluble night-owl lawyers either, circuit court having followed him here to Troy. In spite of bells and briefs pushers he seemed to manage to sleep well enough this time. At seven the following morning the Stuarts had breakfast in the dining room, surrounded by, "those engaged in the business, judges, clerks, lawyers. . . . I had no conversation with any of the lawyers at breakfast; but in the course of the forenoon I looked into the court. Three judges were upon the bench; and a proof was taking in presence of a jury respecting a mill-dam. As soon as I was observed in the interior of the court, though merely as a stranger, one of the clerks, or other officers of the court, beckoned to me, and then rose and insisted I should have a seat close to the table. He explained to me the particulars of the case, which were not sufficiently interesting to detain me long." Us either. He does insert a little treatise on court procedures, the main difference between here and Scotland being the use of civilians in New York rather than other lawyers, as assistant-advisers to the judges. In both countries the juries still make the final determination. He mentions that the court building is old and quite run down but that construction is under way on a new one. Building had begun last year but completion was still some months off.
Stuart and his wife wander off to do a bit of exploring. No more able to stay out of a bookstore than I am, he heads across the street from the hotel and down a few doors to pay a visit to Parker and Bliss's establishment, enters and stops to chat with William Parker. The co-proprietor is an agent of New York City's G. & C. Carvill company, publisher of the Library of Useful Knowledge. When Parker learns his visitor is British (How did he tell?) he asks about Henry Peter Brougham, English abolitionist and one of the reference works' chief authors. Stuart would not have known Brougham but is flattered for his countryman that Parker considers the Englishman's works the finest in the language, second only to the Bible (he IS a salesman, after all). The work has sold close to 10,000 copies in New York, Stuart's told. A number probably can be found here in Troy, what with Parker's zeal and the city's Willard Female Seminary, Rensselaer School (later RPI) and Lyceum of Natural History. We'll continue our Trojan education next time.
© 2012 David Minor / Eagles Byte